Thursday, January 6, 2011

Czechs finish 7th at WJC

Petr Holík engages in a battle along the boards
against Slovakia. Photo:
The Czech Republic played its last game of the 2011 IIHF World U20 Championship on Tuesday night, beating Slovakia by a score of 5-2 to finish seventh in the tournament. They were led offensively by captain Jakub Jeřábek (2 assists), Martin Frk, and Andrej Nestrašil (each 1 goal and 1 assist). In goal, Filip Novotný stopped 19 of 21 shots for his second straight win.

Click here to see the official individual statistics, as compiled by the IIHF, for the Czech U20 team at the 2011 World Junior Championships.

Jeřábek was their leader and best player all tournament. The 19-year-old undrafted defenceman led the team offensively with 8 points (1 goal and 7 assists) in 6 games. Collectively, only 1 other point was recorded by a thin Czech defensive unit. Jerábek, who plays full time for HC Plzeň 1929 in the Czech Extraliga, made a strong case for being drafted in 2011, and suitors from the KHL may come calling as well.

Up front, the club was led by 17-year-old Frk. Frk wasn't even on the radar for inclusion on this team at the start of the season, but his strong season in Halifax garnered attention. Frk recorded 3 goals and 3 assists and, since his October birthdate means that he won't be eligible for the NHL Entry Draft until 2012, he will almost certainly return next year and be counted on as one of the team's offensive leaders. Michal Hlinka also scored 3 goals and added 1 assist, and Antonín Honejsek had 2 goals and 2 assists.

In goal, the team was definitely hurt by the absence of Petr Mrázek of the Ottawa 67's, and were forced to alternate between Extraliga backups Marek Mazanec and Novotný. While better results may have been expected, they were often getting shelled with a weak blueline in front of them. Mazanec may now face more of the same when he returns to a Plzeň team that has had goaltending and defensive woes all season.

By finishing seventh, the Czech Republic will find itself next season in a group with Canada, the USA, and Finland, with either Denmark or Latvia being the group's fifth team. Again, they will be ranked fourth in their group and facing an uphill battle to reach the quarter-finals, though it may be slightly easier than it was this year.

From this year's club, only Frk, Bohumil Jank, Petr Holík, and Rimouski Oceanic teammates Jakub Culek and Petr Straka will be eligible to return. Dmitrij Jaškin and defenceman David Musil, a pair of 17-year-olds who missed this year's tournament with injuries, are also expected to be there.

Though the Czechs ended up in the relegation round, they were represented in the gold medal game of this tournament. Příbram-native Martin Fraňo was one of the referees of the game in which Russia defeated Canada 5-3 to claim the championship. The 28-year-old Fraňo, who is a referee in the Czech Extraliga, also worked the Canada-USA semi-final. In his early twenties, he spent a year living in Minnesota and worked as a linesman in the junior A-level United States Hockey League. Jaromír Bláha, from Újezd nad Lesy, was a linesman in the tournament and worked the Finland-Russia quarter-final.

No comments:

Post a Comment