Sunday, January 9, 2011

Czech U18 women finish 4th

Lenka Craigová sweeps the puck out of the net for one of the
USA's 14 goals in the semi-finals. Photo: Matthew Murnaghan
When they reached the semi-finals in a pool of teams that included the United States, Canada, and Finland, anything better than a fourth-place finish for this Czech U18 women's team would have been amazing. In the end, they did indeed finish fourth, but they put forth an effort to be proud of.

At first glance, their 14-1 defeat against the USA in the semi-finals seems like nothing to write home about, but if you saw the game, you would have seen that they really put up a great battle in the first period against a team they had virtually no chance of beating. After Haley Skarupa gave the USA a 1-0 lead at the 6:52 mark, Denisa Křížová tied the game just seven seconds later. When the period ended, the USA, perennial powerhouses of women's hockey, held a slim 2-1 lead. From that point on, however, it was all downhill for the Czech team, and it finished 14-1. Still, the fight they put up in the first period should not be ignored.

After their quarter-final win against Germany, Czech team captain Jana Fialova commented that their goal was to win the bronze medal, and even if they didn't manage to do it, they put forth a great effort in the bronze-medal game. The Finns led 1-0 after a period, and when they scored twice in the first six minutes of the second period, the game had all the earmarks of a blowout; an over-matched Czech team that had kept things close early, but tired quickly and folded. But they didn't.

They didn't surrender another goal the rest of the way. In fact, in the third period, they staged a furious offensive attack, if not to score three goals, at least to get one. But they were unable to beat Finnish goalkeeper Isabella Portnoj, who preserved the shutout and the bronze medal for the Finns.

Though they didn't manage to medal, this Czech U18 team finished better than any other Czech women's team at an IIHF word championship tournament, which is a positive result for a women's hockey program that has lagged far behind the other traditional hockey powers in the world. 

For the official individual statistics of the Czech team, as compiled by the IIHF, click here:

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