Thursday, February 9, 2012

Czech youth national teams gear up

Another international break is upon us in European hockey and national teams in a variety of age categories have assembled for various tune-up tournaments. Of course, the highest profile event is the Euro Hockey Tour, in which the Czech national men's team is competing, but the Czech Republic has has U19, U18, U17 and U16 teams in competitions throughout the continent.

Pardubice's Marek Langhamer will be in Finland, trying
to earn a spot in the U18 Worlds in Brno.
The U19 team is at a five-team event in Kreuzlingen, Switzerland. The tournament runs from February 8 to 12 and also includes Sweden, Finland, Switzerland and Germany. The U19 age category does not have a championship, but these teams are assembled for the purpose of getting players ready to compete for roster spots at next year's World Junior Championship, which will be held in Ufa, Russia.

Six players were part of the U18 team that finished eighth at last year's World Championship in Dresden, Germany. They include defencemen, Tomáš Kvapil, who plays in Lulea, Sweden and the Slavia Praha duo of Štěpán Jeník and Antonín Růžička, as well as forwards  Tomáš Rousek and Michal Švihálek, both of České Budějovice, and Petr Koblasa of Karlovy Vary. Rousek and Švihálek were both on the initial 40-man roster for this year's U20 team, but didn't go any farther. Of course, the most notable U19 Czech players in Europe are Tomáš Hertl and Dmitrij Jaškin of Slavia, but they are both being rested.

The U18 tournament will probably get the most attention of the junior categories because the World Championships, which will be played in Brno and Znojmo, are coming up in April. Players in that tournament in Pori, Finland will be trying to earn spots on their respective rosters for that tournament, which will be augmented by North American juniors whose teams have been eliminated from the playoffs.

The Czech roster at this event will feature many of the same names that were at the Ivan Hlinka Tournament in August, such as goaltender Marek Langhamer, defenceman Ronald Knot, and forwards Jan Hudeček, Ondřej Slováček, Martin Matejček, Pavel Sedláček, Eustathio Soumelidis and Matěj Zadražil.

In addition to the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia and Sweden, the USA will also be there, sending their National Development U18 team that will be a near rendition of the team they will send to Brno. Last year, this particular event was held in Hradec Králové, where the USA were a perfect 4-0, clinching first place with a victory over Finland on the final day. The Czechs finished fourth with a victory over Russia in the last game.

After hosting the U18s last year, Hradec Králové will host a U17 event this year, which will feature teams from the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia and Sweden from Thursday to Saturday. Like the U19 level, there is no World Championship for the U17 age group, so this tournament is mostly about working toward next year's championship. As Czech coach Luděk Bukač Jr stated, "The goal is clear and it is the U18 World Championship for next season. We are already working with this team for the second year and everything we do is just for one tournament per year. There, players must "sell" themselves to us and capitalize on what they have learned over two years. We must give them a chance to gain experience in international hockey and then hope for success in the championship."

Of the calibre of hockey that fans in Hradec Králové can expect to see in the tournament, Budač said, "Youth hockey at this level provides a better spectacle than the NHL; fans will definitely not regret coming to watch this tournament."

However, for those unable to attend games in Hradec Králové, the events of the tournament can be followed on the tournament website at

As Budač stated, he is now in his second year working with his team. The U16 age group is also together, and are attending a four-team tournament in Sundsvall, Sweden.

No comments:

Post a Comment