Thursday, March 29, 2012

Junior Extraliga championship goes Friday

In order to inject a little more fan interest in Czech Junior hockey, the Czech Ice Hockey Association has taken a page out of the Canadian Hockey League's book and created a one-game national junior championship.

Former Brno goaltender Jan Strmeň, now with Chomutov, will
try to beat his former team in Friday's junior championship.
Photo: Lenka Rybaříková,
On Friday night, Piráti Chomutov and Kometa Brno will face off in Chomutov for a single game to determine Czech junior hockey's best team in 2011-12.

The best team during the regular season, Chomutov's route to the final went through Prague, with two-game sweeps over both Slavia and Sparta Praha. Brno, the fifth seed in the playoffs, had a more difficult route. They swept Plzeň in the preliminary round before beating Karlovy Vary and Litvínov, needing to win decisive third games on the road both times.

The best storyline of the game revolves around Chomutov goalie Jan Strmeň, who played for Kometa last season.

"We want to beat Chomutov mainly because of him," Kometa captain Vlastimil Bilčík told the team website. "We lost both games this season with Piráti mainly due to his performance, he played really well."

Besides Strmeň, other Chomutov players to watch are defencemen Dominik Tejnor and Radek Havel and forward Jiří Fronk, all of whom are due to attend the training camp of the Czech national U18 team when it's over. Brno defenceman Jan Sedlák will join them.

Kometa's path to the final has been led by the forward line of Jan Kaňa, Roman Jurák and Branislav Jankovič, who are the top three playoff scorers.

Kometa had the best attendance in the Junior Extraliga this season and established a single-game league attendance record on December 3 with 4823. However, hockey fans in the Czech Republic's second city might have their attention elsewhere on Friday night.

In fact, for both teams, their senior men's clubs are still in action, which may overshadow the event. Chomutov is currently in the Czech First League finals against Ústí nad Labem, with the series tied 1-1. The winner of the series earns a chance to play into the Czech Extraliga. Meanwhile, the Cinderella Kometa team has won the first two games of its Extraliga semifinal in Plzeň, and will play the third game on home ice on Friday night.

Friday night's game, in Chomutov, begins at 17:30 Central European Time.

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