Sunday, May 22, 2011

3 Czechs honoured at KHL awards

The Russian-based Kontinental Hockey League held its annual awards show on Friday night, and three Czechs took home hardware at the end of the evening.

Karel Rachůnek (#4) and Roman Červenka
(#10) were honoured at the KHL awards.
Photo: Associated Press,
Two players were rewarded for their offensive output. Roman Červenka of Avangard Omsk won the league's award for being the top goal-scorer by lighting the lamp 31 times in 51 games this year, while Karel Rachůnek of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl led all defencemen in scoring with 46 points, which consisted of 11 goals and 35 assists. Both players were members of the Czech Republic's bronze-winning team at the recent World Championships.

In addition to the two players, Miloš Říha, who led Atlant Moscow Oblast to a berth in the Gagarin Cup Final, was named the league's top coach. "This season has been successful for me, the club and the entire Moscow region," Říha said in his acceptance speech. "I am glad to have achieved success with the club where I started my work in Russia," he continued, alluding to the fact that he has already left Atlant and will SKA St. Petersburg next season.

Říha played in the Czechoslovakian First League for HC Vítkovice and was drafted in 1983 by the Minnesota North Stars, but never played in the NHL. He began his coaching career in 1996-97 with Pardubice and has coached in Russia since 2005-06.

In addition to leading the league in goals, Červenka was also third overall in points with 61, while Avangard linemate Jaromír Jágr was eighth with 51. Rachůnek's Yaroslavl teammate, Josef Vašiček, was seventh with 55, and then led all playoff scorers with 22 points in 18 games. This came despite the fact that Yaroslavl was eliminated in the semifinals. There was one Czech, defenceman Martin Blaťák, on Gargarin Cup-champion Salavat Yulaev Ufa.

Among goaltenders, the legendary Dominik Hašek of Spartak Moscow led the league in shutouts at age 46 with 7. Jakub Štěpánek was third in goals-against average and fifth in save percentage with 2.05 and .923 postings. His stellar play in the St. Petersburg net was likely a contributing factor that led to the club parting company with Yevgeni Nabokov mid-season.

The KHL has become a popular destination for Czech players in recent years, with 31 dressing for various clubs this past season.

Twenty of the league's 24 clubs are located in Russia, with single franchises also located in Kazakhstan, Latvia, Belarus, and beginning next season, Poprad, Slovakia. Attempts have been made in the past to place franchises in Karlovy Vary and Hradec Králové, but a KHL club in the Czech Republic has yet to happen.

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