Sunday, February 27, 2011

Jaroslav Modrý's career ends in penalty box

It's not the way most players would envision ending their careers or celebrating their birthdays.

Defenceman Jaroslav Modrý, sent off for hooking in overtime in a game where his team, Plzeň 1929, was facing elimination, sat watching helplessly as Richard Jareš fired home the series winning goal to send Benzina Litvínov into the quarterfinals, and send Plzeň to an earlier-than-expected off-season.

For a time, it didn't even look like Plzen would have a chance to fight for its season in O.T. With five minutes to play in regulation time, Litvínov led 3-1 when Martin Straka and Tomáš Vlasák, the team's offensive saviours all season, bailed them out twice more with a pair of late goals to send the game to extra time.

Jaroslav Modrý leaves the ice on Sunday after what was
apparently his last game. Photo: Milan Podpera,
"When you sit there (in the penalty box) and the play goes on, it happens," said Modrý, who was also celebrating his 40th birthday, after the game. "But when they score, it's such a huge feeling of helplessness."

 The Plzeň club is left to wonder "what if?" What if they hadn't lost all those points, and been forced to play in the play-in round? They came back against the odds on a few different occasions in the season. After losing 19 points, they rebounded and fought their way into the playoffs. After dropping the first two games, they responded with a strong game at home to get back into the series, and then in the fourth game, with a chance to tie it, they fell behind again. Again, they came back and tied it. But at that point, they were out of comebacks.

It was a character-building season for sure, and one in which Straka, the team captain, general manager, and co-owner--the Reg Dunlop of the Czech Extraliga, if you will--seemed to age a few years as he tried to deal with the headaches in the front office and keep his players ready to play on the ice. For a team that finished first place last year only to be knocked out in the quarterfinals, this season was not the atonement that they were looking for.

For Modrý, who was acknowledged on the public address system at Plzeň's ČEZ Arena following the game and given a nice ovation from the crowd, it was surely also not the way he envisioned ending his lengthy career. But spending the year with good friends Straka and John Slaney, wiley veterans themselves, was maybe more important than the way it ended.

"In life, there comes a time when you have to somehow decide. But I've already made the decision itself," he said, addressing his future plans. "I want to thank Martin and my teammates for two wonderful years here. Because of those moments that I experienced here with the guys, it's worth it. Martin did a lot of work here. His heart, determination and hard work; hats off. I'm glad I was part of it."

KV wins in OT, Plzeň shuts out Litvínov

Both needing to win to stave off elimination, Energie Karlovy Vary and Plzeň 1929 both did that at home on Saturday night so that they can continue fighting on Sunday. Now, they need to do it again so they can force fifth and decisive matches on Tuesday in Prague and Litvínov, respectively.

Energie Karlovy Vary 4-3 Slavia Praha (overtime)
(Slavia leads best-of-five series 2-1.)

Petr Kumstát dives to the ice after scoring the overtime winner in
game three. Photo: Milan Mikeš,
In the first game of the series, Karlovy Vary built up a 2-0 lead and then let it slip away, eventually losing in a shootout. On Saturday night, they almost let it happen again. They got first-period goals from Petr Sailer and Tomáš Klíma before Slavia came back to tie the score. Early in the third, rookie Dmitrij Jaškin gave Slavia the lead and the visitors were less than three minutes from closing out the series when Lukáš Pech scored the tying goal.

In overtime, Petr Kumstát worked out of the corner and cut his way to the front of the net, where he fired a backhander that beat goaltender Miroslav Kopřiva to give Energie its first victory of the series. For Kumstát, it was his third goal of the series.

Click here to watch game three of Karlovy Vary-Slavia Praha in its entirety.

Sunday's game begins at 18:00 Central European Time (UTC +1). To watch live online, check

Plzeň 1929 4-0 Benzina Litvínov
(Litvínov leads best-of-five series 2-1.)

Jan Stránský deflecting Nick St. Pierre's shot past goaltender
Martin Volke to put Plzeň up 3-0. Photo: Milan Podpera,
After falling behind early in each of the series first two games, Plzeň finally got off to the start they wanted at home, scoring three times in the first period. After not scoring any goals all season, Nick St. Pierre scored in game two Thursday night and was originally credited with the 3-0 goal Saturday night. However, replays show that his point shot was deflected in front of the net by Jan Stránský, and the scoring play was eventually changed. Windsor, CT's Nick Johnson appeared to put Plzeň up 5-0, but it was ruled that he put the puck into the net with a kicking motion.

Plzeň was led by 2 goals from Pavel Vostřák, 3 assists from Tomáš Vlasák, and a goal and an assist from Martin Straka. Luboš Horčička made 25 saves for the shutout.

Sunday's game can be seen live, starting at 18:10 CET on ČT4 Sport and

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Plzeň and Karlovy Vary face elimination Saturday

A pair of Extraliga playoff games will be played in West Bohemia Saturday night, with each of the home teams facing elimination. To the surprise of many, Plzeň 1929 dropped both games in Litvínov and now must win three in a row to advance to the quarterfinals. Likewise, Energie Karlovy Vary lost twice in Prague, and now must run the table against Slavia to advance. In Plzeň, the teams will face off at 19:30 Central European Time (UTC +1) on, while the puck drops in Karlovy Vary at 19:40 on ČT4 Sport television and

"We are in a difficult position but we will fight. We haven't lost yet," said Plzeň left winger Tomáš Vlasák, who played 10 games for the Los Angeles Kings in 2000-01. Vlasák led the league this season with 30 goals and 68 points and linemate Martin Straka was tops in assists with 44 and second in points with 61. Both picked up a goal and an assist in the two games in Litvínov. In each game, Plzeň dug themselves a hole by falling behind by 2 goals in the first period, then spent the rest of the game trying to battle back. "Both games were very similar. It was more battling than pretty hockey. We weren't particularly successful in the first, Litvínov took advantage and deservedly won." 

 Assistant coach Milan Razým thinks that they can't rely too much on the duo of Vlasák and Straka, and must get some offensive production from other players. "We rely on them, but the opponent knows that and they put on a special defensive formation against them. But we are a team, so when the top five don't produce, we need others to step up, which didn't happen. We failed on the power play, we need to get that going."

Nick St. Pierre scored his first Extraliga goal Thursday, but Plzeň
still trails the series 2-0. Photo: Milan Podpera,
Plzeň did get a goal from one unexpected source in game two when defenceman Nick St. Pierre scored his first Extraliga goal. "The truth is the loss takes away the joy at the end of the game, but at the moment I was really very happy," said the 25-year-old native of St-Étienne, QC who went to Colgate University. He went goalless in 33 regular season games, but his slapshot in the second period of game two cut the deficit to 3-2. Plzeň ultimately lost 5-2. "But we're not playing badly, we're trying as hard as we can. The coach keeps reminding us that we have to work hard, really battle. And Martin Straka leads us on the ice."

For their part, Litvínov isn't counting their chickens before they hatch. "We're up 2-0, which is absolutely perfect so far and better than we expected, but we still have one step,"said assistant coach Jiří Kučera. He also said that injured forward Martin Ručinský will definitely not return before the end of this series.

Karlový Vary lost a pair of close games in Prague, 4-3 in overtime and 3-1. Coach Václav Baďouček is optimistic about his team's chances, and thinks they were unlucky to leave Prague down 2 games. "The difference is cashing in on our chances," he said. "We can create them, but in the end we didn't finish. We need to improve."

"I wouldn't count Karlovy Vary out at home," said Slavia assistant coach Jiří Čelanský. "They play good hockey, they have nothing to lose and will play hard."

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Champions League postponed (again)

The IIHF has decided, for the third year in a row, to allow the Champions Hockey League to remain dormant.

In November, the federation submitted a proposal for the re-launch of the league, which was suspended following an initial successful season in 2008-09. The reason for the suspension was a lack of sponsors, due to the global economic crisis.

Oceláři Třinec won this year's President's Cup for finishing first
place. Unfortunately, there is no Champions League for them to
advance to. Photo: Marian Ježowicz,
Though they did not specify which leagues were against the plan, they did say that "the majority of the leagues were not in favour of accepting the IIHF’s offer for a re-launch for the 2011-2012 season." Many of Europe's top hockey leagues, including the Czech Extraliga, were not happy that the IIHF decided to cancel the two remaining seasons on its three-year contract, and demanded financial compensation. Apparently, the latest re-launch plan did not adequately satisfy those demands.

Had the competition gone ahead under the plan proposed by the IIHF, HC Oceláři Třinec would have been guaranteed a spot in the 16-team league, by virtue of finishing first place in the Extraliga's regular season. The playoff winner would have also qualified.

Ultimately, the losers of this latest failure are the hockey fans of Europe, who are left without any top-level interleague competition.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Litvínov and Slavia win series openers

Both Extraliga play-in series opened Wednesday, with Benzina Litvínov hosting Plzeň 1929 and Slavia Praha hosting Energie Karlovy Vary. In both cases, the home team won. Litvínov beat Plzeň 4-2, while Slavia edged Karlovy Vary 4-3 in overtime.

Benzina Litvínov 4-2 Plzeň 1929
(Litvínov leads series 1-0)

Martin Heinsich celebrates the goal that puts Litvinov up 2-0.
Litvínov dominated the first period of this game, with Jakub Černý opening the scoring after 28 seconds, and the lead being increased midway through the period on a power play by Matěj Stříteský.

In the second period, the home side looked to increase its lead, but Plzeň goaltender Luboš Horčička committed grand larceny against Litvínov forward Lukáš Rindoš, making an incredible glove save when he had almost the entire net to shoot at. Finally, Pavel Vostřak cut the lead in half when he one-timed a pass from Martin Straka past goaltender Martin Volke. In the final minute of the period, Litvínov's two-goal lead was restored when Ivan Svarný deflected a point shot past , making the score 3-1 after forty minutes.

Once again, Plzeň cut the lead to one early in the third period. Straka dropped a pass to Vostřak, whose shot rung off the crossbar behind Volke. Tomáš Vlasák was then in the right place to sweep the loose puck into the unguarded cage and make the score 3-2 Litvínov. Černý scored his second of the game with under six minutes to play, and Plzeň couldn't cut into the lead any further, despite a late power play. Litvinov took game one on home ice.

Click here to watch Game one between Litvínov and Plzeň in its entirety.

Slavia Praha 4-3 Energie Karlovy Vary (shootout)
(Slavia leads series 1-0)

Tomáš Svoboda scores the shootout winner in game one.
Photo: Martin Prokop,
The visitors jumped out to the early lead in this game, with Tomáš Klíma and Petr Kumstát giving them a 2-0 lead before Jiří Vašiček cut their lead to 2-1 in the last minute of the opening period.

In the second period, Kumstát tallied his second of the game, giving the visitors a 3-1 advantage, but Slavia came back in the third period with goals from Petr Jelínek and Jakub Krejčík to tie the score. After a scoreless overtime, the game went to a shootout. Tied at two goals apiece, Tomáš Svoboda broke the tie and scored the shootout- and game-winning goal against Lukáš Mensator as Slavia struck first blood in the series.

Both series play their second games Thursday. The start times are 17:40 in Litvínov and 18:15 in Prague and it seems that both games should be available at

Tickets on sale: Czech Hockey Games in Brno, Czech-Canada in Prague

As the Czech national hockey team prepares for the World Championship in Slovakia, April 29 to May 15, they will play several games in their home country in the weeks leading up to it. Tickets for all Czech first-round games in Bratislava are sold already, but fans who want to see the team live will still have a chance in more convenient locations and for better prices.

From left: Jaromír Jágr, Milan Michalek and Petr Čajanek could be
re-united in Brno this April. Photo:
The Czech Hockey Games, which are the final leg of the Euro Hockey Tour, will be played at Hala Rondo in Brno, April 21 to 24. Though the Czechs sit in last place with virtually no chance of winning this year's edition of the tour, they will use these three games against Finland, Sweden, and Russia to tune up for the World Championships. Unlike the three earlier legs of the tour, this tournament will include NHL players, as it takes place after the end of the North American circuit's regular season. Some Czech NHLers who are unlikely to make the playoffs and might be seen include defencemen Filip Kuba and Ladislav Šmíd and forwards Milan Hejduk, Aleš Hemský and Milan Michalek. As well, reports that, although he hasn't played with the national team at all this season, Jaromír Jágr of the KHL's Avangard Omsk agreed before the start of the season to play in the Czech Hockey Games. Legendary goaltender Dominik Hašek, currently with Spartak Moscow, could also possibly participate.

Tickets for the weekend event are now available online at, or at the Hala Rondo box office. For Thursday's game between the Czech Republic and Finland, tickets are CZK 390 for a seat or CZK 250 for standing room. For action on Saturday or Sunday, which each include two games, the prices are CZK 590 sitting or 390 standing.

After that, the team that Czech hockey fans love to hate, the Canadian national team, is scheduled to pay a visit to Prague's O2 Arena. The Canadian team will consist either entirely or almost entirely of NHL players.

Czech Republic vs Canada at the 2010 World Championships in
Mannheim, Germany. Photo: Alex Grimm/Bongarts/Getty Images,
On April 27, just three days before the start of the World Championship tournament, the Czech Republic and Canada play their final pre-tournament games in the Czech capital. Tickets for that game are available now at or at the O2 Arena box office. Up until the end of March, lower level tickets cost CZK 790 for sides and 690 for ends, and 390 for upper-level tickets. Starting April 1, the prices jump to CZK 990, 890, and 590.

Not to be forgotten, the Czech national team also will play in several two-game weekend series in early April as part of the Euro Hockey Challenge. They play April 1 and 2 in Norway, 8 and 9 in Belarus, and then will host Switzerland April 15 and 16 in Litvínov. Ticket information for the latter will be released when it becomes available. It's unclear what kind of roster the Czech team will use for these games, as some players will be unavailable with Extraliga playoffs.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Playoff time! 1st round preview

On Wednesday, two best-of-five series begin to determine which teams will join the top six in the Czech Extraliga's quarterfinals. Czech Hockey Report previews the two series for you.

(7) Slavia Praha vs (10) Energie Karlovy Vary:

Battling for position in front of the net will only get harder in the
playoffs. Photo: Pavel Vrtiška,
This is a rematch of the league finalists from 2008 and 2009. This is also a meeting between tight-checking Slavia and run-and-gun Karlovy Vary. Slavia had trouble scoring at times, but were tied for the second-best-ranked defence in the league. Karlovy Vary had trouble keeping the puck out of their net this year and Lukáš Mensator didn't have his best season in goal, but he's only two years removed from backstopping Vary to the championship. At the other end, Miroslav Kopřiva sported a 2.39 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage, so the series could turn into a good goaltending duel.

The teams split the four meetings this season, with each team winning once at home and once on the road. In their last meeting, on January 30, Karlovy Vary tied the game late and won on home ice in a shootout. We'll say the teams again split the first four before Slavia takes the rubber match at home. Slavia in five.

(8) Benzina Litvínov vs (9) Plzeň 1929:

Martin Straka battles in front of the Litvínov goal, December 12.
Photo: Milan Podpera,
These two teams each finished the season with 77 points, with Litvínov earning the tie-breaker by earning more points in the season series. However, that is deceiving information, as Plzeň was actually stripped of 19 points by the league, including 6 points against Litvínov, which caused them to lose the tie-breaker. If they hadn't lost those points, they would have tied Třinec for first place. They have the leagues top two scorers, Tomáš Vlasák and Martin Straka, and late in the season they vastly tightened up their defence and goaltending, which were question marks earlier. After the points penalty, it looked like making the playoffs would be a longshot, but they went 11-2-1-2 in their last 16 games.

Does that mean it will be a sweep? Well, Litvínov was headed in the wrong direction in mid January and also looked to be in tough to make the playoffs, but made a coaching change and turned things around, going 7-0-1-2 in their last 10. The turnaround began with a crucial 1-0 win over Plzeň on January 23.

We'll say that the teams split the first two games before the Indians finish off the series at home. Plzeň in four.

Both series play their first two games on Wednesday and Thursday, then change venues for games Saturday and Sunday, if necessary. A decisive fifth game, if necessary, would be played next Tuesday, March 1. So far, Wednesday's first game between Litvinov and Plzen is the only game scheduled to be televised on ČT4. However, as in the regular season, most games will be available online at It should be noted that during the season Slavia home games were unavailable on that platform, so they will likely continue to be unavailable in the playoffs.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Pardubice and Brno lead Extraliga attendance

Website has released attendance statistics for the Tipsport Extraliga's 2010-11 season. To 364 regular season games, the league drew a total of 1,796,672 fans for an average of 4,936 per game.

In the 18-year history of the Czech Extraliga, that is the fourth highest attendance total. The highest was last season, 2009-10, when 1,907,449 came out for an average of 5,240.

Pardubice fans at home. Photo: V,
In 2010-11, the leader in home attendance was Eaton Pardubice, at 8,922 per game. Although Pardubice is regularly at or near the top of the nation's attendance, this year's total was buoyed by the 17,140 they drew to the OpenAir Hockey game at Pardubice-Svítkov Speedway on January 2. To their other 25 home games at ČEZ Arena, their average was 8,593, which still would lead the league by over a thousand per game. ČEZ Arena in Pardubice (Plzeň and Vítkovice also play in arenas with the same name) has a capacity of 10,194. It is the fourth-largest hockey venue in the Czech Republic, after O2 Arena and Tesla Arena in Prague, home to Slava and Sparta, respectively, and ČEZ Arena in Ostrava, which is home to Vítkovice Steel.

At the bottom in home attendance, by almost 1,200 per game, was Vagnerplast Kladno. Kladno drew the 10 smallest crowds in the league, bottoming out at 1,202 on October 3 against Vítkovice. It is hoped that new management led by native son Jaromír Jágr will help improve fortunes, both on and off the ice, for next season.

Here are the home attendance figures for all 14 Extraliga clubs:

Club                        Total    Average
HC Eaton Pardubice          231,968  8,922
HC Kometa Brno              186,285  7,165
HC Plzeň 1929               157,762  6,068
Bílí Tygři Liberec          142,147  5,467
HC Sparta Praha             134,289  5,165
HC Vítkovice Steel          131,184  5,046
HC Slavia Praha             130,307  5,012
HC Mountfield Č. Budějovice 124,136  4,774
PSG Zlín                    119,756  4,606
HC Benzina Litvínov         106,853  4,110
HC Oceláři Třinec            95,892  3,688
HC Energie Karlovy Vary      92,898  3,573
BK Mladá Boleslav            87,065  3,349
HC Vagnerplast Kladno        56,130  2,159

Kometa Brno fans in Prague, making life difficult for
Slavia goaltender Miroslav Kopřiva. Photo: Pavel
On the road, Kometa Brno was the most popular draw, thanks to the large entourage of supporters that often followed them to other cities. When Kometa was the road team, average attendance was 5,981, over a thousand more than the league average, and the two largest crowds of the season were both Kometa road games. Doubtlessly, this support was inflated by the team's great start, as the team was mired in the First League from 1996 to 2009 and it has been a long time since a team from Brno has contended for a national title.

At home, Kometa played to capacity most games, averaging 7,165 at Hala Rondo, which lists capacity at 7,200. Plans to expand the arena will likely result in increased attendance, possibly challenging Pardubice for tops in the league.

Here are the 10 largest single-game crowds of 2010-11:

17,140 - HC Eaton Pardubice - HC Kometa Brno, Jan 2
12,251 - HC Slavia Praha - HC Kometa Brno, Nov 30
10,108 - HC Sparta Praha - HC Slavia Praha, Jan 21
10,104 - HC Eaton Pardubice - HC Slavia Praha, Feb 4
10,055 - HC Eaton Pardubice - HC Plzeň 1929, Dec 26
9,865 - HC Eaton Pardubice - HC Vítkovice Steel, Nov 17
9,559 - HC Slavia Praha - HC Sparta Praha, Oct 31
9,496 - HC Eaton Pardubice - HC Slavia Praha, Oct 8
9,423 - HC Eaton Pardubice - HC Vítkovice Steel, Feb 1
9,320 - HC Eaton Pardubice - HC Sparta Praha, Sep 17

The outdoor game on January 2, of course, ranks as the largest crowd in Extraliga history. Here are the top five, according to Eaton Pardubice's website, since the league began in 1993-94 following the administrative break-up of Czechoslovakia:

  • OpenAir Hockey, January 2, 2011:
    HC Eaton Pardubice – HC Kometa Brno: 17,140
  • Game 7, 2008 Extraliga Finals:
    HC Slavia Praha – HC Energie Karlovy Vary: 17,123
  • Game 4, 2009 Extraliga Finals:
    HC Slavia Praha – HC Energie Karlovy Vary: 16,730
  • Game 5, 2008 Extraliga Finals:
    HC Slavia Praha – HC Energie Karlovy Vary: 16,617
  • Game 5, 2006 Extraliga Finals:
    HC Slavia Praha – HC Sparta Praha: 16,182 
For more Extraliga attendance figures and the entire article by Václav Jachim in Czech, visit:

    Sunday, February 20, 2011

    Regular season ends, playoffs start Wednesday

    The Tipsport Extraliga's regular season drew to a close on Sunday, with each team playing its 52nd and final game. Seven games were played, but at the end of the day, the standings were exactly the same as they were before they started.

    The day's results were:

    Kometa BrnoSlavia Praha1:5
    Eaton PardubiceBK Mladá Boleslav1:0
    Vítkovice SteelOceláři Třinec5:4
    Plzeň 1929PSG Zlín1:0
    Vagnerplast KladnoBenzina Litvínov3:5
    Energie Karlovy Vary   Sparta Praha1:2
    Bílí Tygři LiberecMountfield České Budějovice  5:2

    Click on the score for the game's statistics.

    Of the 14 Extraliga teams, 10 make the playoffs with the top six advancing directly to the quarter-finals. Teams finishing seventh to 10th play off in best-of-five series to determine the other two quarter-finalists.

    1 HC Oceláři Třinec 52 26 5
    8 13 178:136 96
    2 Bílí Tygři Liberec 52 26 5
    6 15 159:139 94
    3 HC Vítkovice Steel 52 26 6
    2 18 162:137 92
    4 PSG Zlín 52 22 7
    8 15 158:134 88
    5 HC Eaton Pardubice 52 24 3
    10 15 146:125 88
    6 HC Mountfield Č. Budějovice 52 23 6
    4 19 158:131 85
    7 HC Slavia Praha 52 21 9
    3 19 140:131 84
    8 HC Benzina Litvínov 52 23 2
    4 23 133:162 77
    9 HC Plzeň 1929 52 27 6
    3 16 153:145 77
    10 HC Energie Karlovy Vary 52 15 7
    12 18 152:154 71
    11 HC Kometa Brno 52 19 5
    1 27 130:146 68
    12 HC Sparta Praha 52 14 6
    3 29 115:142 57
    13 HC Vagnerplast Kladno 52 10 3
    5 34 105:172 35
    14 BK Mladá Boleslav 52 14 4
    5 29 123:158 33

    Play-In Round match-ups:

    (7) Slavia Praha vs (10) Energie Karlovy Vary
    (8) Benzina Litvínov vs (9) Plzeň 1929

    Quarter-Final match-ups:

    (1) Oceláři Třinec vs TBD
    (2) Bílí Tygři Liberec vs TBD
    (3) Vítkovice Steel vs (6) Mountfield České Budějovice
    (4) PSG Zlín vs (7) Eaton Pardubice

    Of the two teams that survive the play-in round, the higher-ranked team will play Liberec and the lower-ranked team will play Třinec.

    The playoffs begin on Wednesday, with Litvínov hosting Plzeň at 17:30 and Slavia hosting Karlovy Vary at 18:15, CET. The TV schedule will be announced later. For complete playoff listings, check the schedule here.

    Check back for Czech Hockey Report's playoff preview on Tuesday.

    Friday, February 18, 2011

    Litvínov and Karlovy Vary clinch, playoff teams set

    Back in November, when they were in third place, not many people imagined that Kometa Brno would end up in a position where they would have to win their final 2 games of the season and get some help in order to make the playoffs.

    Yet, as they took the ice in Kladno on Friday night, the Kometa players knew they weren't in a position to control their own destiny. They needed to win and they needed help. In the game they could control, they did their job, getting 2 goals from Jozef Balej in a 5-1 road win. After that, they could only hope that either Energie Karlovy Vary or Benzina Litvínov, or both, lost in regulation.

    Goalmouth action from Friday night's Česke Budějovice (red)-
    Karlovy vary game. Photo:
    Karlovy Vary went into their game in České Budějovice needing only a point to get in. After Mountfield's Pavel Kašpařík and Energie's Petr Sailer traded goals in the first period, goaltenders Jakub Kovář and Lukáš Mensator closed the doors the rest of the way. When regulation time expired with the score tied, Karlovy Vary was in. With the outcome no longer important, Karlovy Vary even replaced Mensator with Lukáš Sáblík for overtime, and he stopped the only shot he faced in the five-minute extra period, but Mountfield ultimately won in a shootout.

    The Česke Budějovice-Karlovy Vary game can be seen in its entirety here:

    Like Karlovy Vary, Benzina Litvínov also needed only a single point to qualify for the post-season. They trailed the visiting Liberec team 4-3 in the third period, but Richard Jareš tied the game with just under 16 minutes to play. Then, with only 1:29 remaining in regulation time, Jareš struck again with the game-winner, putting an exclamation point on the game and assuring his team a playoff spot.

    Goals from the Litvínov-Liberec game can be seen here:

    Třinec's Martin Lojek and Plzeň's John Lammers collide on
    Friday. Photo:
    The race for first place was also settled on Friday night, as Oceláři Třinec shut out Plzeň 1929 4-0. Combined with Liberec's loss in Karlovy Vary, they clinched top spot in the Extraliga standings, which will earn them a spot in next year's Champions Hockey League if it actually occurs. Třinec got 2 goals from Radek Bonk and 26 saves from Peter Hamrlík, who earned his league-leading sixth shutout of the season. In an interesting note, defenceman John Slaney of St. John's, NL played on a forward line Friday with Nick Johnson of Windsor, CT and John Lammers of Langley, BC, creating for Plzeň what might have been the first all-North American forward line in Czech Extraliga history.

    BK Mladá Boleslav kept alive their hope of avoiding a play-out series by beating visiting Slavia Praha 1-0. Former Vancouver Giants goaltender Marek Schwarz made 26 saves for the shutout. Boleslav still sits in last place, but trails Kladno by only 2 points. In their last game, Boleslav visits Eaton Pardubice, while Kladno hosts Litvínov.

    With Karlovy Vary and Litvínov clinching, all 10 playoff teams have now been decided. As well, the top six teams, who automatically advance to the quarterfinals, have been determined as well. Games on Sunday will determine seeds 3 through 6, and 8 through 10.

    Russia wins EYOWF gold in Liberec

    Russia won the gold medal in ice hockey at the European Youth Olympic Winter Festival in Liberec on Friday, defeating Finland in the final game in overtime.

    The six-team under-17 tournament, which featured players that will be eligible for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, was part of a week-long festival of youth sports, in which athletes from around Europe competed in various sports. The fans who entered Liberec's Tipsport Arena to watch the hockey final were treated to a dramatic finish.

    Action from the European Youth Olympic gold medal game
    between Russia and Finland. Photo:
    After a scoreless first period, Russia's Vadim Khlopotov and Finland's Mikko Tauriainen traded second period markers, and the teams were once again scoreless in the third. At 3:21 of overtime, Viacheslav Osnovin was the hero for Russia, as he scored the winning goal. Mikhail Grigorenko had an assist for Russia, and he was the tournament's overall leading scorer with 5 points (2 goals and 3 assists) in 3 games.

    In Thursday night's bronze medal game, Switzerland defeated the host Czech team 5-1, led by 2 goals from left-winger Nico Dünner. The Czech goal was scored by Patrik Machač, who led the team overall with 2 goals and 2 assists in 4 games.

    On Thursday afternoon, Latvia defeated Slovakia 4-3 to finish fifth.

    Fate of Champions League to be announced next week

    When they announced the relaunch of the Champions Hockey League in November, the International Ice Hockey Federation gave a date of February 17 for the top eight member leagues to accept an invitation to join.

    On Friday, the day after that deadline, the IIHF announced on its website that next week it will announce a decision. The federation's council will meet from Tuesday to Thursday, after which they plan to announce whether the league will go ahead for the 2011-12 season.

     “This is not a clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’ situation,” said Horst Lichtner, the IIHF’s General Secretary. “Several replies that we have received are basically positive to a re-launch, but they carry certain conditions and, together with our board and our marketing partner, we must carefully evaluate if those conditions can be met.”

    Slavia's Josef Beránek takes the opening faceoff against Tomáš
    Surový of Linköpings HC in the Swedish city, November 12, 2008.
    The top eight leagues are the national leagues of the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Slovakia Sweden, and Switzerland. Also included are the Russian-based KHL, which also has teams in Belarus, Latvia, and Kazakhstan, and the Austrian-based Erste Bank Eishockey Liga, which also has teams in Croatia, Hungary, and Slovenia.

    It isn't known exactly how each league has responded, but it is known that several of the leagues have expressed dissatisfaction with how the IIHF cancelled the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons when they had a three-year conract, and don't think that they relaunch plan adequately compensates the damaged clubs. The affected Czech clubs were Energie Karlovy Vary and Slavia Praha for 2009-10 and Plzeň 1929 and Eaton Pardubice for this season. The Czech Republic's Association of Professional Clubs (APK) has already said that if this situation isn't dealt with to their satisfaction, they won't participate.

    If the league goes ahead, six of the leagues, including the Czech Extraliga, will be guaranteed two teams in the 16-team circuit; the regular-season and playoff champions. Prior to Friday night's games, Oceláři Třinec holds a 2-point lead atop the standings over Bílí Tigři Liberec with 2 games remaining in the Extraliga's season.

    Thursday, February 17, 2011

    Czech U17s will play for bronze at European Youth Olympics

    At the 2011 European Youth Olympic Winter Festival in Liberec, the Czech U17 national hockey team has split the two games in its three-team group to finish second, and will play for the bronze medal on Thursday.

    Matěj Psota (left) tries to get away from Slovak defenceman Juraj
    Kuricko in EYOWF action on Tuesday. Photo:
    In the team's first game, it beat Slovakia 4-2 on Tuesday. They were led by 2 goals and an assist from Matěj Psota, who has 39 points in 32 games this season for the Liberec starší dorost (U18--the North American equivalent would be Midget) team. They also got a goal and an assist from Patrik Machač, who has 41 points in 27 games for Kladno starší dorost. On Wednesday, Finland beat the Czech Republic 4-1 to win the group, knocking the Czechs into second. Marek Langhammer was in goal for each game, stopping 28 shots against Slovakia and 22 against Finland. Langhammer has split time this season between Pardubice's starší dorost and junior teams, and has also played a couple of games with HC Chrudim of the First League.

    On Thursday, Slovakia and Latvia will play for fifth place at 15:00 Central European Time (UTC +1), followed by the Czech Republic against Switzerland for the bronze medal at 19:00.

    On Friday, Finland will take on Russia for the gold medal, beginning at 12:00.

    Wednesday, February 16, 2011

    Extraliga teams return to the ice

    After a week of international hockey, it is now time for domestic leagues to move back into the forefront of European hockey. In The Czech Republic, the Extraliga is now in its stretch drive, and the action began with a single game on Tuesday with Slavia Praha defeating Oceláři Třinec 2-1. The win temporarily moved Slavia into fifth place. On Wednesday, the league's other 12 teams were in action.

    Plzeň's Tomáš Vlasák scores his league-leading 30th goal of the
    season. Photo: Milan Podpera,
    Plzeň 1929 clinched a playoff spot with a 4-1 home ice win over Kometa Brno. In a proverbial 6-point game, Kometa could have climbed to within 3 points of Plzeň with a win, but instead lost and have now made a playoff spot look very unlikely. At one point in November, Brno led Plzeň by as many as 20 points, but the two teams have travelled in completely opposite directions since then.

    Watch the Plzeň 1929-Kometa Brno game in its entirety here:

    As bad as the day was for Kometa Brno, it could have been even worse. Benzina Litvínov and Energie Karlovy Vary could have both clinched playoff berths with victories, which would have mathematically eliminated Brno. However, Litvínov lost 5-2 in České Budějovice and Karlovy Vary lost in a shootout to PSG Zlín, picking up 1 point. Still, they will need to win their final 2 games in regulation and hope either Litvínov or Karlovy Vary lose both of theirs.

    The win by Mountfield České Budějovice and Eaton Pardubice hammering Vagnerplast Kladno 7-3 means Slavia slides back to seventh. Getting a top-six spot is key, as these teams will advance directly to the quarter-finals, while teams seven through 10 play a best-of-five play-in round. Pardubice was led by 4 goals from Radovan Somík.

    Vítkovice Steel beat BK Mladá Boleslav 3-1. Vítkovice remains in fourth place, a point behind Zlín, while Boleslav is now 5 points back of Kladno with 2 games left, meaning their magic number is down to 1, as far as being forced into a play-out series against the First League winner.

    Though they have long been out of the playoff race, Sparta Praha beat Bílí Tigři Liberec in a shootout on Wednesday to prevent Liberec from moving into a first place tie with their North Bohemian rivals from Třinec. David Výborny scored the shootout winner.

    Monday, February 14, 2011

    3 Czech teams finish tournaments on Sunday

    For the second time in three Euro Hockey Tour events this season, the Czech Republic has finished 0-3 and sit in last place in the tour's standings with 5 points, with a record of 1-1-0-6 on the 3-2-1-0 points scale. After dropping the opener against Sweden on Thursday night, they then lost 3-2 to Finland and 4-2 to Russia on Saturday and Sunday.

    Although they dropped their first three games at the tournament in Hradec Králové they were hosting, the Czech U18 team made up for it in their fourth and final game against Russia with a 4-3 victory.

    Michal Švihálek (#20) scores one of is two goals Sunday.
    Photo: Stanislav Souček,
    After Nikita Nesterov struck first for Russia, the Czechs scored three goals in a row, two from Michal Švihálek and one from Tomáš Kvapil to take a commanding 3-1 lead. The Russians battled back to tie the score before the end of the second, getting goals from Alexander Kadeykin and Vladimir Tkachev.

    Early, in the third period, the Czechs found themselves with a five-on-three advantage, but failed to capitalize. Their best chance came when Petr Koblasa had a chance from point-blank range, but shot the puck directly into the chest of goaltender Oleg Dyatlov. However, halfway through the third period, Radek Faksa scored the winner, to the delight of the crowd.

    The win means that the Czech Republic avoided the tournament basement with a 1-3 record, instead giving that honour to the Russians, who went 0-4. The USA won the tournament earlier in the day with a 7-4 win over Finland.

    The Czech U16s also finished up against Russia on Sunday in Finland, and lost 6-2 to finish that four-team tournament with an 0-3 record.

    On Saturday, the Czech U19s finished their tournament in Mannheim, Germany with a 2-2 record to finish third out of five teams. After winning their first two games against Finland and Germany, they lost to Sweden and Switzerland. They actually tied Switzerland in points with six, but lost the tie-breaker due to the head-to-head result.

    After finishing a tournament in Russia on Thursday, the Czech U17 team is now set to compete in the World Youth Winter Olympic Festival in Liberec, and plays its first game against Slovakia on Tuesday at 18:00 CET (UTC +1). They then play Finland on Wednesday to conclude the three-team group stage. Semifinals and finals go Thursday and Friday. All hockey games in the competition are being played at Tipsport Arena.

    Sunday, February 13, 2011

    USA wins 5 Nations Cup

    Reid Boucher scored 3 goals in the final game and led the tournament
    overall with 10 points. Photo: Stanislav Souček,
    The United States national U18 team beat Finland 7-4 on Sunday to win the Five Nations Cup in Hradec Králové, finishing with a perfect 4-0 record. The Finns were a perfect 3-0 heading into Sunday's game, making it the de-facto gold medal game.

    The US team was the consensus favourite of the tournament, but not many expected the Finns to be the team that would challenge them for first place. This is especially considering that they were without two of their top players, Joel Armia and Miika Salomaki. But they beat their first three opponents and gave the Americans a good battle through half of the game.

    The score was tied 2-2 after a period and the the teams' top offensive lines traded goals early in the second. First Rocco Grimaldi's shot was stopped by Samsu Perhonen, but Reid Boucher fired the rebound top shelf to give the Americans a 3-2 lead. A minute and a half later, the Finnish line of Ville Jarvelainen, Markus Granlund, and Toni Kallela equalized it, with Jarvelainen providing the finishing touch.

    Tough guys Rasmus Ristolainen (left) and J.T. Miller mix it up.
    Photo: Stanislav Souček,
    Boucher's skill later drew a slashing penalty, when Olli Maatta took a chop at him while trying to slow him. Moments after the penalty's expiration, Cole Bardreau gave the lead back to the Americans. Late in the period, Perhonen misplayed Travis Boyd's bad-angle shot to give the US a two-goal lead.

    Boucher scored twice more in the third period to complete his hattrick and finish the tournament with 10 points for the overall lead. Linemate Grimaldi finished second with 8. Miro Aaltonen rounded out the scoring for Finland in the second to last minute of play.

    US coach Ron Rolston wasn't surprised by Finland's second-place finish. "We actually played them in the Four Nations and it was a 3-2 game," he said. "So we knew that they’re gonna be very good as they play so hard and they have a good team speed. And they have a good goaltender, too. I think this age group is very close. There’s a lot of good teams and I think there are probably four or five different teams that could win at the end of the year (at the World U18 Championships in April)."

    Click here to read a complete wrap-up of the tournament at

    Saturday, February 12, 2011

    Finland 3-0 at 5 Nations, meet USA for 1st on Sunday

    On Day Four of the U18 Five Nations Cup in Hradec Králové, Finland beat Russia 4-3 to stay perfect at 3-0. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Russians have been a big disappointment, dropping to 0-3, but they played their best game so far.

    After being physically dominated by the USA and Sweden in their first two games, the Russians obviously felt that they had to come out more physical against Finland. However, their undisciplined play put them in a hole in the early going.

    Markus Granlund. Photo: Joona-Pekka Hirvonen,
    Toni Kallela scored at the 2:11 mark to give Finland the early lead, and then he was immediately drilled into the end boards by Nikita Kucherov. On the ensuing power-play Kallela set up linemate Markus Granlund to give Finland a 2-0 lead.

    After that, Russia seemed to settle down and play a more disciplined game. At 8:19, Sergei Smurov slid in a rebound to get them on the board. Then on the power play, Kucherov atoned for his earlier over-excitement by picking the near corner behind goaltender Niklas Kekki to tie the score.

    Russia took the lead at 12:41 of the second period, when defenceman Alexei Shamin one-timed Kucherov's pass past Kekki on another power play. The lead was short-lived, however. Finland tied the game on a power-play of their own when Granlund scored his second of the game on a wrist shot off the post that Joe Sakic would have been proud of.

    In the first minute of the third period, Granlund completed his hattrick on a set up from Kallela to give the lead back to Finland, and there was no further scoring.

    Rasmus Ristolainen (left) and Konstantin Vorshev duke it out as
    the game ends. Photo: Stanislav Souček,
    As time expired, Russia's Konstantin Vorshev and Finland's Rasmus Ristolainen engaged in a fight. It's not clear how the players will be disciplined, but it wouldn't be surprising if both players will be suspended for their teams' last games tomorrow. That doesn't mean much to Russia, but for Finland, who will be playing for first place, the loss of one of their top six defencemen could hurt.

    With Finland and the United States both 3-0, their game on Sunday, which begins at 13:00 CET (UTC +1) will be for first place in the tournament.

    In Saturday's nightcap, the Czech Republic hosted Sweden.

    Traffic in front of goaltender Patrik Bartošák on Saturday night.
    Photo: Lukáš Souček,
    In their last game of the tournament, the Swedes struck early, with Mika Zibanejad finishing off a beautifully-executed two-on-one with Ludwig Blomstrand at 3:01. Less than a minute later, they nearly connected again, but failed to finish.

    In the second period, the two teams began furiously trading scoring chances, with each team guilty of multiple miscues that gave their opponents odd-man rushes. Both goaltenders Oscar Dansk and Patrik Bartošák bailed their teams out more than once, before Sweden's Filip Forsberg sprung Gustaf Bjorklund on a breakaway, and he scored at 6:34 to make the score 2-0.

    "It was a good pass," Bjorklund said after the game. "I saw the D going to the bench on the change and then I waited at the bench for the pass and I went in."

    After that goal, the Czechs came back to play perhaps their best hockey of the game. They put on good pressure on a power play midway through the period, with their best chance coming when defenceman Petr Šidlík fired a slapshot that loudly rang off the goalpost, causing the crowd to groan in unison. A couple of minutes later, Michal Švihálek had a glorious chance from a Swedish giveaway, but was denied by Dansk. The Czechs continued to put on the pressure until Tomáš Pavelka blew a tire at the attacking blueline, giving William Karlsson a breakaway across two thirds of the ice. He buried his chance to make it 3-0 and quiet the energized crowd. Less than a minute later, Viktor Arvidsson scored on a deflection to seemingly put the game away.

    The Czechs managed to make a game of it in the third period, however. They got a pair of goals in the third period from Lukáš Kříž and Lukáš Sedlák, but Bjorklund scored his second of the game on a backhander to make it 5-2 with three minutes left, and that's how the game ended.

    "We were very tired today because yesterday was a very difficult match with USA," said Šidlík after the game. Referring to his goalpost in the second period, he added, "No luck today."

    Sweden lost its first two games but then won its last two to claim third place in the tournament. When asked about his team's performance, coach Rikard Grönborg said, "We're always aiming to get the gold. You know, there was a loss to the USA first game and also a close one in the second with Finland. But then, we got better as the tournament went on. We knew there will be the Czechs and also the Russians, both very tough teams to play. But we're always trying to win the tournament we're at."

    After Sunday's USA-Finland game for first place, the Czech Republic will play Russia, with the winner claiming fourth.

    Jágr to return to Kladno?

    Jágr playing for Kladno during the
    2004-05 season. Photo:
    According to his father, Jaromír Jágr will return to his hometown where he will manage and play for the local Extraliga club, Vagnerplast Kladno.

    Jaromír Jágr Sr., who is the president of the Kladno club, said that last summer his son promised to return to home to play for the team and take over for his father within two years. After this season, his contract with KHL club Avangard Omsk expires.

    "We're going to do it, after the season is finished," the elder Jágr told newspaper Mladá Fronta Dnes, "Jaromir knows about it. I'm 70, it's not fun."

    Not everyone is convinced it will happen, however. Martin Straka, who co-owns, manages, and plays for HC Plzeň 1929 commented, "It would be great if such a person came into the league. But I think it is still science fiction."

    Jágr, who turns 39 on Tuesday, played for Kladno before entering the NHL as an 18 year old in 1990, and also played with them briefly during the labour stoppages of 1994-95 and 2004-05. He has played in the KHL since 2008.

    Vagnerplast Kladno currently sits in 13th place in the 14-team Extraliga. With 3 games remaining on the schedule, they lead last place BK Mladá Boleslav by 5 points, meaning it's likely, but not guaranteed, that they will avoid a play-out series, which could relegate them to the First League.

    Friday, February 11, 2011

    Sweden and USA win on Day 3 of 5 Nations Cup

    Friday was the third day of the Five Nations Cup in Hradec Králové, and it featured a couple of interesting match-ups.

    Pontus Aberg. Photo:
    In the early game, Russia took on Sweden, two teams that were expected to challenge the USA for tournament supremacy, but both failed miserably in their games against that team. Russia led 2-1 after a period, but then Sweden took over the game by scoring 4 straight goals. They appeared bigger and stronger than their Russian opponents, dishing out some big hits and winning most of the key battles for the puck. They then held on to win 6-3 and upped their record to 1-2. Pontus Aberg, who assisted on 2 of Sweden's goals was their only multiple-point getter. Nikita Kucherov picked up a goal and an assist for Russia, and now has 4 points in 2 games.

    Friday's late game was the showcase event of the tournament, as the Czech Republic hosted the United States. After outscoring Sweden and Russia 16-6 in the first two games, the Americans were expected to have little trouble with the Czechs, who were perceived to be weaker. However, the Czech team had a boisterous crowd behind them, and it made for an emotional and physical first period.

    J.T. Miller. Photo:
    The USA's big line of Reid Boucher, Rocco Grimaldi, and J.T Miller opened the scoring at 8:10 when Boucher snapped a shot inside the post that beat goaltender Patrik Bartošák. Then the Czechs started putting on pressure, however, and when Matt Van Voorhis took down Ondřej Hampl as he was going to the net with the puck, the Czechs got the game's first power-play. It took only six seconds for Radek Faksa to put the puck over the goal line and even the score at 9:57.

    Things got even more physical in the second half of the opening frame, as Tyler Biggs knocked down Petr Šidlík behind the play and wasn't penalized, which drew the ire of the home crowd, and later, on a US power-play, Miller was cross-checked hard in front of the net, which also drew no call. The Czechs then killed off a 2-man disadvantage to the crowd's delight, and escaped the period tied.

    The Czech team then came out flying in the second period, putting on all kinds of pressure and forcing John Gibson to make some of his best saves of the night. The Czechs out shot the US 11-9 in the middle frame, but couldn't beat Gibson. Bartošák came up big too, stopping Miller on a breakaway, but he couldn't stop Blake Pietila a couple of minutes later, as the left winger scored on a short-handed breakaway to give the Americans the lead.

    "Travis Boyd, the guy I was penalty-killing with, made a nice play," Pietila said after the game. "He sent me on a breakaway and I ended up scoring."

    Four minutes later, Nicolas Kerdiles stripped the puck off a Czech defenceman at the side of the net and quickly snapped the puck top shelf to make the score 3-1.

    From that point, the Czech Republic didn't fold its tent, but at the same time they weren't able to cut into the US lead, and the game ended 3-1. Though they weren't expected to win the Czech Republic gave the Americans a scare, which is especially impressive considering their best player, Dmitrij Jaškin wasn't playing. Jaškin, the Czech team's only prospect rated to be picked in the first round of this year's NHL draft, is sitting out the tournament at the request of his club team, Slavia Praha, to give him a chance to rest his knee for the upcoming Extraliga playoffs.

    "They were a lot better than I actually expected," Kerdiles said after the game of the Czechs. "They actually did a lot more (physically) than I expected. I guess that was their game plan."

    The Czech-USA game can be seen in its entirety at:

    After three days, the USA leads the tournament with a 3-0 record. The only other unbeaten team is Finland, at 2-0. Sweden is 1-2, and Russia and the Czech Republic are both 0-2. On Saturday, Finland plays Russia at 15:00 CET, followed by the Czech Republic and Sweden at 18:30.

    Thursday, February 10, 2011

    Swedes thump Czechs in Stockholm

    The Czech national men's team was hoping that a good start at the LG Games against the host team would give them a chance to climb up in the Euro Hockey Tour standings, but the opposite happened. Niklas Persson gave Sweden the early lead, but Petr Průcha tied it up three minutes later. However, the Swedes regained the lead late in the opening period and they never looked back, cruising to an easy 6-1 victory. Magnus Johansson and P.J. Axelsson each had 3 points for Sweden.

    Coach Alois Hadamczik was thoroughly unimpressed with his team's performance and had a locked-door meeting with the team afterward. When asked what he told them, he responded, "What they already know well. With a defence and system organized this way, we cannot succeed."  He later added, "Against Finland (on Saturday), we have to show a completely different performance, otherwise we have no chance."
    In the day's other game, Russia hosted Finland in Mitishi and won 5-3. The rest of the tournament will be played in Stockholm on Saturday and Sunday.

    Adam Řehák. Photo:
    In Mannheim, Germany, Sweden scored 4 times in the first period and led 6-1 early in the third before the Czech U19 team came roaring back only to fall short, 6-5. With the loss, the Czech team's record falls to 2-1. The Swedes were actually leading 5-0 in the dying minutes of the second period, when Adam Řehák finally got the Czechs on the board. The situation for the Czechs seemed hopeless, trailing by 5 as the midway point of the third period approached, but they then exploded for 4 goals in under six minutes. Daniel Přibyl, Řehák, Jiří Půhoný, and Petr Holík made it close, but they couldn't score another in the game's final five minutes. Řehák now has 3 goals in 3 games, leading the team. He has 50 points in 44 games for Vítkovice in the Junior Extraliga this season.

    The U17 tournament in Moscow concluded on Thursday, with the Czech Republic falling 8-3 to Finland. Russia then beat Sweden 4-2 to win the tournament with 8 points. In second place with 5 points was Finland, followed by the Czechs with 3 and Sweden with 2. The next action for the Czech U17 team will be at the European Youth Winter Olympic Festival in Liberec; the hockey tournament begins Monday and concludes Saturday, February 18.

    At the U18 Five Nations Cup in Hradec Králové and Nový Bydžov, the Czech Republic was idle, but the other four teams were in action. The United States beat Russia 10-4 in Hradec on the strength of a 5-goal second period. The US got 3 points each from Cole Bardeau, Reid Boucher, Rocco Grimaldi, and Ryan Haggerty. Grimaldi and Boucher now have 7 and 6 points, respectively, after 2 games. In its first game, Russia got a goal and an assist from Nikita Nesterov. In Nový Bydžov, Finland edged Sweden 3-2.

    The rest of the tournament will be held at ČEZ Stadion in Hradec Králové. In Friday's early game, Russia takes on Sweden. The Czech U18 team returns to action Friday night against the USA. The game begins at 18:00 CET (UTC +1) and will be televised by ČT4 Sport. For American viewers, the game begins at noon ET, 9am PT, and can be seen online at

    Wednesday, February 9, 2011

    5 Nations Cup opens in Hradec Králové

    The five-team international tune-up for the World U18 Championships began on Tuesday with a pair of games, one in Hradec Králové and one in Nový Bydžov.

    Tomáš Hertl. Photo:

     The host Czechs took on Finland at the tournament's main venue, Hradec Králové's ČEZ Stadion, and it was the visitors that struck twice early, Kalle Kossila and Miro Altonen. Late in the first, Tomáš Rousek got one back for the Czechs. Two more Finnish goals in the second by Markus Granlund and Heikki Liedes widened their lead to 4-1, and it stayed that way until the dying minutes of the game, when Tomáš Moravec scored with goaltender Jaroslav Pavelka on the bench to make it a 4-2 final. Tomáš Hertl assisted on both Czech goals. Altonen led Finland with a goal and an assist. Pavelka and Sasmu Pehronen each made 19 saves in goal for their respective teams.

    Rocco Grimaldi. Photo: USHL images.

    In Nový Bydžov, which is 30 kilometres west of Hradec, the United States spanked Sweden 6-2. The Americans were led by captain Rocco Grimaldi's 3 goals and 1 assist, 3 assists from Reid Boucher, and 2 assists from Robbie Russo. They also got single goals from Adam Reid, Blake Pietila, and J.T. Miller. Sweden got a goal and an assist from Jonas Brodin and a goal from Rotevall Boyce.

    On Thursday, the Czechs are idle. Russia plays its first game of the tournament against the USA in Hradec Králové, while Sweden takes on Finland in Nový Bydžov.

    Elsewhere, there was U17 action in Moscow. The Czech Republic fell to Sweden 4-3 in a shootout, followed by host Russia's 4-3 comeback victory over Finland. It was the second time in as many days the Czechs fell in a shootout, as they lost by a 3-2 score to Russia on Tuesday. Finland beat Sweden 5-4 in a shootout the same day. On Thursday, the tournament's final day, the Czechs play Finland and Russia plays Sweden. Russia leads with 5 points, followed by Sweden with 3, and Finland and the Czechs with 2 each.

    In Mannheim, Germany, the Czech U19 team is 2-0. They opened on Tuesday with a 3-2 win over Finland, getting goals from Adam Řehák, Jaromír Kverka, and Tomáš Fořt. On Wednesday, they were led by 2 goals from Michal Vachovec in a 4-1 victory over the host Germans. Filip Pavlík and Jan Müller also scored for the Czechs.