Under-18 WJC: Czech Republic’s Final Group games recap

By Robert Neuhauser
The new playing system of the Under-18 WJC wellcomed the top three teams from the two
preliminary groups with a scheme, where the points from matches with the opponents, which
also qualified for the Final group, were valid also in the Final group. So the Czech team
went into the final group with two points for defeating Canada. The same number of points had
also the USA team, only the Russians had the full number of four points. Quite surprisingly
the young Swedes didn’t qualify for the final group, after their shaky performance in the
Group B they had to fight in the relegation group. The Czech team still faced lots of
trouble due to various injuries of the players, star Jiri Hudler injured his knee prior
to the tournament and huge Jakub Koreis still battled the injured ankle. Other players
also felt often some pain, but had to forget them when the game time rolled around. They
made a historical success of the Czech hockey and finally brought the long-awaited medals
home. Let’s have a look how the ‘bronze guys’ did in the Final group games!

Czech Republic – Belarus 5:1

The first Czech opponent in the final group was also relatively the easiest one. The Belarus
squad relies on the performance of 2003 sleepers Andrei Kastsitsyn and Konstantin Zakharov,
the rest of the team being just average. The prospect-stocked Czech team should not have
a very heavy route to victory.
The Czechs proved that they’re on the right track very soon. Skilled Brampton center Kamil
Kreps acquired a pass from Jakub Klepis, corraled the puck and after aiming the shot has beaten Belarus
goalie Dmitri Kamovich top shelf. This shorthanded goal brought enough poise on the Czech sticks and even if they didn’t
score more goals in the opening period, they were better than the Belarus players.
The score changed in the second period again, first flashy waterbug Jiri Hudler found the
net with his wrist shot as the game passed the halfway mark and then also diminutive Roman
Vondracek incrased the lead. Vondracek was promoted to the first line for this game, where
he skated along gems Jiri Hudler and Milan Michalek. Vondracek’s goal came after a play of
blueliner Ondrej Nemec, who passed the puck to Vondracek who splitted the defense and deked Kamovich. With nearly
two minutes to go in the second period highly talented Andrei Kastsitsyn gave the Belarus
players a hope as he could position himself in front of the Czech net and rebound the loose
puck behind Lukas Mensator between the pipes for the Czech team.
But the Czechs didn’t allow any surprise. After six minutes played in the third stanza Lukas
Pabiska and Tomas Fleischmann tallied their markers just seconds apart, steering the Czech
ship into the port called victory. Pabiska has surprised Kamovich with his nifty stick move before
he lifted the puck over the lying goalie and Fleischmann then could take the puck away from
a Belarus player, creating a turnover and firing the puck behind Kamovich’s back. During the last
minutes of the game the Czech were already concentrating on the upcoming match against the
USA team and controlled the won game with ease.

Czech Republic – USA 1:0

A highly important game for the young Czechs. They went into the game being aware of the fact
that with a win they need just a tie in the last game against Finland to finally reach for
that historical Under-18 WJC medal. For the game against the Americans the Czech coaches made
two changea, they have slotted right wing Jakub Langhammer to play defense and paired him with
Ctirad Ovcacik and the second change was restoring of the original first line. Jakub Klepis
returned on the right wing of the Klepis – Hudler – Michalek line while Roman Vondracek was
moved to center a line with Kamil Kreps and Tomas Fleischmann.
Since the opening faceoff
the game was more a defensive one, like a playoff battle. Both teams played ‘defense first’
and were waiting for the mistakes of the opposition. They also tried to make use of the
non-existence of the red line on IIHF tournaments and create some breakaways. But Czech
goalie Lukas Mensator showed another stellar performance as he robbed the USA forwards
frequently and stopped quality chances of top prospects Patrick Eaves and Patrick O’Sullivan.
The deciding point in this contest came at 35:20. Defenseman Michal Barinka acquired the
puck from Kamil Kreps, aimed the shot and then fired his hard slapper into the American net. Goalie
James Howard, who had his view blocked by a screen in front of him, saw the puck when it was already
behind him. The Czechs finished the period without any mistakes and the Americans were
preparing for a third period of hell.
They have put the Czechs under a steady pressure, but Lukas Mensator was the man who stole
the show. He controlled all the shots and rebounds, including the USA powerplay in the
last seconds of the game. But the game wasn’t finished after 60 minutes. After the buzzer
Milan Michalek checked an USA player into the boards and immediately a tough fight took place. On the
Czech side Ondrej Nemec, Roman Vondracek, Tomas Kolafa and Tomas Csabi dropped the gloves
while the American players Patrick O’Sullivan, Corey Potter, Mark Stuart and Patrick Eaves
were their dance partners. But this couldn’t change anything,
the young Czechs recorded this highly important win, which boosted
their medal chances a lot.

Czech Republic – Finland 4:2

The young Czechs went into this game with the previous stated fact, that even with a tie in
this contest they capture that elusive Under-18 WJC medal. The coaches made two changes again,
Jakub Langhammer was returned to his natural right wing spot on the line with Jan Velich and
Roman Bilek and defenseman Jiri Hunkes found himself in the lineup again after sitting out
the previous match.
The Czechs had a very good start into the game and already at 2:23 they captured the lead.
Milan Michalek acquired a pass from Jiri Hudler as he crossed the red line, went along the
boards and just as he skated near the top of the right faceoff circle, he fired an accurate
wrist shot, which went along Hannu Toivonen’s shoulder right under the crossbar to give the Czechs a
lead. After this goal Hannu Toivonen was replaced by Tommi Tervo in the Finnish net.
The Finns skated well, especially top prospect Sean Bergenheim had a good game, but the
Czechs could control their raids and had a big support in Lukas Mensator between the pipes.
Mensator’s confident saves were once again the key to the victory.
But in the 25th minute also the diminutive magician was beaten. Teemu Nurmi made use of a
screen in front of Mensator and rebounded a shot of Jaako Viljanen. The game was tied now and the Finns
increased their pressure. Fortunately for the Czechs, Tomas Csabi has cooled them off
four minutes later as
he took advantage of his hulking frame, parked himself in front of the Finnish net and
rebounded the loose puck after Jiri Hudler’s slapper behind Tervo’ back. Still, the Finns played
with lots of creativity and were a tough opponent for the Czechs. The breaking point came
with nearly seven minutes left to play in the game. Jakub Koreis finally scored his marker
as he has beaten Tervo with his well-aimed shot from the left faceoff circle. This goal took
the Finns a bit down and after Jiri Hudler lit the lamp four minutes later again, the game
was nearly over. Hudler made a great deflection of Milan Michalek’s shot while standing in front of the
net. Tervo had no chance against this deflection, the puck totally changed the direction.
The Finns were able to cut the deficit, though. It was their last effort to do something
with the result and Jaako Viljanen pushed the puck in the Czech net after a huge mess in front
of Lukas Mensator. After the final buzzer the Czech players, all with blond hair, could
finally celebrate the long awaited medal with their fans. At that time they still didn’t know
whether it will be a silver or a bronze medal, they found out seven hours later.

Individual player scoring

1. Jiri Hudler 8 7 7 14
2. Jakub Klepis 8 1 8 9
3. Milan Michalek 8 7 1 8
4. Ondrej Nemec 8 1 6 7
5. Michal Barinka 8 4 2 6
6. Kamil Kreps 8 3 2 5
7. Roman Vondracek 8 2 3 5
8. Tomas Csabi 8 3 1 4
9. Lukas Pabiska 8 2 1 3
10. Jan Kubista 7 1 2 3
11. Tomas Fleischmann 8 1 2 3
12. Jakub Koreis 8 1 2 3
13. Jiri Hunkes 8 0 2 2
14. Jakub Langhammer 8 1 0 1
15. Roman Bilek 8 1 0 1
16. Ctirad Ovcacik 8 0 1 1
17. Marek Chvatal 8 0 1 1
18. Tomas Kolafa 7 0 0 0
19. Lukas Mensator 8 0 0 0
20. Lukas Musil 8 0 0 0
21. Martin Cizek 8 0 0 0
22. Jan Velich 8 0 0 0

Goaltender statistics

Games Minutes Saves GAA SVS%SO
1. Lukas Mensator 7 420:00 206 1.57 .9466 1
2. Lukas Musil 1 60:00 20 4.00 .8000 0