Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Salcido finds a home in Finland

Mladá Boleslav's Duncan Milroy (left) and Sparta's Brian
Salcido battle for a loose puck in an October 26 game. Both
players have since left the Tipsport Extraliga and now play
elsewhere in Europe. Photo courtesy ČTK.
Just days after leaving HC Sparta Praha, Brian Salcido of Hermosa Beach, CA has found a new team. On Monday, the 25-year-old defenceman signed to play the rest of the season for SaiPa Lappeenranta of the Finnish SM-liiga.

SaiPa is the same team that BK Mladá Boleslav's Scott Barney started the season with, before an arrest for impaired driving led to his release from the team.

In Lappeenranta, Salcido will hope to regain his offensive touch from the back end that he became known for in the AHL. He recorded only 3 points in 23 games with Sparta this season, which was part of a general problem for the team that is second from the bottom of the league in goals scored.

Since his release, Sparta has lost two more games to run its losing streak to six. They play in Karlovy Vary on Tuesday night.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Pardubice-Brno, Outdoors on January 2

Pardubice-Svítkov Speedway, covered in snow, before
construction of the hockey rink. Photo courtesy Jan Hrabal.
After weeks of speculation, the APK, HC Eaton Pardubice and HC Kometa Brno announced today at a press conference and via their respective websites that they will, indeed, stage an outdoor game at Pardubice-Svítkov Speedway on January 2.

The event, which has been titled "Hockey Open Air Game 2011", will feature Eaton Pardubice hosting Kometa Brno in a Tipsport Extraliga game beginning at 12:30 PM CEST (11:30 AM GMT, 6:30 AM EST). It will be preceded by a legends game between past members of the Pardubice and Brno clubs, which will begin at 10:00 AM local time.

The stadium, which sits in the Svítkov district of Pardubice, hosts the famous Zlatá přilba or "Golden Helmet" motorcycle race every October. The ice rink will be constructed on the circuit's grass infield. Its planned configuration for this event would allow for more than 25,000 spectators; 17,000 seated and another 8,000 standing. If filled to capacity, which is expected, it would become the largest recorded crowd to watch a hockey game in the Czech Republic. The current record stands at 18,500, for the grand opening of Prague's Sportovní hala (now TESLA Arena) in 1962, in which Spartak Sokolov hosted ZKL Brno.

Pardubice General Manager Zbyněk Kusý, who has also been part of the organisation teams for two World Junior Championships held in Pardubice, says that preparations to the stadium will begin on December 9. It is expected to cost 15 million Czech crowns (roughly USD 790,000) and require 700 workers.

The only player on either team's roster who has participated before in a high-level outdoor game is Pardubice forward Rastislav Špirko, who played for Slovakia in an international friendly in Switzerland in February 2009. Two American players, defenceman Jeff Jillson and forward Adam Pineault, currently play for Pardubice. Jillson played his last game for the University of Michigan seven months before they played an outdoor game against rival Michigan State in October 2001.

Tickets, which range from CZK 450 to 1000 (approximately USD 24 to 53) go on sale December 6 at the ČEZ Arena box office in Pardubice. For those fans abroad who might want to make a trip to see this event in Pardubice, requests can be made via e-mail to mirek.novotny@hcpce.cz beginning December 1.

This will be the first professional outdoor game in the Czech Republic, but not in Europe. Leagues in Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, and Russia have already hosted games outdoors, and one is scheduled for Finland in February.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sunday's action sees movement in the standings

As the Tipsport Extraliga approaches the halfway point of its schedule, the standings remain compact. Every round of games shuffles the deck a little bit, and Sunday was no different. All 14 teams were in action on the same day for round 25 of the league's 52-game schedule.

At the top of the table, HC Olelaří Třinec and HC Vítkovice Steel both managed to win and remain tied for first place. Vítkovice routed a floundering Sparta Praha club 4-1 in Prague, while Třínec shut out a Plzeň squad that had been resurgent as of late.  

Doug O'Brien's return to Sparta's blueline, after sitting out one game with an injured shoulder, was unable to help his team break a losing streak that has now reached six games.

Meanwhile, in Třinec, Peter Hamerlík made 31 saves for his third shutout of the season, frustrating Plzeň attackers all night. In an attempt to shake things up, coach Marian Jelínek split up the duo of John Lammers and Nick Johnson, who normally play together. Johnson saw action with Radek Duda and Martin Straka, while Lammers ended up with Michal Dvořák and Martin Heřman. For Třinec, who won 4-0, Bryan McGregor of Niagra Falls, ON played on a line with Jan Peterek and Jakub Osrava.

In his second game with BK Mladá Boleslav, Oshawa, ON's Scott Barney recorded his second point. Barney played on Boleslav's top line with Daniel Boháč and Tomáš Divíšek, and trio struck twice to give Boleslav an early lead in a game they desperately needed to try to get themselves back into the playoff race. However, HC Slavia Praha were just as desperate and stormed back to win the game, 3-2 on the road. Jiří Doležal scored the winning goal early in the third period, as Slavia moved into a ninth-place tie with HC Benzina Litvínov.

And in a battle for fifth place, HC Eaton Pardubice won on the road against PSG Zlín, 4-3. Pardubice's two Americans, defenceman Jeff Jillson and left-winger Adam Pineault were both pointless, with Jillson picking up a tripping minor in the third period.

Other results:

HC Kometa Brno 3-0 HC Vagnerplast Kladno
HC Mountfield České Budějovice 3-2 HC Energie Karlovy Vary (OT)
HC Benzina Litvínov 0-1 Bílí Tigři Liberec

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Barney scores in Boleslav debut

Scott Barney (#36) celebrates his first goal in his first game
for Boleslav. Photo courtesy Jan Pavlíček, bkboleslav.cz.
In his first game as a member of BK Mladá Boleslav, Scott Barney scored his team's lone goal in a 4-1 loss to HC Vítkovice Steel. After last-place Boleslav quickly fell behind 2-0 against first-place Vítkovice, Barney cut the lead in half on a set-up by Lukáš Pabiška and Darrell Hay. But the overall strength of the Vítkovice team prevailed on the strength of 2 goals and an assist from Jan Kaňa.

High-flying HC Kometa Brno got off to a quick start against HC Plzeň 1929, building up a 3-0 lead. But despite the deficit on the scoreboard and in the standings, the scrappy club from West Bohemia scored four times in the second period and eventually won the game 5-4. Once again, the duo of John Lammers and Nick Johnson teamed up with captain Martin Straka to form a line that gave their opposition fits all night. Lammers assisted on the first of two goals by Radek Duda to increase his season total to 14 points; tops among North Americans in the Tipsport Extraliga. Tomáš Vlasák's 3 points gives him a league-leading 36 for the season. And Plzeň continues to battle its way back toward a playoff spot after being penalised 19 points by the league. With 22 points, they now trail 10th-place HC Slavia Praha by 9, with still more than half a season to go.

On the day that ex-NHLer Jiří Šlegr took over as the team's General Manager, HC Benzina Litvínov topped HC Mountfield České Budějovice 6-4.

And in its first game after the release of defenceman Brian Salcido, HC Sparta Praha lost 4-1 in Liberec. Also missing from the lineup was defenceman Doug O'Brien, who sat out the game with an injured shoulder. His status for Sunday is unknown. The White Tigers (Bílí Tigři) were led by a goal and an assist from Petr Nedvěd.

Rounding out the night's action, HC Eaton Pardubice won 5-2 on home ice against HC Vagnerplast Kladno.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Salcido leaves Prague

So far, it's been a season to forget for HC Sparta Praha, and there have been rumblings that changes need to be made.

On Friday afternoon, the club and defenceman Brian Salcido decided to part company. In 23 games for Sparta this season, Salcido scored 2 goals (both game-winners) with 1 assist, 38 penalty minutes, and a +2 rating.

Sparta General Manager Petr Briža commented on the club's website, www.hcsparta.cz, "We had slightly different ideas, and we agreed to part company."

After 25 games, Sparta currently sits 11th in the 14-team Extraliga with an overall record of 9-16. Their overtime record of 4-2 gives them 25 points on the 3-2-1-0 scale. If not for the stiff points deductions against HC Plzeň 1929 and BK Mladá Boleslav, they would be in 13th place.

25-year-old Salcido hails from the non-traditional hockey market of Los Angeles and attended Colorado College. He was drafted in the fifth round by Anaheim in 2005 and played 2 games for them in 2008-09, registering an assist. In four seasons in the AHL, he gained a reputation as an offensive defenceman, his best output being 53 points with Portland in 2007-08. It was hoped that he would contribute more offence from the back end for Sparta, but that never materialised.

This is not likely to be the only change that Sparta makes as management tries to reverse the team's fortunes.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Jaškin out, Frk added to preliminary WJC roster

It's a tale of two 17 year olds on the Czech Republic's initial 41-man roster for the World Junior Championships. The player who is perhaps their top domestic hopeful is out, while a rising star currently playing in Canada is in.

A knee injury will cause Dmitrij Jaškin to miss the World Junior
Championships. Photo: Pavel Vrtiška, hc-slavia.cz.
Dmitrij Jaškin, who has 8 points in 23 games for HC Slavia Praha this season, injured his knee on Sunday when he was hit by Jindřich Kotrla of HC Vagnerplast Kladno in Kladno's 3-1 victory.

Though no penalty was called on the play by the on-ice officials, the APK has handed Kotrla a three-game suspension for the knee-on-knee hit.

At the club's website, www.hc-slavia.cz, coach Vladimír Růžička speculated that Jaškin would likely be out five or six weeks and return to the lineup in early January, at best. This would rule out participation in the WJC.

Jaškin is currently the highest scorer among junior-aged players in the Extraliga, so his loss hurts. The 17-year-old made a strong case for his inclusion on the World Junior team a couple of weeks ago in a U20 tournament in České Budějovice and Karlovy Vary. There he was one of the offensive stars of the Czech team, recording a hat-trick against Russia in the tournament opener. 2011 will be the first year that he will be eligible for the NHL Entry Draft.

Jaškin's spot on the preliminary 41-man roster has been replaced by Martin Frk, who plays for the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL. The 17-year-old right winger has 10 goals and 19 assists in 26 games for the Mooseheads this season. His 29 points leads his team and also all rookies in the league. As his October 5 birthday is after the cut-off, he won't be eligible for the Draft until 2012, and the season he's having is starting to make his name mentioned among that year's top prospects.

As for Slavia, they have suffered a rash of injuries as of late, and the loss of Jaškin only compounds the problems. They took to the ice without Jaškin on Wednesday night and, after spotting HC Oceláři Třínec a 3-1 lead, came back to win in a shoot-out. The comeback spoiled a three-goal effort from Třínec's Ladislav Kohn.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Czech preliminary WJC roster announced

On its website, www.cslh.cz, the Czech Ice Hockey Association has released a list of 41 hopefuls who will potentially represent the Czech Republic at this year's IIHF World U20 Championships in Buffalo, NY. The list will be reduced to 28 by the time the team leaves for the United States on December 15.

27 of those listed play in Europe, 23 of whom recently played for the Czech U20 team at a tournament in České Budějovice and Karlovy Vary. 19 play in the Tipsport Extraliga, while seven play in the First National League and one, goaltender Tomáš Král, plays in Norway.

The other 13 play junior hockey in North America: five each in the WHL and QMJHL, while three play in the OHL.

Six of the players announced played on the Czech team that finished a disappointing seventh at last year's tournament in Saskatoon and Regina, SK. They are goaltender Filip Novotný, defencemen Jakub Jeřábek and Oldřich Horák, and forwards Andrej Nestrašil, Michal Hlinka, and Michal Poletín.

Of all the players listed, only four have been drafted by NHL teams. Nestrašil in the third round by Detroit in 2009, and taken in 2010 were Petr Mrázek by Detroit in the third round, Jakub Culek by Ottawa and Adam Polášek by Vancouver, both in the fifth round. 

At this year's tournament, which runs from December 26 to January 5, the Czechs play in a tough group that includes Canada, Sweden, Russia, and Norway.

From the Czech Ice Hockey Association website, here is the list of players:


Marek Mazanec (Plzeň), Filip Novotný (Sparta Praha), Petr Mrázek (Ottawa, OHL), Tadeáš Galanský (Saginaw, OHL), Tomáš Král (Lillehammer, Norway), Šimon Hrubec (České Budějovice).


Jakub Jeřábek (Plzeň), Petr Šenkeřík, Aleš Sova (both Havlíčkův Brod), Dalibor Řezníček, Martin Matějíček (both Zlín), Adam Polášek (P.E.I., QMJHL), Adam Sedlák (Ottawa, OHL), Martin Pláněk (Znojmo), Petr Kousalík (Litvínov), Bohumil Jank (České Budějovice), David Musil (Vancouver, WHL), Oldřich Horák (Hradec Králové), Marek Hrbas (Edmonton, WHL), Michal Zacpálek (Sparta Praha).


Robin Soudek (Edmonton, WHL), Roman Horák (Chilliwack, WHL), Andrej Nestrašil (P.E.I., QMJHL), Ondřej Palát (Drummondville, QMJHL), Petr Holík, Jakub Šlahař (both Zlín), Dmitrij Jaškin (Slavia Praha), Jakub Orsava, Rostislav Marosz (both Třinec), Michal Hlinka (Vítkovice), David Tůma (Sparta Praha), Antonín Honejsek (Moose Jaw, WHL), Jakub Culek, Petr Straka (Rimouski, QMJHL), Tomáš Rachůnek, Adam Havlík (both Znojmo), Tomáš Filippi (Québec, QMJHL), Michal Vachovec (Karlovy Vary), Radim Heřman (České Budějovice), Michal Poletín (Slavia Praha), Tomáš Vondráček (Třebíč).

Coaches: Miroslav Přerost, Terry Christensen, Jiří Fischer 
General Manager: Petr Komers 
Goaltender Coach: Roman Višňák
Video: Jan Procházka 
Physician: Dr. Jaroslav Budín 
Treasurer: Leoš Mitáček

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Scott Barney arrives in Boleslav

Scott Barney playing for SaiPa
Lappeenranta of the Finnish SM-liiga.
Photo courtesy Tuomas Vitikainen.

Less than a week after parting with Duncan Milroy, Mladá Boleslav has acquired another Canadian forward. Scott Barney of Oshawa, ON has joined the team.

Barney, 31, can play both centre and right wing. He started the season with SaiPa of the Finnish SM-Liiga, where he registered 9 goals and 9 assists in 21 games. He was released from the team after being arrested for drunk driving.

Barney played junior hockey for the Peterborough Petes and was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in 1997. He's played 27 games in the NHL for the Kings and Atlanta Thrashers, and has also spent time in the AHL and in Germany.

BK Mladá Boleslav took to the ice at home on Sunday, without Barney, against HC Plzeň 1929.

Boleslav led 3-1 late in the second, but gave up a goal to Martin Straka in the last minute of the middle frame to bring the Indians within one. Straka then set up Jan Kovář to tie the score in the first minute of the third, and then Plzeň struck three times in a five-minute span in the middle part of the frame to take over the game. Straka finished with 4 points and John Lammers of Langley, BC assisted on the go-ahead marker as Plzeň won 7-4.

With the 3 points, Plzeň now has 19 points, 10 back of Slavia Praha for the tenth and final playoff spot. Mladá Boleslav remains last in the league with 9. Both teams had occupied playoff positions before Friday's ruling stripped them of 19 and 22 points, respectively, for using improperly registered players.

Other results:

PSG Zlín 2-3 Vítkovice Steel
Kometa Brno 3-2 Eaton Pardubice
Vagnerplast Kladno 3-1 Slavia Praha
BENZINA Litvínov 0-2 Energie Karlovy Vary
Ocelář Třinec 3-4 Bílí Tigři Liberec (SO)
Sparta Praha 3-4 Mountfield České Budějovice

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Slaney, Straka return and contribute to Plzeň win

Just hours after the announcement by APK Director Stanislav Šulc that three teams in the Tipsport Extraliga would be stripped of points for using improperly registered players, two of those teams faced off against each other at ČEZ Arena in Plzeň.

HC Plzeň 1929 took to the ice against HC Vagnerplast Kladno in a match-up between two teams that face an uphill climb to make the playoffs in light of recent events. Of the two teams, Plzeň would have to be considered much more likely to make it, and their road back would be aided by the return of two of their best players.

After missing 11 games with a broken jaw, John Slaney of St. John's, NL made his return to the lineup and scored in the game's third minute on a shot from the slot to give the home side the early lead. Before getting hurt, Slaney had 6 points in 10 games, and was the team's leading scorer among defencemen.

Slaney wasn't the only player returning to the Plzeň lineup, as team captain and General Manager Martin Straka got back into the action only a week after undergoing knee surgery. He played on a line with the North American duo of John Lammers and Nick Johnson and, with the game tied at 2 late in the second period, the trio delivered the game-winning goal thanks to hard work in front of the net that has become the trademark of the Lammers-Johnson combo.

Despite the fact that Plzeň 1929 earned their 12th win of the season, a total that was not affected by the recent ruling, they now have only 16 points and sit in 12th place; 9 behind Sparta Praha and 13 behind Slavia Praha for the 10th and final playoff spot.

Other results from Friday:

PSG Zlín 5-3 HC Mountfield České Budějovice
HC Benzina Litvínov 2-1 HC Sparta Praha
HC Energie Karlovy Vary 3-2 HC Ocelří Třínec (SO)
HC Kometa Brno 3-2 HC Vítkovice Steel
HC Slavia Praha 5-4 HC Eaton Pardubice (SO)

And from Thursday:

Bílí Tigři Liberec 0-6 BK Mladá Boleslav

Note that, in European sports, the home team is typically listed first in results.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The league rules: 3 teams lose points for illegal players

On Friday afternoon, APK Director Stanislav Šulc made a much anticipated ruling regarding the use of improperly registered players: BK Mladá Boleslav, HC Plzeň 1929, and HC Vagnerplast Kladno lose 22, 19, and 6 points in the standings, respectively. All other statistics (wins, goals, et cetera) and the point totals of other teams remain unchanged.

This means that Plzeň drops from seventh place to 12th and Mladá Boleslav from ninth to 14th and last, while Kladno actually climbs out of the basement and into 13th place, one point ahead of Boleslav. The top 10 teams qualify for the playoffs.

The saga began November 2, when news of improprieties in the registration of certain players first came out. The APK soon revealed that Boleslav's Jiří Marušák and Tomáš Divíšek, Plzeň's Petr Přikryl and Tomáš Frolo, and Kladno's Jindřich Kotrla had not been registered properly with the Czech Ice Hockey Association.

At the time, Šulc stated that he saw no possible solution other than forfeiture of the affected matches in which these players participated. Mladá Boleslav and Plzeň requested a period of 10 days to find another solution, but today's ruling should have come as no surprise to anybody.

The affected games were not ruled to be complete forfeits, in that the opposing teams do not gain any points and all statistical information pertaining to the matches remains unchanged. In explaining his ruling, Šulc reasoned, "Although it affects the culprits and punishes them, it has the least affect on the rest of the competition."

The Plzeň and Boleslav clubs have fought this process from the beginning, and indications are that they don't intend to give up now.

On his club's website, www.hcplzen.cz, team captain and General Manager Martin Straka asked fans not to overreact to this ruling and to leave it to the team's management to deal with this situation. He went on to say, "This is just a different interpretation of standards and the club is determined to defend our interpretation by all legal means."

Meanwhile, at www.bkboleslav.cz, Mladá Boleslav General Manager Cyril Suk states, "As a club, we disagree with the verdict. We think that this decision does not comply with the regulations of the hockey league. Now, we will consider further steps to proceed."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Duncan Milroy leaves Mladá Boleslav

On the verge of a ruling that will shatter the team's chances at making the playoffs, BK Mladá Boleslav has decided to shed Duncan Milroy of Edmonton, AB from its roster.

German sports website www.kicker.de is reporting that the Canadian right winger has now signed a contract to play the rest of the season for the Krefeld Penguins of the Deutsch Eishockey Liga (DEL). Milroy previously played in the DEL for Ingolstadt ERC in 2008-09.

A draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens in 2001, the 27-year-old Milroy played 5 games for the Habs in 2006-07. He played junior hockey for the Swift Current Broncos and Kootenay Ice, and in the AHL for the Hamilton Bulldogs and Houston Aeros.

In 20 games this season for Mladá Boleslav, Milroy registered 3 goals and 3 assists, with 2 penalty minutes. He leaves Darrell Hay of Kamploops, BC as the lone North American on the team.

Without Milroy in the line-up last night, Boleslav beat Karlovy Vary 9-5 in a wild affair. The win temporarily gives them 28 points, tied with HC BENZINA Litvínov for the tenth and final playoff spot. However, an announcement tomorrow is expected to strip Boleslav of 22 of those points, dropping them into last place.

Tonight, Boleslav vists Liberec in the only game on the Extraliga slate.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Šulc: Sanctions to be announced Friday

At Tuesday's meeting of the Association of Professional Ice Hockey Clubs (Asociace profesionálních klubů ledního hokeje, or APK LH in Czech), the fourteen member clubs gave Competition Director Stanislav Šulc a mandate to rule on the case involving improperly registered players. The ruling will be made public on Friday.

From the sound of things, it seems a certainty that BK Mladá Boleslav, HC Plzeň 1929, and HC Vagnerplast Kladno will lose the points they obtained in games where they dressed ineligible players. The only thing to be decided is how exactly the results of the games will be dealt with.

According to Šulc, there are three possibilities."Forfeits, removal of points or cancelling the results and points. The rules also allow others, but maintaining the status quo or replays are not realistic," he declared.

Forfeits would mean that results from all affected games would be thrown out and ruled 5-0 victories for the opponents of the offending teams. This option would affect the point totals for every team in the league. Removal of points would mean that affected teams would lose any points they acquired in games where they dressed ineligible players, but the opposing team's total would be unaffected, as would other statistics. Cancelling the results and points would mean the game scores would again become 5-0, but opponents would not gain points other than what they achieved on the ice.

After a week-long break in Extraliga action, two of the three teams that face sanctions took to the ice at home today.

Plzeň 1929 blew a 4-1 lead with 7:00 left against HC Slavia Praha and lost 5-4 in overtime. Petr Kadlec scored the game winner at 3:20 of the extra frame. With Plzeň's captain and General Manager Martin Straka out of the line-up following knee surgery, Radek Duda played his first Extraliga game in two years on a forward unit with John Lammers of Langley, BC and Nick Johnson of Windsor, CT. The trio was held off the scoresheet, but created a lot of traffic in the attacking zone and made life difficult for Slavia goaltender Miroslav Kopřiva in a losing cause. Duda had 17 points in 16 games with KLH Chomutov of the Czech First League.

In other action, Vagnerplast Kladno defeated Bílí Tigři Liberec 5-3 on home ice.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Forgettable weekend for Czech national teams

It was a tough weekend for Czech national hockey teams.

After opening the Karjala Cup with a loss at home on Thursday night, the Czech senior national team travelled to Helsinki, where they were thumped 5-0 by Finland on Saturday and lost 3-1 Sunday to Russia to finish the tournament 0-3. The Russians, Swedes, and Finns all beat each other and finished with identical 2-1 records.

In terms of the Euro Hockey Tour, of which the Karjala Cup is the opening leg, it means a three-way tie for first place with 9 points, while the Czechs sit in the basement with 0. The tour continues with the Channel One Cup in Moscow, December 16 to 19. Sweden and the Czech Republic will host their tournaments after the new year.

The Czech national U20 team didn't fair much better. Though they managed to open with a victory over Russia in České Budějovice, they then fell to Finland and Sweden in Karlovy Vary to finish with a 1-2 record.  Russia and Finland were also each 1-2, while Sweden won the tournament with a perfect 3-0 record.

Extraliga action resumes on Tuesday with two games: Kladno-Liberec and Plzeň-Slavia. Tuesday is also the next meeting of the Czech Association of Professional Ice Hockey Teams, where the fate of Plzeň and Mladá Boleslav's appeal not to be stripped of 19 and 22 points in the standings, respectively, should be revealed. The potential outdoor game in Pardubice is also expected to be discussed.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A pair of weekend tournaments open in České Budějovice

The Czech senior and junior national teams are both involved in international tournaments this weekend, and both stopped first in České Budějovice before moving elsewhere.

Thursday night, the senior national team took on Sweden in the opening game of the Karjala Cup; part of the Euro Hockey Tour. Things went well early, as first period goals from Petr Hubáček and Jakub Klepiš gave the home side a 2-1 lead. When Roman Červenka, who plays for Avangard Omsk of the KHL, made it 3-1 with a perfect wrist shot in the opening minute of the third period, it looked like the Czechs might escape with the victory despite being outshot.

But Robert Nilsson brought the Swedes to within one, despite protests from goaltender Jakub Štěpánka that he was high sticked on the play (video replays support his claim). Late in the third, the Czechs found themselves two men short and Sweden made them pay double. Mattias Ekholm tied the game on a 5-on-3 with 5:25 to play and then just 22 seconds later, with Sweden still up a man, Niklas Nordgren scored the winner.

In other Karjala Cup action Thursday, Russia blanked Finland 1-0 in Helsinki. The rest of the four-team round-robin tournament will be played in the Finnish capital on Saturday and Sunday.

The Czech U20 team took in the action from the stands on Thursday and then took to the ice Friday night against Russia in the opener of their own four-team tournament. A hat trick from Slavia Praha's Dmitrij Jaškin helped the Czechs to a 6-3 victory, with singles coming from Jakub Jeřábek, David Tůma, and Rostislav Marosz.

Like their senior counterparts, the juniors are also leaving South Bohemia after their opening game, heading to Karlovy Vary for the remainder of the tournament, which also involves Sweden and Finland.

The players on this Czech U20 team are auditioning for the team that will play in the World U20 Championships in Buffalo, NY this December and January. That squad will also include players that are currently playing in North American junior leagues.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Outdoor game in Pardubice?

The trend started on September 6, 2001. US college hockey rivals Michigan and Michigan State faced off in the "Cold War", an outdoor game played before 74,544 fans at Spartan Stadium. Since then, it's become a regular occurrence in North America. In Europe, it's been done in leagues in Switzerland, Sweden, and Russia. Last May, the IIHF got into the act, staging a World Championships match in Gelsenkirchen, Germany that drew a world-record 77,803 spectators. Now, news agency ČTK is reporting that it may happen in the Czech Republic.

The proposal tentatively calls for a game to be played at the Pardubice-Svítkov Speedway, which could accommodate approximately 25,000. A scheduled January 2 contest between HC Eaton Pardubice and HC Kometa Brno is being eyed, which would be one day after the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Washington Capitals outdoors at Heinz Field.

"We're working to make our plans become reality," said Pardubice General Manager Zbyněk Kusý. "But it is still premature to talk about this as a done deal. We still have to choose from several opponents and dates. The target for this event is January."

The event, which is scheduled to be discussed on Tuesday at a meeting of the (Czech) Association of Professional Ice Hockey Clubs, is budgeted at CZK 10 million (approximately USD 500,000). "The cost for us it is a pretty decent risk. But since we assume a great response and especially from our great fans, we see an event like this as a gift to the people"

Eaton Pardubice currently has Adam Pineault of Holyoke, MA and Jeff Jillson of North Smithfield, RI on its roster. Jillson signed with San Jose in 2001 with a year of eligibility left at the University of Michigan, causing him to narrowly miss playing in the original "Cold War".

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

No games for a week, but standings could change

Sunday was the last slate of games in the Tipsport Extraliga until next Tuesday, as the league takes an eight-day break for the Karjala Cup in Finland. By the time the teams return to the ice, however, the league standings could have a different look.

Last week, Stanislav Šulc, President of the ČSLH's Competition Commission stated his intention to deduct points accrued by Mladá Boleslav, Plzeň, and Kladno in games where they dressed improperly registered players. The affected teams requested 10 days to argue their case as to why that shouldn't happen, and that time period expires on Monday, November 15.  This Monday, however, Šulc appeared unwavered from his position. "My view has not changed. What I said remains true."

As of the break, this is what the standings currently look like:

1 HC Oceláři Třinec 20 11 3
2 4
2 HC Vítkovice Steel 20 11 2
1 6
3 Bílí Tygři Liberec 20 10 1
4 5
1 7
5 HC Eaton Pardubice 19 9 1
4 5
6 HC Kometa Brno 20 10 1
1 8
7 HC Plzeň 1929 20 9 2
0 9
8 HC Energie Karlovy Vary 19 7 3
3 6
9 PSG Zlín 20 6 3
4 7
10 HC BENZINA Litvínov 20 8 1
2 9
11 HC Slavia Praha 20 7 2
0 11
12 BK Mladá Boleslav 21 6 2
3 10
13 HC Sparta Praha 21 5 4
2 10
14 HC Vagnerplast Kladno 20 4 0
1 15

If nothing happens to change the Commission's mind between now and when teams return to the ice on November 16, it appears that things may look this way:

1 HC Oceláři Třinec 20 11 3
2 4
2 HC Vítkovice Steel 20 11 2
1 6
3 Bílí Tygři Liberec 20 10 1
4 5
1 7
5 HC Eaton Pardubice 19 9 1
4 5
6 HC Kometa Brno 20 10 1
1 8
7 HC Energie Karlovy Vary 19 7 3
3 6
8 PSG Zlín 20 6 3
4 7
9HC BENZINA Litvínov 20 8 1
2 9
10 HC Slavia Praha 20 7 2
0 11
11 HC Sparta Praha 21 5 4
2 10
HC Plzeň 1929
HC Vagnerplast Kladno


14 BK Mladá Boleslav          21 0  1
    1   19 3

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A tough week for Plzeň

Last season, with the help of a few imports from North America, HC Plzeň 1929 finished first place in the Tipsport Extraliga before bowing out in the quarter-finals. This season, things haven't gone quite as well. Still, with four North Americans on their roster, the "Indians", as they are known colloquially, are likely to command more attention in North America than any other team in the league.

They currently have defensemen John Slaney from St. John's, NL and Nick St. Pierre from St-Étienne, QC and forwards John Lammers from Langley, BC and Nick Johnson from Windsor, CT. To Canadians, Slaney is by far the most noteworthy name, by virtue of his winning goal at the 1991 IIHF U20 World Championships followed by his lengthy career in the NHL and AHL. Currently, however, Slaney is on the sideline. He broke his jaw October 12 against Mladá Boleslav and is due back in mid-December.

Last Friday night, the rest of the Plzeň team paid a visit to Prague's TESLA Arena to take on HC Sparta Praha. Sparta had a pair of North American defensemen in their lineup, Brian Salcido from Los Angeles, CA and Doug O'Brien who, like Slaney, hails from St. John's.

It was Salcido who broke the goose-egg in the first period with a shot from the high slot that beat goaltender Marek Mazanec inside the post. For Salcido, who was known as an offensive defenseman in the AHL, it was his second goal of the season.

Minutes later, it appeared that the Plzeň duo of Lammers and Johnson may have tied the game, but referee Milan Minař blew the whistle first, claiming that Sparta goaltender Tomáš Pöpperle had covered the puck. Lammers explained, "I took a shot and there was a rebound lying in the crease. Johnson whacked it in but unfortunately there was a quick whistle."

After that, Pöpperle was perfect the rest of the way, posting 21 saves and earning his second straight shutout.

Like Pöpperle, O'Brien played for Plzeň last season, which made the win feel even better. "Yeah, defintely. It feels great to beat 'em. Lot of old buddies so it feels good to beat them. They beat us last time in a close game and tonight was a pretty close game."

For the past few games, O'Brien has been paired on the blueline with Michal Gulaší, who is one of Sparta's harder hitters.Though it wasn't an overly rough contest, Gulaší was a noted physical presence on the back end. "He throws the body around a lot. It's a big part of his game. He loves to do it. I love watching him."

After Salcido's first period tally, Karel Hromas scored late in the second and again midway through the third period to give Sparta a 3-0 victory. The win gave Sparta 22 points on the season and moved them one ahead of Plzeň into the tenth place in a tight race for playoff spots. O'Brien added, "It's a big win for us. With the new coach (Miloš Holaň) that's two in a row for us. The guys are excited. Back to back shoutouts; Pöpperle's played great for us."
As far as Plzeň is concerned, they were last season's regular season champions and their record to this point is certainly a disappointment. Unfortunately, an even bigger disappointment would be in store a few days later.

On Tuesday, Czech Ice Hockey Association Competition Director Stanislav Šulc dropped a bomb, stating that three teams, Kladno, Mladá Boleslav and Plzeň, had played games with improperly registered players and would likely be forced to forfeit points accumulated in games where the ineligible players participated.

The players reported were Kladno's Jindřich Kotrla, Mladá Boleslav's Tomáš Divíšek, Jiří Marušák and Peter Fabuš, and Plzeň's Tomáš Frolo and Petr Přikryl.

As Kotrla played only eight games and Kladno was almost certain to finish in last place anyway, they are least affected by this ruling. However, for Mladá Boleslav and Plzeň, the results could be disastrous. Mladá Boleslav would lose 22 points and Plzeň 19, making the playoffs a virtual impossibility. What's more,  Boleslav would drop below Kladno into last place, meaning they might end up having to play a series to avoid relegation to the First National League.