Monday, May 9, 2011

Czechs win group, but still fuming

The Czech Republic kept its perfect record at the 2011 World Championship in tact on Sunday, defeating Russia 3-2. The win also clinched them first place in Group E. Based based on their post-game reaction, though, you wouldn't know it.

"I don't take any joy from this victory," said Jaromír Jágr after it was over.

What he and other Czech players are fuming about was the play of the Russians, in particular forward Yevgeni Artyukhin, who knocked Milan Michálek and Karel Rachůnek from the game with big hits.

The hit on Michálek came midway through the second period, following an exchange of hits between the two players, when Michálek didn't have the puck. Not expecting to be hit, Michálek did not brace himself, and was shaken up on the play. Artyukhin was assessed a minor penalty for interference.

The hit on Rachůnek came in the last minute of the middle frame, just as he was shooting the puck on goal. Artyukhin's check knocked Rachůnek's helmet off, and the later hit his head on the ice, which drew blood. Despite protests from the Czech bench, no penalty was assessed on the play, with the explanation that it was a shoulder check.

Coach Alois Hadamczik was perhaps the angriest of all, taking his anger out on the game's referees. "This would never happen in the (Czech) Extaliga. We were warned before the season that referees will have no tolerance for similar headshots and the fact is that Artyukhin threw three headshots." However, the IIHF disciplinary committee apparently disagrees with Hadamczik's assessment. It ruled on Monday that Artyukhin would receive no further disciplinary action.

The Czechs have already lost defenceman Radek Martínek for the duration of the tournament, but both Michálek and Rachůnek are expected to return to the Czech lineup.

"Michálek suffered a neck injury and he is under a physiotherapists’ care now. He looks quite good but we didn’t let him play out of precaution," Czech team doctor Radomír Holiba told "Rachůnek has three new stitches on his head but he also should be okay to play. We will discuss with the coach if they can play tomorrow against Germany, but for the quarterfinals they should be ready."

"It's hard to say. Some players do this, others do not," Jágr speculated, when asked if he thought it was the result of frustration on the part of the Russians. "Canadians would have done the same."

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