Monday, April 11, 2011

Czechs ready for U18 World Championship

The Czech U18 team has its work cut out for it in the upcoming World Championships in Crimmitschau and Dresden, Germany. Over the past few years, the program has taken some hits and they are placed in a tough group that will make it difficult to advance to the quarterfinals. However, unlike the U20s that played in the USA in December and January and couldn't buy any breaks when assembling their team, the U18s have got all the breaks they could ask for. And they seem ready to prove the nay-sayers wrong.

David Musil is ready to play. Photo:
Back in December, the U20s' top goaltender and top defenceman were declared ineligible, and they lost their two of their most promising 17 year olds, defenceman David Musil and right winger Dmitrij Jaškin, to injuries.

For the U18s, they have no apparent eligibility issues or injury problems so far, and have assembled what is believed to be their best possible roster of players. All five overseas players that were named to the preliminary roster have been eliminated from their leagues' playoffs, and are currently with the team.

Goaltender Matěj Machovský finished the season as a backup for the OHL's Brampton Battalion, and may have a chance to battle for the starting job next season. He's expected to be the starter on this Czech team.  A pair of WHL defencemen, Vancouver's Musil and Edmonton's Marek Hrbas, were both eliminated in the first round of the playoffs and are expected to be key contributors. Also available are forwards Martin Frk of Halifax and Petr Beránek of Barrie.

As well, with the elimination of Slavia Praha from the Extraliga semifinals, Jaškin will be present for the full camp as well. Had Slavia advanced to the finals, he would have been forced to join the team either right before the start of the tournament or even after it started, depending on how long the series lasted.

These players will be welcome additions to a group that competed together at a tournament in Hradec Králové in February. In that tournament, the Czechs went 1-3, and though they were a hard-working group that played a disciplined system under coach Jiří Šolc and didn't get blown out in any game, they were lacking on offence. Jaškin was originally named to that team, but sat out with the Extraliga playoffs looming. When asked at the time about his absence, defenceman Petr Šidlík commented, "Jaškin is a very good shooter, and right now we don't have a goal-scorer like that on the team. It's a problem."

Besides Jaškin, Frk was impressive in the U20 championship, and is expected to be a dominant offensive player at the U18s. And Musil, who is the highest-ranked Czech that is eligible for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, gives them a power-play quarterback and some pressure coming from the back end. 

Joining the Czech Republic in Group B, which plays in Dresden, are Canada, Finland, Norway and Sweden. As only three teams from each group advance, they don't have an easy task ahead of them, as they will need to finish higher than somebody else other than Norway. The team that has been assembled, however, gives them their best chance to do so. The fact that Dresden is only about 30 kilometres from the Czech border might also be a factor in their favour, as they should get better crowd support than any other team in the group.

They play a pre-tournament exhibition game against Slovakia in Litoměřice. The team then travels to Dresden to open the tournament against Sweden on Thursday. Before then, the team still has three more cuts to make; either two forwards and one defenceman or the reverse.


Patrik Bartošák (Vítkovice), Jaroslav Pavelka (Hradec Králové), Matěj Machovský (Brampton, OHL).


David Musil
(Vancouver, WHL), Marek Hrbas (Edmonton, WHL), Tomáš Kvapil (Lulea, Sweden), Štěpán Jeník, Antonín Růžička (both Slavia Praha), Petr Šidlík, Vojtěch Zadražil (both Jihlava), Tomáš Pavelka (Vítkovice), Ondřej Starý (Pardubice).


Martin Frk (Halifax, QMJHL), Petr Beránek (Barrie, OHL), Dmitrij Jaškin, Tomáš Hertl, Tomáš Moravec (all Slavia Praha), Michal Švihálek, Lukáš Sedlák, Tomáš Rousek (all České Budějovice), Matěj Beran (Lulea, Sweden), Jakub Matai (Litvínov), Ondřej Hampl (Sparta Praha), Tomáš Hyka (Mladá Boleslav), Radek Faksa (Třinec), Petr Koblasa (Karlovy Vary).

Head Coach: Jiří Šolc
Assistant Coach: Martin Hosták

Team Manager: Martin Hosták 
Goaltending Coach: Marcel Kučera
Physicians: Dr. Petr Čech, Dr. Tomáš Madrý 
Custodian: František Ptáček
Masseur: Josef Toma

Pre-Tournament Exhibition:

Mon, April 11: Czech Republic - Slovakia (Litoměřice, 17:00)

IIHF U18 World Championship, Group B:

Thu, April 14: Czech Republic - Sweden (Dresden, 19:30)
Fri, April 15: Czech Republic - Canada (Dresden, 19:30)
Sun, April 17: Czech Republic - Norway (Dresden, 15:30)
Tue, April 19: Czech Republic - Finland (Dresden, 15:30)

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