Sunday, November 13, 2011

Late collapse costs Czechs at Karjala

The Czech Republic came oh-so-close to winning the Karjala Cup, the first leg of the 2011-12 Euro Hockey Tour. A win over Russia in their final game would have put them into the tournament lead in points, and they were ahead 1-0 with six minutes to play. However, a power-play goal by Alexander Radulov tied the game with 5:56 remaining and then Yevgeni Kuznetsov scored the winner with only 10 seconds on the clock.

"It's a shame. I'm very sorry, because we played so well," said defenceman Jakub Nakládal, who was in the penalty box for the tying goal. That situation came about by a bad deflection off the glass, but I should have reacted better. I tried to hold the zone, but unfortunately I had was left with no choice but to hold him."

Jakub Kovář did all he could in the Czech goal. Photo:
After they tied the game, the Russians got another chance with the man advantage and put on tremendous pressure. Jakub Kovář managed to hold the fort for the full two minutes, but the pressure continued, leading to Kuznetsov's winner.

"As time went on they put on more and more pressure," said the besieged goalie. "On the winning goal there was a big scramble in front of my net and I had a bit of miscommunication with the defenceman. It's too bad because we thought we'd at least take it to overtime."

Later in the day, Sweden beat the host Finns 4-3, meaning that the 3 points they squandered against Russia would have given the Czechs first place in the tournament. As it is, Russia finished first with 8 points, followed by Finland with 4, and the Czechs and Swedes both with 3. The next leg of the tournament will be in Russia in December.

Besides the disappointment of losing, the late collapse was also unfortunate for team captain Petr Nedvěd, who was representing his country of birth for the first time in 15 years. Nedvěd got his team off to a good start on Thursday in Sweden, scoring twice to pace his team to a 5-2 victory and then, in Sunday's game in Helsinki, had the lone goal against Russia before the late collapse.

"It's a terrible shame," said Nedvěd afterward. "We played hard for 60 minutes. You absolutely couldn't ask for more from the boys." But he went on to say, "I am certainly glad that I was able to play for the national team after such a long time. We had a great bunch of guys, just dominated by positive emotions. Of course, I knew that hockey at this level is faster. But I think we came out and played two games at one hundred percent. It just did not go very well on Saturday against Finland."

The players now return to their respective clubs, as European domestic leagues resume play in the next few days.

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