Friday, April 29, 2011

Plekanec and Michálek on opening round roster

Coach Alois Hadamczik and his staff have decided which 23 players will be on the Czech Republic's roster for the opening round of the 2011 IIHF World Championship.

Tomáš Plekanec and Zbyněk Michálek (middle) will be re-united
in Czech colours in Bratislava. Photo:
Tomáš Plekanec and Zbyněk Michálek, who were speculated to be joining the team, have confirmed their participation in the tournament, but won't arrive in time for the first game. The duo is expected to join the team in Bratislava for practice on Sunday and then play in the Czechs' second game on Monday against Denmark. For their first game against Latvia on Saturday, either 19 or 20 players will dress.

"We haven't written down defencemen (Ondřej) Němec or (Jakub) Nakládal on the roster yet, or forwards (Petr) Koukal or (Petr) Vampola," Hadamczik told's Václav Jáchim. "For Saturday's game, we expect Michael Frolík. If he arrives in time, he'll play right wing on the fourth line with (Petr) Hubáček and (Jiří) Novotný."

As expected, Ondřej Pavelec will start in goal with Jakub Štěpánek backing him up. The third goaltender, Jakub Kovář, will probably only dress in the tournament if either Pavelec or Štěpánek are incapacitated.

Six defencemen will suit up: Martin Škoula, Karel Rachůnek, Marek Židlický, Petr Čáslava, Radek Martínek, and Lukáš Krajíček.

Up front, they'll go with four lines: Roman Červenka centring Jaromír Jágr and Petr Průcha, Patrik Eliáš centring Martin Havlát and Milan Michálek, Jan Marek centring Jakub Voráček and Tomáš Rolinek, and Novotný centring Frolík and Hubáček.

On Monday, the maximum of 22 are expected to dress, with the additions of Plekanec and Michálek. A team may dress up to 20 skaters and two goalkeepers for each game.

For the qualification round, which begins on Thursday, teams are permitted to add two additional players to their tournament rosters, but the maximum per game doesn't change. Hadamczik has coveted Roman Hamrlík and Jaroslav Špaček from Montreal, but neither player has yet confirmed his arrival. Both being defencemen, it's unlikely they'd add both. It's also unlikely that any players eliminated from the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs would be available, as the earliest fourth game will be played early Thursday morning, European time. That could mean one of the forwards left off this roster, Koukal or Vampola, might return.

The Czech Republic will play all first- and second-round games at Orange Arena in Bratislava. Here is their opening-round schedule (all times Central European):

Sat, April 30 vs Latvia, 20:15, ČT4
Mon, May 2 vs Denmark, 16:15, ČT4
Wed, May 4 vs Finland, 20:15, ČT1

Česká Televize will provide extensive television coverage of the tournament, but webcasts will not be available due to IIHF restrictions. For people outside the Czech Republic who wish to watch these games, check out the internet pay-per-view packages available at or the television listings provided by the rightsholder in your country.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sparta to host New York Rangers in September

For the fifth year in a row, the NHL will open its season with regular season games in Europe. Unlike 2008 and 2010, none of these games will be played in Prague. However, that hasn't stopped HC Sparta Praha from getting in on the action.

New coaches Josef Jandač (far left) and Richard Žemlička attend
a press conference to announce the Sparta-Rangers match this
fall at Tesla Arena. Photo:
On Wednesday afternoon, at a press conference at Tesla Arena, the club announced that it will host the New York Rangers in a pre-season game on September 29.

"We will play on a rink with European dimensions," announced club Executive Director Zbyňek Černý, inferring that the ice surface at Tesla Arena will not be narrowed to North American size. "The budget will be around 12 million Czech crowns (approximately USD 740,000)." 

On May 11, tickets will be made available to Sparta season-ticket holders. A week later, on May 18, they will be made available to the general public. Tickets will range in price from CZK 600 to 1300 (approximately USD 37 to 80). 

It will be the second time that a Czech club has hosted an NHL team. Last year, the Boston Bruins played Bílí Tygři Liberec at Tipsport Arena before moving on to Prague, where they opened their regular season with a pair of games against the Phoenix Coyotes at O2 Arena. Previously, Czechoslovak clubs Tesla Pardubice and Poldi Kladno visited several NHL cities in a mid-season tour in 1977-78.

Although Sparta has never faced an NHL team before, this won't be the first time that Tesla Arena has hosted one. The Calgary Flames played a pair of games at Sportovní hala, as it was then called, in September 1989 against the Czechoslovakian national team. Calgary's lineup featured ex-Sparta centreman Jiří Hrdina. The national team won both games by 4-2 scores.

For the Rangers, it will be their second trip to Prague. Back in the fall of 2008, they opened up their season with a pair of games against the Tampa Bay Lightning at O2 Arena. This fall, they will play the exhibition game at Tesla Arena before heading to Stockholm to open the regular season with games against the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks. They might also play against a Swedish club.

A few years ago, the Rangers were immensely popular in the Czech Republic, as they had six Czechs on their roster in the 2007-08 season, including legends Jaromír Jágr and Martin Straka. Currently, the Rangers have only one Czech, left winger Václav Prospal, and he could leave this summer as a free agent.

Sparta also introduced new coaches at the press conference, head coach Josef Jandač and assistant Richard Žemlička. This comes as part of an offseason of major rebuilding for the club, following an embarrassing twelfth-place finish. There is still a lot of work to be done assembling a team before they face the Rangers.

"The idea is not bad at all," Jandač commented. "It's an attractive team and we'll gain valuable experience."

Czechs lose to Canada, trim roster to 25

If expectations were starting to get too high for the Czech team at this year's World Championship, the performance that they turned in on Wednesday in their last game before the start of the tournament might bring them back down to earth.

Patrik Eliáš and the Czechs got pushed around by Rick Nash and
the Canadians in the early going of Wednesday's pre-tournament
game in Prague. Photo: Michal Šula, MF DNES.
After a solid performance at the Czech Hockey Games in Brno, the Czech national hockey team hosted Canada at O2 Arena Prague before a near-capacity crowd of 16,289 that was likely not pleased with what it saw from the home side early on. The game started at 5:40pm in order to accommodate Czech television, who were also televising a Champions League football match afterward. Apparently, somebody forgot to tell the Czech team about the early start time, as they showed up about an hour later.

By that time, it was 4-0 for Canada, who dictated the play and held a wide 22-6 margin in shots. The Canadians had made a trans-Atlantic flight only two days earlier, but it was the Czechs who seemed to be suffering from jetlag. Luke Schenn and Brett Burns scored for Canada late in the first, and that was followed up by tallies from Cal Clutterbuck and Jason Spezza in the first six minutes of the second.

After the score got to 4-0, the Czechs started to play better, but the game was far out of reach by then. Martin Havlát finally broke the goose-egg at the 5:56 mark of the third period on a nice solo effort before beating James Reimer with a backhander. Havlát added his second of the game with less than eight minutes remaining, and the game ended 4-2.

"Martin showed what a great player he is," Czech coach Alois Hadamczak said after the game. "I asked him to play as if we were in a decisive quarterfinal game to show us that he can perform here like in the NHL. I told him before the game that he hadn't shown those qualities so far."

Apparently, Havlát's effort spared him from being cut from the roster. Others were not so lucky. 

The most surprising deletion is Martin Růžička of Oceláři Třinec. The member of the 2010 World Championship team finished fifth in Extraliga scoring this past season and then set a new playoff record with 31 points in 17 games, en route to the Czech domestic championship. He was named the league's most valuable player and considered nearly a lock to be on this team. However, he went pointless in 9 games with the national team this year, and Hadamczik apparently felt that this team has enough firepower. 

Other cuts include Martin Ševc of Färjestads and Michal Vondrka of Slavia Praha.

Michael Frolík of the recently-disposed Chicago Blackhawks was added to the team and will join the rest of the players in time for the tournament opener on Saturday against Latvia. "He's played very well recently," Hadamczik said. "We need good skaters on the team and I think Frolík meets our criteria. He knows that we're interested and has expressed a desire to come here and join the team."

Now at 25, there are still two more players, probably a defenceman and a forward, that need to be trimmed to get it down to the tournament maximum of 23. There is still a possibility that centreman Tomáš Plekanec of the Montreal Canadiens and/or defenceman Zbyňek Michálek of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who were both eliminated from Stanley Cup play on Wednesday night, will be added. If they join the team, additional cuts would be required.

From, here is the team's roster as of Thursday:


Ondřej Pavelec (Atlanta Thrashers, NHL), Jakub Štěpánek (SKA St. Petersburg, KHL), Jakub Kovář (Mountfield České Budějovice).


Radek Martínek (New York Islanders, NHL), Marek Židlický (Minnesota Wild, NHL), Karel Rachůnek (Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, KHL), Petr Čáslava (CSKA Moscow, KHL),  Ondřej Němec (Severstal Cherepovets, KHL), Martin Škoula (Avangard Omsk, KHL), Lukáš Krajíček (Oceláři Třinec), Jakub Nakládal (Eaton Pardubice).

Martin Havlát (Minnesota Wild, NHL), Milan Michálek (Ottawa Senators, NHL), Patrik Eliáš (New Jersey Devils, NHL), Jakub Voráček (Columbus Blue Jackets, NHL), Michael Frolík (Chicago Blackhawks, NHL), Jaromír Jágr, Roman Červenka, Petr Vampola (all Avangard Omsk, KHL), Tomáš Rolinek (Metallurg Magnitogorsk, KHL), Jan Marek (Atlant Moscow Oblast, KHL), Petr Průcha (SKA St. Petersburg, KHL), Jiří Novotný (Barys Astana, KHL), Petr Hubáček (Kometa Brno), Petr Koukal (Eaton Pardubice).

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Host nation wins Czech Hockey Games

After poor showings in the previous three legs of the Euro Hockey Tour had the Czech Republic sitting in the basement of the standings, Czech hockey fans were given some reason to feel optimistic about the upcoming World Championships by winning the Czech Hockey Games in Brno.

Jaromír Jágr (left) celebrates a goal against Russia with Roman
Červenka. Photo:
They opened the tournament on Thursday with a 2-1 win over Finland, then followed it up on Saturday with a 6-3 win over Russia, in which Jaromír Jágr recorded 4 points and defenceman Radek Martínek scored twice. Although they lost 4-2 to Sweden on Sunday, they had already wrapped up the tournament, as Sweden had dropped its first two games, meaning they won the tie-breaker with Russia based on winning the head-to-head matchup.

Although the Czechs finished last in the 2010-11 edition of the Euro Hockey Tour, the additions from the NHL and KHL have made them a much stronger team and they seem to be peaking at just the right time. They were led offensively by the line of Jágr, Roman Červenka, and Petr Průcha, who are all from the KHL. Omsk linemates Jágr and Červenka were first and second in tournament scoring with 6 and 5 points, respectively. Ondřej Pavelec of the was on goal for both wins, while Jakub Štěpánka stopped 27 of 31 shots in the loss to Sweden.

They will play Canada at O2 Arena in Prague on Wednesday at 17:40 Central European Time (In Canada, 11:30 am EDT, 8:30 am PDT). In the Czech Republic, the game can be seen on ČT4 Sport, while the webcast at is available everywhere. It will be each team's last game prior to the start of the World Championships in Slovakia on Friday.

The mood on the Czech U18 team wasn't nearly as good. They finished up at the U18 World Championships in Dresden in the relegation round. On Thursday, they beat Slovakia 4-3 on an empty-net goal by Lukáš Sedlák in the dying seconds when, needing a regulation victory to avoid relegation, the Slovaks pulled their goalie with the score tied. Having already secured a spot in next year's tournament, they dropped their last game on Saturday to Switzerland by a score of 4-2.

For a team that opened the tournament with a 2-1 victory over Sweden and were very close to advancing to the quarterfinals, the eighth-place finish was disappointing. In their final game of the group stage against Finland, needing only a single point, they blew a 3-2 lead in the last five minutes and lost 5-3.

Over the course of the tournament, they were led offensively by Dmitrij Jaškin and Martin Frk, who each recorded 5 points. For complete individual statistical information of the Czech team at the U18 World Championships, click here:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Czech Hockey Games begin Thursday

The final leg of the Euro Hockey Tour, the Czech Hockey Games, begins Thursday night with a pair of games. The Czech Republic hosts Finland at Hala Rondo in Brno, while Russia hosts Sweden in Mytishchi. On Saturday and Sunday, Brno will host the tournament's other four games.

Russia is well out in front of the EHT standings and the Czech Republic has no chance of winning it, but that's not what's on the minds of any of the four teams that will be competing. This tournament is being treated as a tune-up for the IIHF World Championship, which begins next Friday in Bratislava and Košice, Slovakia.

The Czech national team currently has a roster of 29 players, which will need to be trimmed down to 23 by the start of the Worlds. There is also still the possibility of more NHLers joining at the conclusion of the first round, which would require even more cuts.

One of the most noteworthy names on the roster is Jaromír Jágr, who on Thursday will suit up for the Czech national team for the first time since the 2010 gold-medal game against Russia in Cologne, Germany. He will also play Saturday, but not Sunday. Since the team can only dress 23 players per game, the 27 players who are currently with the team are being rotated game-to-game.

Five of the seven NHL players that have been named to the roster will be playing in the tournament in Brno. The other two, Patrik Eliáš of the New Jersey Devils and Marek Židlický of the Minnesota Wild, will arrive in time to play when the Czechs host Canada at O2 Arena in Prague next Wednesday.

Ondřej Pavelec will start in the first game. Beyond that, it hasn't been announced which goaltenders will play.

Here is the Czech roster for the Czech Hockey Games:


Ondřej Pavelec
(Atlanta Thrashers, NHL), Jakub Štěpánek (SKA St. Petersburg, KHL), Jakub Kovář (Mountfield České Budějovice).


Radek Martínek
(New York Islanders, NHL), Karel Rachůnek (Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, KHL), Petr Čáslava (CSKA Moscow, KHL),  Ondřej Němec (Severstal Cherepovets, KHL), Martin Škoula (Avangard Omsk, KHL), Lukáš Krajíček (Oceláři Třinec), Tomáš Mojžíš (Dynamo Minsk, KHL), Jakub Nakládal (Eaton Pardubice).

Martin Havlát (Minnesota Wild, NHL), Milan Michálek (Ottawa Senators, NHL), Jakub Voráček (Columbus Blue Jackets, NHL), Jaromír Jágr, Roman Červenka, Petr Vampola (all Avangard Omsk, KHL), Tomáš Rolinek (Metallurg Magnitogorsk, KHL), Jakub Klepiš (Salavat Yulaev Ufa, KHL), Jan Marek (Atlant Moscow Oblast, KHL), Petr Průcha (SKA St. Petersburg, KHL), Jiří Novotný (Barys Astana, KHL), Martin Růžička (Oceláři Třinec), Petr Hubáček (Kometa Brno), Petr Koukal (Eaton Pardubice), Michal Vondrka (Slavia Praha), Petr Vrána (Vítkovice Steel).

Coaches: Alois Hadamczik, Josef Paleček
General Manager: Slavomír Lener
Team Manager: Martin Loukota
Video Coach: Jan Procházka
Physicians: Dr. Radek Holíbka, Dr. Zdeněk Ziegelbauer
Physiotherapists: Michal Truc, Petr Janků
Masseurs: Zdeněk Šmíd, Petr Ondráček
Media Manager: Jan Černý

Tournament schedule:

Thursday, April 21:
17:30 Russia - Sweden (at Mytishchi, Russa)
18:10 Czech Republic - Finland

Saturday April 23:
14:00 Czech Republic - Russia
19:00 Sweden - Finland

Sunday April 24:
14:00 Russia - Finland
18:00 Czech Republic - Sweden

All games will be at Brno's Hala Rondo, unless otherwise indicated. All games in Brno will be televised by ČT4 Sport and available online at

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Late collapse vs Finland sends Czech U18s to relegation round

When Lukáš Sedlák converted a set up by Martin Frk with 8:39 to play in their last round-robin game against Finland, the situation for the Czech U18 team looked pretty good. After all, they needed only a single point to secure a spot in the quarterfinals and, with a 3-2 lead, could afford to surrender a goal and still advance.
So when Joel Armia tied the game for Finland with 5:17 on the clock, it wasn't the end of the world. But the Czech team, which had played disciplined hockey in a pre-Championship tournament and when faced with pressure in games against Sweden and Norway, suddenly seemed to panic. The offensive stars for Finland jumped all over that, and Olli Maatta set up Toni Kallela for the go-ahead marker just 33 seconds later. At that point, they couldn't right the ship, and Markus Hannikainen finished them off when he tipped Markus Grandlund's shot past Matěj Machovský with 31 ticks on the clock. It ended a run that began so well.

When the Czech Republic opened the 2011 U18 World Championship with a 2-1 victory over Sweden, it gave them an important leg up in getting a coveted spot in the medal round; no easy task in a group that included some very stiff competition. Though a tired team dropped a 5-0 decision to Canada, they were expected to beat Norway and keep their playoff spot in good standing. They did so, but it took a power-play goal in the second-to-last minute by Dmitrij Jaškin to do so. The slight margin of victory combined with the 5-goal loss hurt their chances of gaining any position in a tie-breaker, so they would have to earn at least one point in the last game against Finland. 

They could have won the last game outright or they could have sent it to overtime, either would have gotten the job done. So to lose a game where they outshot their opposition and didn't trail until the final few minutes of the game is a difficult pill to swallow.

"We couldn't do it. We made stupid mistakes, which we can't do," a dejected Jaškin said to the media after the game. "We skated around like idiots and didn't play positionally. We're terribly disappointed."

The result was also terribly disappointing for the hundreds of Czech fans who watched all of the team's games in Dresden over the past week. They had, by far, the most fan support of any of the five teams in the group.

The Czechs will now have to regroup and get ready for their Relegation Round games against Slovakia and Switzerland on Thursday and Saturday. Neither team is exactly a pushover and if they don't win at least one of them they will be relegated to Division I for 2012.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Czech U18s dodge a bullet against Norway

The Czech U18 team entered their game against Norway on Sunday knowing that they could have a spot in the quarterfinals secured by the time the day was over. A win combined with a Finnish victory over Sweden in the evening would accomplish that result.

Beating the 0-2 Norwegians, however, proved to be easier said than done.

The Czechs seemed disorganized off the bat, and surrendered a goal in the third minute to Andreas Heier. "We have to be better prepared at the start of the game," Czech defenceman David Musil would say later.

For the rest of the first, the Czechs dominated, but goaltender Steffen Soberg turned away all 15 shots that he faced, and the Norwegians led 1-0 after a period.

Martin Frk equalized the game 18 seconds into the second period, as he one-timed a nifty pass from Tomáš Hyka on a rush into the zone. Afterward, the Czechs seemed to start playing with greater confidence, and made Soberg come up with some of his best stops of the night. However, with under seven minutes remaining in the middle frame, Norway's Jorgen Karterud picked off a pass and went in alone on Marek Machovský. He buried it to give the lead back to Norway. Tomáš Rousek then tied the game back up late in the period.

The Czechs came at the Norwegians in waves in the third period, with full knowledge that not getting the full 3 points would do serious damage to their chances of advancing. Frk had some of their best chances, getting stopped by Soberg in close and later firing a backhander off the goalpost. In the game, the Czech Republic outshot Norway 51-18, but as the game grew later, the score remained tied.

Finally, with 2:32 to play, the linesman blew down the play in front of the Norwegian bench and signalled that they were guilty of too many players. The Norwegians were not happy with the call, as neither player had played the puck. Nonetheless, the Czechs went to the power play and, in the midst of a scramble in front of the goal, Dmitrij Jaškin grabbed control of the loose puck and shot the puck into a wide open net. With 1:48 remaining, the Czechs had taken their first lead of the game and their players and fans went wild.

Norway never seriously threatened after that, and the Czech Republic got the 3 points they desperately needed.

After winning their game, the Czechs could have clinched a berth in the Playoff round if Finland had beaten Sweden. "Of course we're interested but we can't worry too much about that," said Musil. "We still have another game (against Finland), not tomorrow but the next day, so we have to make sure we're ready for that one."

They will have to be ready for that one, indeed, because Sweden beat Finland 5-2. The Czechs are 3 points ahead of Finland, meaning a single point in what will be each team's last game of the group stage will be enough for the Czechs to advance. If they lose in regulation, they will head to the Relegation Round, as they will have lost the head-to-head game against Finland and would come out on the short end of any three-way tie scenario involving Canada or Sweden

The Czechs play Finland on Wednesday at 15:30 CET (UTC +1). Following that is Canada against Sweden at 19:30, with first place in the group at stake.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Czechs fall to Canada at U18s

The day after opening the tournament with a big 2-1 victory over Sweden in their tournament opener, the Czech Republic wasn't able to duplicate the feat against Canada.

In their own tournament opener, Canada scored 3 goals in the first period and then cruised to a 5-0 victory. Malcom Subban made 26 saves for the shutout.

The Canadians got off to a quick start. Eric Locke, parked at the side of the net, one-timed a pass from Ryan Murphy that went in and out of the net so quickly that some players on the ice continued playing. By the time the game was four minutes old, it was already 2-0; Morgan Reilly firing a shot under the crossbar. A power-play goal from Mark Schiefele late in the period made it 3-0.

The announced gathering of 2,077 was mostly pro-Czech, based on Dresden's proximity to the Czech border. But the quick start by the Canadians against a seemingly tired Czech team silenced them. "Yeah, they had a tough game against Sweden last night," said team captain Ryan Murray after the game. A defenceman who won't be eligible until the 2012 Draft, Murray led the team with 3 assists.

After a scoreless second period, Schiefele scored his second goal of the game in the third, followed by Murphy's first to go along with 2 assists.

Now 1-1, the Czechs play their next game Sunday at 15:30 against Norway. They finish the group stage against Finland on Tuesday.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Tomáš Vokoun says no to World Championships

The Czech national men's team continues its tune-up for this year's World Championship in Slovakia, taking on Switzerland in a pair of games in Litvínov on Friday and Saturday.

Tomáš Vokoun won't repeat this act in 2011.
They have added eight NHLers to their roster, but the big news right now is who's not coming. Czech website is reporting that Tomáš Vokoun, the star of last year's gold-medal-winning team, who previously made a verbal commitment to join the team following the end of the NHL season, is now not coming.

"Tomáš Vokoun isn't coming," said coach Alois Hadamczik. "His reason is that he doesn't have a contract and does not know where he will play next season. He has to deal with his family in Florida."

The starting job will now go to either Ondřej Pavelec of the Atlanta Thrashers or Jakub Štěpánek of the KHL's SKA St. Petersburg. "That's the next thing we have to decide. We have a few more days." Jakub Kovář of Mountfield České Budějovice might now stick around as the team's third stringer.

Besides Pavelec, also joining the team will be defencemen Marek Židlický and Radek Martínek, and forwards Patrik Eliáš, Martin Havlát, Milan Michálek and Jakub Voráček. More NHLers might arrive after the first round of the playoffs.

Radek Dvořák, who is suffering from a concussion, will also not join the team.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Czechs open U18 World Championships with win over Sweden

The word on this year's Czech U18 team is they are not the deepest team and may have some problems scoring goals, but they are hard working and play a strong defensive game as a team. Based on the team's first game of the IIHF U18 World Championship against Sweden, that forecast seems accurate.

It was also stated that the players added to the team's roster since the Five Nations Tournament in Hradec Králové in February would help improve some of the team's shortcomings. Boy, is that ever true.

In the Czech Republic's 2-1 win over Sweden, two of the biggest stories were goaltender Matěj Machovský of the Brampton Battalion and right winger Dmitrij Jaškin of Slavia Praha. Neither played in Hradec Králové.

In the first period, Sweden, who has one of the deepest rosters in the tournament and is projected as a medal favourite, had the Czechs back on their heels for most of the time. The 15-6 edge in shots was indicative of the play, with Machovský stopping 14 of them. It seemed like they would play well enough to keep the score low, but might not generate enough offense to win.

The second period was more wide open, but the flow still heavily favoured Sweden. Marachovský and Niklas Lundstrom were both perfect, and the score remained 1-0 Sweden.

The Swedes didn't help themselves by taking six straight penalties, though. Early in the third, the Czechs finally converted on one. A couple of CHL imports, David Hrbas of the Edmonton Oil Kings and Martin Frk of the Halifax Mooseheads set up Tomáš Kvapil of Swedish club Lulea, whose point shot beat Lundstrom to tie the score. A couple of fouls later, Frk and Hrabas again teamed up to feed Jaškin, who gave the Czechs their first lead of the game with 8:27 remaining.

A physical presence as well as a goal scorer, Jaškin was a bit overzealous at times, and took a couple of penalties, including one for holding with 2:33 remaining. The Swedes were unable to convert, however, and the Czech Republic held on for the win.

The win against a team expected to be at or near the top of the group does wonders for the Czech team's chances of advancing to the quarterfinals. If they can manage another win on Friday against Canada, or even at least a point, it would all but assure them a spot in the top three. Friday's game begins at 19:30 CET (UTC +1). Games against Norway on Sunday and Finland on Tuesday follow. All games in the group are played in Dresden.

For my preview of the IIHF U18 World Championship tournament, check out:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Třinec wins first ever championship

Established in 1929, the Třinec hockey club had to wait over eight decades before winning its first national championship. And New York Rangers fans thought they had a long wait.

Třinec captain Radek Bonk hoists the championship trophy.
All photos: Marian Ježowicz,
Located in Silesia, in an economically-depressed "rustbelt" region in the northeast corner of the Czech Republic, Třinec with its population of 38,000 is a small market even by Czech Extraliga standards. The club is nicknamed Oceláři (Steelworkers in English) as an homage to the region's industrial past, much the same way that Pittsburgh's NFL team is. This team means everything to its blue-collar fanbase, and they've waited a long time for their team to have a season like this.

It wouldn't be fair to say that Třinec has never had a good team before, but the team toiled in lower leagues for most of its history before ascending to the Extraliga in 1995. From there, they quickly climbed to become one of the best teams in the country. They reached the final in 1998, only to be swept by the Vsetín dynasty. Jan Peterek was part of that 1998 team and, after playing in Russia for a few years, he was on the team this season as well.

What a season it was.

They finished with the best record in the league, outscoring all other teams in the process. For most of the year, they battled their nearest rivals, Vítkovice Steel, for first. In the end, they edged out Liberec for top spot. Martin Růžička, Radek Bonk, Václav Varaďa, Ladislav Kohn and David Květon led the scoring. A solid defence was anchored by veterans Lukáš Krajiček and Lukáš Zíb. In goal, Peter Hamerlík led the league with 6 shutouts.

In the playoffs, they faced some challenges from Litvínov and Slavia Praha. Particularly Slavia, who led the semifinal series 3-1 and had many Třinec fans thinking that their dream season was just that: too good to be true. But they rebounded to win three in a row and then three more to start the finals against hated Vítkovice. They weren't able to close out the series on the road on Saturday, surrendering a late tying goal and losing in a shootout. That just gave them a chance to come home and win it all in front of their fans. They were 9-1 on home ice during the 2011 playoffs, capping it off with a dominating 5-1 victory.

The game itself was close for one period, Třinec escaping with a 2-1 lead. But in the second they put their stamp on the game. Josef Hrabal through a screen and then Erik Hrňa, with his first of the playoffs, on a beautiful one-time shot on a two-on-one made it 4-1, and left the fans to celebrate the final period away.

"The worst moment in the playoffs was the fourth game of the Slavia series," Bonk said afterward. "Few people believed in us then, but there was a huge commitment in our dressing room and we believed that we could turn it around. I'm really happy to be the first Třinec captain to lift the Cup over his head as champions."

And what about the playoff performance of Martin Růžička?

Růžička opened the scoring in the second minute of game 5. It was his 17th goal and 33rd point in his 18th game. Of all of those points, none were bigger than the 7 he recorded in the fifth and sixth games against Slavia in the semifinals to bring his team from a 1-3 deficit to even and into a seventh game at home, where they weren't going to be beaten. Not by this hungry team in front of these hungry fans.

To call this the greatest thing that's ever happened in Třinec may be an overstatement, but at this time you might have a hard time convincing the 5,200 in attendance at Werk Arena, the thousands more watching in the pubs throughout the region, or even the many more Oceláři fans who have moved elsewhere in the country in search of employment that it's not the truth.

The players appreciated the support, too. Varaďa summed it up: "The fans helped us so much and deserve a large share of the reward. What more can you ask?" 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Czechs ready for U18 World Championship

The Czech U18 team has its work cut out for it in the upcoming World Championships in Crimmitschau and Dresden, Germany. Over the past few years, the program has taken some hits and they are placed in a tough group that will make it difficult to advance to the quarterfinals. However, unlike the U20s that played in the USA in December and January and couldn't buy any breaks when assembling their team, the U18s have got all the breaks they could ask for. And they seem ready to prove the nay-sayers wrong.

David Musil is ready to play. Photo:
Back in December, the U20s' top goaltender and top defenceman were declared ineligible, and they lost their two of their most promising 17 year olds, defenceman David Musil and right winger Dmitrij Jaškin, to injuries.

For the U18s, they have no apparent eligibility issues or injury problems so far, and have assembled what is believed to be their best possible roster of players. All five overseas players that were named to the preliminary roster have been eliminated from their leagues' playoffs, and are currently with the team.

Goaltender Matěj Machovský finished the season as a backup for the OHL's Brampton Battalion, and may have a chance to battle for the starting job next season. He's expected to be the starter on this Czech team.  A pair of WHL defencemen, Vancouver's Musil and Edmonton's Marek Hrbas, were both eliminated in the first round of the playoffs and are expected to be key contributors. Also available are forwards Martin Frk of Halifax and Petr Beránek of Barrie.

As well, with the elimination of Slavia Praha from the Extraliga semifinals, Jaškin will be present for the full camp as well. Had Slavia advanced to the finals, he would have been forced to join the team either right before the start of the tournament or even after it started, depending on how long the series lasted.

These players will be welcome additions to a group that competed together at a tournament in Hradec Králové in February. In that tournament, the Czechs went 1-3, and though they were a hard-working group that played a disciplined system under coach Jiří Šolc and didn't get blown out in any game, they were lacking on offence. Jaškin was originally named to that team, but sat out with the Extraliga playoffs looming. When asked at the time about his absence, defenceman Petr Šidlík commented, "Jaškin is a very good shooter, and right now we don't have a goal-scorer like that on the team. It's a problem."

Besides Jaškin, Frk was impressive in the U20 championship, and is expected to be a dominant offensive player at the U18s. And Musil, who is the highest-ranked Czech that is eligible for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, gives them a power-play quarterback and some pressure coming from the back end. 

Joining the Czech Republic in Group B, which plays in Dresden, are Canada, Finland, Norway and Sweden. As only three teams from each group advance, they don't have an easy task ahead of them, as they will need to finish higher than somebody else other than Norway. The team that has been assembled, however, gives them their best chance to do so. The fact that Dresden is only about 30 kilometres from the Czech border might also be a factor in their favour, as they should get better crowd support than any other team in the group.

They play a pre-tournament exhibition game against Slovakia in Litoměřice. The team then travels to Dresden to open the tournament against Sweden on Thursday. Before then, the team still has three more cuts to make; either two forwards and one defenceman or the reverse.


Patrik Bartošák (Vítkovice), Jaroslav Pavelka (Hradec Králové), Matěj Machovský (Brampton, OHL).


David Musil
(Vancouver, WHL), Marek Hrbas (Edmonton, WHL), Tomáš Kvapil (Lulea, Sweden), Štěpán Jeník, Antonín Růžička (both Slavia Praha), Petr Šidlík, Vojtěch Zadražil (both Jihlava), Tomáš Pavelka (Vítkovice), Ondřej Starý (Pardubice).


Martin Frk (Halifax, QMJHL), Petr Beránek (Barrie, OHL), Dmitrij Jaškin, Tomáš Hertl, Tomáš Moravec (all Slavia Praha), Michal Švihálek, Lukáš Sedlák, Tomáš Rousek (all České Budějovice), Matěj Beran (Lulea, Sweden), Jakub Matai (Litvínov), Ondřej Hampl (Sparta Praha), Tomáš Hyka (Mladá Boleslav), Radek Faksa (Třinec), Petr Koblasa (Karlovy Vary).

Head Coach: Jiří Šolc
Assistant Coach: Martin Hosták

Team Manager: Martin Hosták 
Goaltending Coach: Marcel Kučera
Physicians: Dr. Petr Čech, Dr. Tomáš Madrý 
Custodian: František Ptáček
Masseur: Josef Toma

Pre-Tournament Exhibition:

Mon, April 11: Czech Republic - Slovakia (Litoměřice, 17:00)

IIHF U18 World Championship, Group B:

Thu, April 14: Czech Republic - Sweden (Dresden, 19:30)
Fri, April 15: Czech Republic - Canada (Dresden, 19:30)
Sun, April 17: Czech Republic - Norway (Dresden, 15:30)
Tue, April 19: Czech Republic - Finland (Dresden, 15:30)

Czech women win IIHF Division II championship


CAEN, France – The Czech women’s national team won the 2011 IIHF World Women’s Championship Division II in Caen after being relegated from Division I in their last participation.

Czech forward Eva Holešová celebrates a goal in the opening
game against Great Britain. Photo: Christine Mussier,
The Czechs were the favourites not only because they came down from Division I, but also because of the recent success of their U18 team, that has been playing in the Top Division for the past three years. Unsurprisingly, with some exceptions such as 30-year-old netminder Radka Lhotská, it was this new generation of 17- to 19-year-old players who led the way to the gold medal.

The Czechs won their first games against Great Britain (5-1), Italy (3-1) and Denmark (7-0) before facing France in the last game. It was a match-up of the two only undefeated teams before the last day.

Lucie Povová opened the scoring after only three minutes, but the French pushed their opponents to their limits until Nikola Tomigová scored two more goals (including an empty netter) in the dying minutes of the games for a 3-0 score.

The French had to settle with a silver medal along with heaps of praise for being a good host in Caen in the Normandy. Several games were attended by more than 1,000 people, including 1,363 at the Czech-French clash for the tournament win.

Winning Division II means that the Czech Republic qualifies for the Division I World Championship next season in Burlington, Vermont, USA.

For the individual statistics of Czech players in the tournament, click here.

Final Ranking:

1. Czech Republic, 15 points
2. France, 12
3. Denmark, 9
4. Italy, 6
5. Great Britain, 3
6. DPR Korea, 0 (withdrew, forfeited all matches)

Individual Awards as selected by the Tournament Directorate:

Best Goalkeeper: Caroline Baldin, France
Best Defenceman: Kateřina Flachsová, Czech Republic
Best Forward: Josefine Jakobsen, Denmark

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Vítkovice stays alive with shootout win

Down three games to none in the Extraliga final, Vítkovice had the nearly impossible task of needing four straight victories to win the title. Their uphill climb got ever-so-slightly more probable with a 5-4 shootout victory on Saturday.

Ondřej Šedivý opens the shootout with a goal, as nervous Vítkovice
fans watch in anticipation. Photo: Petr Kotala,
In what can best be described as a see-saw battle, which saw three lead changes, Třinec led 1-0 and 2-1 before Vítkovice tied it late in the first period. They then scored the only goal of the second, when Peter Húževka converted on a power play after Třinec had been called for having too many players on the ice.

Vítkovice managed to protect their slim margin for half of the third period, but Třinec clearly wanted this to be the final game. First Martin Lojek tied the game with a blast from the point on the power play to tie the score. Then, only a minute and a half later, Lukáš Krajiček made a great play behind the Vítkovice goal, making a one-handed pass out in front while he was being pinned against the boards. In an example of a terrible defensive breakdown, Ladislav Kohn was able to skate untouched to the front of the net and fire Krajiček's pass top shelf over a stranded Roman Málek, giving Třinec a 4-3 lead with 7:53 to play.

Třinec now seemed to be brimming with confidence and Vítkovice seemed to be reeling. Television coverage saw the league's large-yet-generic-looking championship trophy being readied. The contingent of Třinec fans in the building were jumping, literally, while the majority of the home fans were quiet, and not many people would likely have bet on a Vítkovice victory at that point.

However, they were given a breath of life when Martin Richter was sent off for holding with 2:57 left, and the team called a timeout and pulled the goaltender, giving them a six-on-four advantage. Třinec managed to kill off the power-play by effectively icing the puck. In the last minute, Jan Peterek had a golden chance to put the game and the series away, but his shot from the neutral zone missed the empty net by cetimetres. Vítkovice recovered and, two passes later, Jan Kaňa was flying down the right wing and fired a shot at Peter Hamerlík. He stopped the shot, but couldn't control the rebound, and Lukáš Klimek pounced on the loose puck and fired it over a fallen Hamerlík to tie the score with 30 seconds remaining.

In overtime, Třinec still clearly wanted to finish off the series and had the best scoring opportunities, but Málek made a couple of point-blank season-saving stops. After a scoreless period, the game went to a shootout. Ondřej Šedivý and Viktor Ujčik scored on Vítkovice's first two attempts, while Málek denied both shooters he faced, sealing the victory for the home side.

"I'm not often in shootouts," said the 21-year-old Šedivý, a little-used winger who scored 3 goals in 30 games this season. "But recently, I was scoring in practices and the coach said to me that if there's a shootout, I'll go. So I went, I tried what I wanted and luckily it worked."

After two days off, the series will resume on Tuesday in Třinec. Oceláři will then have a chance to win its first championship on home ice.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Třinec 1 win away from 1st national championship

Until now, Třinec has never won a Czechoslovak or Czech national championship, but in 2011 they seem to have all the earmarks of a champion. Whatever strategy their opponent wants to employ to combat them, they are more than happy to engage.

Martin Růžička tied the game at 1 on a first-period two-man
advantage. Photo: Marian Ježowicz,
Wednesday night, Vítkovice Steel did a good job of shutting down the dangerously offensive Třinec squad for most of the game, but like a champion, Oceláři didn't force things, but confidently sat back, played solid defence, and waited for their opportunity.

When the series shifted to Ostrava on Friday night, Vítkovice entered the game with the apparent realization that they would need to score in order to win. On their home ice, fueled on by their home crowd, Vítkovice attacked hard out of the gate and got the first goal of the game halfway through the opening period when Petr Vrána re-directed an airborne puck past Peter Hamerlík.

Late in the period, however, Vítkovice was down two men and its penalty killers weren't able to cover Martin Růžička, leaving him unchecked at the side of the net, and David Květoň found him with a perect pass across the goalmouth. Mirroring his play throughout the playoffs, Růžička made no mistake converting it, and the game was tied.

On a second period power-play, Vítkovice looked to regain the lead, but a bad pass in the neutral zone resulted in an Erik Hrňa short-handed breakaway. Roman Málek made one save from point-blank range, then another when Hrňa recovered his own rebound. A few minutes later, Vítkovice turned over the puck at the Třinec blueline, resulting in an odd-man break. Málek bailed his team out once more on the initial shot, but this time Jiří Polanský fired home the rebound to give Třinec a 2-1 lead. Late in the period, Martin Adamský scored a back-breaking goal on yet another breakaway, and Třinec went into the final 20 with a two-goal lead. 

By this time, frustration was beginning to show on the Vítkovice side. Marek Malík, who is looked upon for leadership, drove Růžička head-first into the boards and was penalized. Ružička seemed to have a cut on his lip, but was otherwise alright. Jan Peterek added a late insurance marker, and Třinec won 4-1 to take a 3-0 stranglehold on the series.

"We expected a difficult game and it was. Vitkovice came at us hard at the start, put pressure on us, forced us to take penalties and took the lead," was how Třinec coach Pavel Marek saw the early part of the game. 

"Then it was fortunate that we managed to score on the two-man advantage because it was critical to the development of the game. We kept it balanced because we didn't want to let Vítkovice put more pressure on us, so we played very carefully. We had a great deal of luck. Then we managed to score a second goal. Peter Hamerlík held us in there. We're happy that we won this game, but nothing is done. Vítkovice today showed its strength, we can't get carried away with the victory. Our opponent played well, had great movement and so we can't let up."

In truth, Vítkovice is a good team and played a good game, but Třinec is a better team and played a better game. Now, with a 3-0 series lead, it would take a collapse of Boston Bruins proportion to prevent Oceláři from winning its first championship.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Sparta releases O'Brien, Výborný and 7 others

After the disastrous season that HC Sparta Praha had, it was inevitable that big changes would be in the works and that several members of this year's club would not be back next year.

Doug O'Brien (left) and Tomáš Kůrka will need to find
new teams for 2011-12. Photo:
On Thursday, the club's new sports manager, Otto Sykora, made good on that by releasing seven players from the 2010-11 roster. St. John's, NL's Doug O'Brien is on his way out, as are fellow defencemen Michal Gulaši and Petr Macholda. Also leaving are forwards Marek Bartánus, Karel Hromas, Ondřej Kratěna, Tomáš Kůrka, Radek Smoleňák and, surprisingly, team captain David Výborný.

Sparta finished the season with a record of 16-7-3-32 on the 3-2-1-0 point scale to finish twelfth in the 14-team Extraliga. For the proud team whose history dates back to 1903 when it was founded by Canadian expatriate Lyle P. O'Connor, it was their lowest placement ever.

"The core of Sparta must change," Sykora said in a press conference on Thursday.

O'Brien started the season on fire, recording 6 points in the first 9 games. In the third game of the season, he scored the overtime winner against his ex-team, Plzeň 1929. After that, however, he recorded only 6 more points the remainder of the season. He remained a strong physical presence on the Sparta blueline as the team fell onto hard times. A junior with the Hull Olympiques, O'Brien was drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2003 and played 5 games for them in 2005-06.

Gulaši, one of the team's highest scoring defenceman and hardest hitters, is also leaving, though apparently by his own choosing. "Michal, we offered a new contract. We were interested in him and offered a new contract with a raise. But he declined the club's offer and therefore will play elsewhere," said Sykora.

Výborný is probably the best-known player of the group. The 36-year-old team captain was third in team scoring this year with 20 points in 51 games; a figure that is a reflection the team's offensive woes this season. Výborný is a product of Sparta's youth program and first appeared on the A-team as a 16 year old in a three-game stint in 1991.

He was drafted in 1993 by the Edmonton Oilers and played for a year with the club's AHL affiliate in Cape Breton. After returning to Sparta and also playing for a year with Swedish club MoDo Örnsköldsvik, he made his NHL debut with the expansion Columbus Blue Jackets in 2000. Výborný played seven NHL seasons, all with Columbus. His best was 2005-06, when he recorded 65 points in 80 games. Internationally, he won five World Championships with the Czech Republic between 1996 and 2005.

It appears that the team will try to build around an offense led by the French brothers Yorick and Sacha Treille. Yorick just finished his first season with Sparta and, in a season shortened by injuries, recorded 18 points in 29 games. Younger brother Sacha was acquired in a late-season trade with Vagnerplast Kladno.

"We want Sparta to play fast, very fast and high-pressure hockey. New players must meet that criteria, along with enormous enthusiasm. During games, the team must play with emotion," Sykora explained, when asked about who will play for the team next season. "Please be patient while players still have valid contracts with other clubs. Gradually, we will build a lineup and a lot of work is ahead of us."

Thursday, April 7, 2011

National team gets reinforcements from Slavia, goes to Belarus this weekend

After winning both games last weekend in Gjøvik, Norway by 2-1 scores, Václav Jáchim of is reporting that the Czech national team has made a few additions for this weekend's games in Belarus.

Jakub Štěpánek has been added to the roster of the Czech
national team. Photo:
The biggest addition is goaltender Jakub Štěpánek of SKA St. Petersburg. Štěpánek has been a mainstay on the national team all season and is a strong bet to make the World Championship roster, though not likely as the starter. Jakub Kovář of Mountfield České Budějovice played well in both games in Norway, by all accounts. Tomáš Pöpperle of Sparta Praha, who backed up Kovář both games in Norway, won't be making the trip this time, and his ride with the national team is likely finished.

There have been four new additions to the team from Slavia Praha, who were eliminated from the Extraliga playoffs last Friday. Defenceman Vladimír Roth will be going to Belarus, as will forwards Tomáš Pospíšil, Tomáš Svoboda, and Michal Vondrka.

Karel Rachůnek of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl won't be with the team this weekend, but he will join the team in Prague on Tuesday. Teammate Josef Vašiček's status is still up in the air due to a back injury. 

With Sunday being the final day of the NHL season, there will soon be more recruits coming. Presently, it is unknown if any NHLers will join the team quickly enough to play in the pair of games in Litvínov against Switzerland April 15 and 16. Probably the most anticipated addition would be goaltender Tomáš Vokoun of the Florida Panthers, who backstopped the team to last year's championship. With Florida out of the playoffs, he has indicated interested in competing again this year. Marek Židlický, Patrik Eliáš, Martin Havlát and Milan Michálek are among other expected additions.

Martin Růžička, who is currently playing for Oceláři Třinec in the Czech Extraliga finals, was a member of last year's team. Having established a new playoff scoring record this year, he will surely rejoin the national team once the series is over.

It has also been reported that Jaromír Jágr will play in the Czech Hockey Games April 21 to 24 in Brno, but it's not known if he will play at all with the national team before that.

Following the games in Litvínov and Brno, the Czechs will host Canada in their final pre-tournament game April 27 in Prague. They will then travel to Bratislava to begin defence of their championship April 30.

Vítkovice goes home in 0-2 hole, disappointed but confident

After a sloppy performance in game 1, Vítkovice Steel was looking to get back to playing their type of hockey in game 2. For 58 minutes, they played exactly the type of game that they wanted.

Třinec's Václav Varaďa breaks the 0-0 tie with 1:01 to play.
Photo: Marian Ježowicz,
For 58 minutes, they kept all of Třinec's big guns in check, and did so by playing typically strong-yet-disciplined Vítkovice hockey. Martin Růžička, an offensive stalwart who has averaged 2 points per game over this year's playoff run, was handcuffed and barely noticed. Even when they did take a penalty, they were strong on the kill, rendering the normally lethal Třinec power-play largely ineffective.

If Vítkovice had managed to score a goal in those 58 minutes, they might have got the result they wanted. But Třinec's defence was equally stingy, as they seemed content to play this style and bide their time until they got their chance. With overtime looming, they got it.

When Pavel Trka was sent off for hooking with 1:45 to play, the Třinec power-play went to work. And work is a good description of how they scored, as it was more the result of brawn than skill.

Just over a minute before the end of regulation time, Vítkovice goaltender Roman Málek tried to cover a loose puck in a mad scramble in front of the goal. A mass of bodies and the puck ended up in the net, as Václav Varaďa managed to force it over the line. "I knocked the puck, stopped it, I kept it in front of me, but that's about all I know," said Málek, trying to describe what happened. "The player who scored the goal fell on me and about half of my body was already over the goal line."

An empty-net goal by Martin Adamský made the final score 2-0. After being kept in check most of the game, Růžička managed to fill his 2-point quota by assisting on both goals. That extends his playoff record to 30 points in 15 games.  

In the Třinec goal, Peter Hamerlík stopped all 25 shots he faced. He added to his league-leading 6 shutouts during the regular season by recording his second of the playoffs. Málek stopped the first 24 he faced.

"We played a great game, it hurts a lot," the defeated goaltender continued after the game. "For sixty minutes we worked like horses and didn't get anything. We have to get it done at home. The third game especially will be tremendously important."

For all the disappointment, the veteran players on the team still aren't panicking. "I think we played a lot better than the first game. Although we spent some time on the penalty kill, which cost us a lot of energy, the performance was definitely not bad," commented veteran defenceman Marek Malík. "We just have try to win the two games at home, like Třinec did."

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Vlad Růžička offered KHL coaching position

After losing in the quarterfinal round of the KHL playoffs this year,'s Václav Jáchim is reporting that Avangard Omsk is looking for a new coach, and they have offered the position to current Slavia Praha coach and general manager Vladimír Růžička. "It's true, I got an offer on Tuesday," he is quoted as saying. 

The report is interesting, since the KHL club has not officially relieved current coach Raimo Summanen of his duties. However, it has been reported that Summanen had butted heads with several players on the team, including Jaromír Jágr. After the disappointing playoff loss, club general manager Anatoli Bardin said that he had not made a decision regarding the future of the team's coaching situation, but he would quickly.

Could Vladimír Růžička (left) and Jaromír Jágr be re-united in
Omsk? Photo: Petr Horník, Právo.
The attempt to hire Růžička, who was known as "Rosy" during his NHL playing days, may be a ploy to keep Jágr in the Siberian city. Jágr's contract with Omsk is now finished, and it has been widely speculated that he is going elsewhere, or possibly even retiring. His clashes with Summanen only heightened this speculation. One of the most interesting scenarios, which was mentioned by his father, Jaromír Jágr Sr., has the younger Jágr returning to play for hometown Vagnerplast Kladno, while simultaneously taking over the duties of club president from his father. Růžička coached Jágr at the 2005 World Championships, and they were teammates in the 1998 Winter Olympics. Both tournaments were won by the Czechs.

Though it seems clear that the offer has been made to Růžička, and he is considering it, he still has some reservations about leaving Slavia."You know me, leaving Slavia is difficult to imagine. It's hard, very hard. Years of building something here, something to try. I'm involved with the whole sports program, the youth, the first team. Everything."

Though he played in the Litvínov system growing up and also played one year for Dukla Trenčin before going to the NHL, he returned to the Czech Republic in 1994 and played six years with Slavia before taking over as coach in 2000. Under his command, Slavia has won national championships in 2003 and 2008. 

Růžička played five seasons in the NHL for the Edmonton Oilers, Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators. He was on the roster during Edmonton's 1990 Stanley Cup victory, but he didn't play in enough games to qualify for his name on the Cup.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Růžička sets new record in Třinec's game 1 win

In the first two rounds of the 2011 Extraliga playoffs, Třinec's Martin Růžička was nearly unstoppable. His 14 goals and 12 assists in 13 games tied a record for most points in a single playoff year, 26, with still another full round to play.

Some credited his production to the fact that, as opponents, Třinec drew eighth-ranked Litvínov and seventh-ranked Slavia, and that the team's opponent in the final, Vítkovice Steel, is much stronger defensively and wouldn't give him nearly as much room to operate. Still, needing only one more point, it seemed inevitable that Žigmund Pálffy's record was destined to fall.

Martin Růžička's first-period goal was his 27th point of the 2011
playoffs, setting a new record. Photo: Marian Ježowicz,
Růžička quickly took care of business in the first period, beating Roman Málek with a wrist shot on a power play in the 12th minute to open the scoring. Třinec then put two more goals in the second by Lukáš Zíb and Martin Adamský to make it 3-0 before Petr Vrána got Vítkovice on the board late in the middle frame.

With the score 4-2 with 13 minutes remaining, Růžička got his second point of the game when he relayed a pass from Václav Varaďa across the front of the net to Radek Bonk, who fired it home to close out the scoring.

From now on, every point Růžička gets will add to his record. "This is not about records, but the most important thing is to win. We did it on Monday and that's very important. It's not important who scores the goals, as long as somebody does," he said with a smile after the game. 

To score at a pace of two points per game over an entire playoff year is an incredible feat, to say the least. Růžička's accomplishment this year mirrors that of Pálffy's back in 1992. That year, the Slovak recorded 18 goals and 8 assists for 26 points in 13 games for Dukla Trenčín in the second-to-last season for the Czechoslovak Extraliga. Pálffy later went on to play 12 seasons in the NHL, where he averaged more than a point per game.  

For Vítkovice, the question now becomes how they will stop Růžička and the rest of the Třinec juggernaut. Considering the strength of the Třinec power play, the consensus seems to be that they need to play more disciplined. "We made a lot of mistakes that we can't make again. Several times we took bad penalties and Třinec has a strong power-play,  and we had to spend a lot of time on the penatly-kill," said Vrána.

As well, they figured the layoff didn't do them any favours. "We feel the long layoff, it wasn't ideal," said Viktor Ujčík, the league's all-time playoff goal-scoring leader, who assisted on Vítkovice's second goal on Monday. "The first game with Pardubice was similar."

Vítkovice managed to recover and dispose of Pardubice in five games, and they don't have a long layoff to worry about before they return to action this time. Game 2 of the final goes Tuesday at 17:10 on ČT4.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Třinec beats Slavia, advances to final

And then there were two.

Oceláři Třinec, who trailed their semifinal series with Slavia Praha 3-1, came back with three straight wins to take the series. This sets up an all-Silesia final series between the aforementioned Třinec and Vítkovice Steel, which begins Monday.

Byan McGregor (far left) and Lukáš Zíb are among the Třinec
players congratulating Slavia on a long, hard-fought semifinal
series. Photo: Marian Ježowicz,
On Friday night, Třinec hosted Slavia in game 7 of the semifinal and got off to a quick start, when David Květon scored after only 47 seconds of play. That was the only goal of the opening period, but Třinec busted it open with three goals in a 3:13 span midway through the second that chased goaltender Miroslav Kopřiva from the game. After being given much of the credit for Slavia's 3-1 lead early in the series, Kopřiva was pulled from two of the last three games, and was criticized for allowing two bad goals in game 6. Two of  Třinec's goals in that span were power-play markers by defenceman Lukáš Zíb, the second coming after Slavia rookie Dmitrij Jaškin was assessed a major and game misconduct for checking from behind.

Slavia scored twice in the third, but that wasn't enough to get them back into the game, and it finished 5-2. Though they were heavy underdogs going into the series, the loss is a bitter pill to swallow after holding a 3-1 lead in games, and also leading by a score of 3-1 in game 6 on home ice. "It is a pity that we could not win the sixth game at home," said coach Vladimír Růžička after the game. "But I must admit that in the previous two home games we were very lucky. The sixth game, unfortunately, we made a lot of mistakes with promising lead."

Růžička went on to speak about his team's shortcomings on specialty teams, their lack of a game-breaker like Martin Růžička (no relation), who had an incredible 16 points in the series, and general lack of experience. "Nevertheless, I would like to thank the players for what they showed in the playoffs."

While Martin Růžička was the star of the series, it was Zíb's two big goals that made him the hero of the decisive game. "This series we showed great character and strength of the team," the veteran blueliner told Dnes's Martin Stebel after the game. "We have a great group. We showed great resilience when the series wasn't going well. Although we were down 1-3, I didn't feel like we were the worse team. We were really the better squad, but unfortunately we weren't converting on our chances. By no means did we pack it in. The series also showed our fantastic fans who have helped us much."

Třinec has two days off without travel before the final starts Monday. They will host a Vítkovice club that will have had six days of rest. After games Monday and Tuesday in Třinec, the series moves 50 kilometres northwest to Ostrava for the third and fourth games next Friday and Saturday. A possible seventh game would go on April 16.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Czechs begin preparation for title defence at Worlds

On Friday, the Czech national men's team plays its first game in its month-long preparation for the 2011 World Championships. They take to the ice in the remote town of Gjövik, Norway for the first of two weekend games against the Norwegian national team; the first of three successive weekend series that are part of the Euro Hockey Challenge.

Czech players watch their flag being raised after winning the
2010 World Championship. Photo:
The roster that the Czechs will ice will probably bear little resemblance to the one that fans will see on April 30, when they begin the World tournament against Latvia in Bratislava. NHL players are still not available, nor are players on Extraliga or KHL teams still involved in their leagues' playoffs. The players who will wear the Czech colours this weekend in Norway will be trying to demonstrate to coach Alois Hadamczik and his staff why they deserve a spot on the final roster. For this reason, Hadamczik believes that the players will be well-motivated to play their best.

"Some are seeking nomination for the World Championship, yet others want to remain with us as long as possible. I believe that everyone will play their hardest. The team worked very well in practice, I was satisfied. I really liked the attitude. Everybody has been looking forward to the first game, they are feeling anxious." 

In last year's World Championship, Norway defeated the Czech Republic in the group stage, 3-2. Of course, the Czechs recovered from that setback and ultimately won the gold medal. Hadamczik knows these games won't be easy. "(The Norwegians) play very hard and aggressively. I don't know what the situation will be in Gjövik, but we have to be prepared, it won't be easy."

The list of players going to Norway includes five members of last year's championship team. They are defencemen Petr Čáslava and Ondřej Němec and forwards Petr Hubáček, Marek Kvapil, and Jiří Novotný.

More players should be available the weekend of April 8 and 9, when the Czechs play in Belarus for two more games. April 15 and 16, they will host Switzerland in Litvínov. By the time they arrive in Brno for the Czech Hockey Games April 21 to 24, all players in European leagues as well as NHLers who missed the playoffs will be available.

The team's last game before the start of the tournament will be against Canada at O2 Arena in Prague on April 27. 

From, here is the roster that the Czech national team will use for the two games in Norway, and the schedule leading up to the 2011 World Championships in Slovakia:


Jakub Kovář (HC Mountfield České Budějovice), Tomáš Pöpperle (HC Sparta Praha).


Petr Čáslava (CSKA Moscow, KHL), Ondřej Němec (
Severstal Cherepovets, KHL), Tomáš Mojžíš (Dynamo Minsk, KHL), Vladimír Sičák (Kärpät Oulu, Finland), František Ptáček (HC Mountfield České Budějovice), Lukáš Derner, David Štich (both Bílí Tygři Liberec), Jakub Nakládal (HC Eaton Pardubice).


Petr Průcha (SKA St. Petersburg, KHL), Jiří Novotný (Barys Astana, KHL), Josef Straka (Severstal Cherepovets, KHL), Petr Hubáček, Marek Kvapil, Radek Dlouhý (all HC Kometa Brno), Ivan Rachůnek (PSG Zlín), Jiří Šimánek, Milan Gulaš, Tomáš Mertl (all HC Moutfield České Budějovice), Lukáš Pech (HC Energie Karlovy Vary), Lukáš Vantuch (Bílí Tygři Liberec).

Head Coach: Alois Hadamczik
Assistant Coach: Josef Paleček

General Manager: Slavomír Lener
Team Manager: Martin Loukota
Video Coach: Jan Procházka 
Physician: Dr. Radomír Holíbka
Physiotherapist: Michal Truc
Masseurs: Zdeněk Šmíd, Petr Ondráček
Media Consultant: Jan Černý

In addition to the following games, the team will have practice sessions through the week in Prague and Brno.
Euro Hockey Challenge:

Fri, April 1: Norway - Czech Republic (Gjövik, 19:00)
at, April 2: Norway - Czech Republic (Gjövik, 15:00)

Fri, April 8: Belarus - Czech Republic (Minsk, 18:00)
Sat, April 9:
Belarus - Czech Republic (Bobruysk, 15:00)

Fri, April 15: Czech Republic - Switzerland (Litvínov, 17:30)
Sat, April 16:
Czech Republic - Switzerland (Litvínov, 17:30)

Czech Hockey Games:

Thu, April 21:
Czech Republic - Finland (Brno, 18:10)
Sat, April 23:
Czech Republic - Russia (Brno, 15:00)
Sat, April 23: Sweden - Finland (Brno, 19:00)
Sun, April 24: Russia - Finland (Brno, 14:00)
Sun, April 24:
Czech Republic - Sweden (Brno, 18:00)

Pre-Tournament Exhibition: 

Wed, April 27: Czech Republic - Canada (17:40, Prague)

IIHF World Championship, Group D:

Sat, April 30:
Czech Republic - Latvia (20:15, Bratislava)
Mon, May 2: Czech Republic - Denmark (16:15, Bratislava)
Wed, May 4: Czech Republic - Finland (20:15 Bratislava)