Friday, December 30, 2011

Czechs confident against Americans

It’s two down and two to go for the Czech Republic in the group stage of the 2012 World Junior Championship. While they got the results they expected in the first two games, a win against Denmark and a loss to Canada, it is now the next two games that will determine what they will be playing for after the New Year.

The Czechs play the United States on Friday and Finland on Saturday. All three teams are tied at 1-1. Two of the teams will advance, while the third will go to the relegation round. The good news is, because they play the two teams they are tied with, the Czechs are in a position to control their own destiny. The bad news is, it won’t be easy. Owing to their victory against the Americans that they already have in the bank and the fact they still have a game remaining against Denmark, the Finns are probably in the best position of the three teams. The Americans, meanwhile, still have to play Canada, who have looked invincible so far.

The fact is, they will need to win at least one of their two remaining games to advance, however, the nearly endless possibilities of points distribution in the remaining games make it impossible to try to figure out exactly what they need. Head coach Miroslav Přerost wouldn’t have it any other way.
"It is good that the situation is tangled in the group," he said. “The Finns defeated the US, lost 8-1 to Canada, who beat us 5-0. Canada is through, but the other teams have equal chances. I am confident that we can advance to the quarterfinals. We just want to avoid any distractions from the games."

Focusing his attention on the next game, Přerost doesn’t expect much difference in the style of play from the game against Canada.

"The Americans have built their team the same way as the Canadians, so the playing style will not be materially different," he said. “We have enough information about them. They have fast forwards who go hard to the net, but on the other hand, are not as compact as the Canadians. We have to be aware of where they are on the ice as they have many skilled players."

Awareness is exactly the thing that cost the Czechs against Canada. They trailed 1-0 late in the second period, before Freddie Hamilton snuck behind the Czech defence, wide open, and received a breakaway pass from goalie Wedgewood, which led to the 2-0 goal.

"For 37 minutes we played well, but then we made an error and it changed the course of the game," said goalie Petr Mrázek, who stopped Hamilton before Ryan Strome scored. “It’s a game of inches. If we had managed to score a goal when down 1-0, it could have been entirely different."
Mrázek, who opened the tournament with a 12-save shutout against Denmark, was a lot busier against Canada, and his goaltending kept them in the game for almost two periods. He will make a third straight start on Friday.

The rest of the lineup with stay in tact, as well, other than the possible return of Tomáš Hyka, who was injured against Denmark and didn’t play against Canada.

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