Showing posts with label women's team. Show all posts
Showing posts with label women's team. Show all posts

Saturday, August 18, 2012

August hockey heats up

Although I'm away from the Czech Republic for the month of August, the world of hockey continues on. Perhaps the most significant thing I've missed in my absence is the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. In 2011, I attended every game played in Břeclav, covering it for Czech Hockey Report as well as Eurohockey.com.

In 2012, Eurohockey was on hand again, with Jon Rowson, Henrik Lundqvist (not the goalie) and Romon Solovyev doing a good job of providing coverage. For those who missed it, Canada won the tournament for the fifth straight year, defeating Finland 4-0 in the final. The Czech Republic, who feared a lack of offense heading in, made it to the semifinal where they fell 2-1 to Sweden on a late goal.

However, the Ivan Hlinka was not the only hockey event going on in Moravia this weekend. The Women's Summer Camp finished up in Brumov-Bylnice, with Tyler Bilton providing coverage. Slavia Praha was the Czech representative at the seven-team event, finishing second by taking 13 of a possible 18 points. Slavia's only regulation loss was to Russian club HC Tornado, who blew away everybody they faced, outscoring their opponents 32-1 over the course of the tournament.

Kverka takes the opening faceoff vs Norway. mhl.khl.ru
While two international tournaments finished on Saturday, another began. For the second straight year, HC Karlovy Vary is representing the Czech Republic at the World Junior Club Cup in Omsk, Russia. They finished second place last year and are off to a good start in 2012, beating the Norway U20 national team 3-1 in the opening game. KV got two first period goals from Tomáš Harkabus and another in the first minute of the second from captain Jaromír Kverka, while Vladislav Habal stopped 19 of 20 Norwegian shots.

"Today it was a very important game that we did not want to lose, we wanted to gain confidence, which we finally did," Kverka told the MHL website. "Norway played aggressive hockey and at the beginning we had problems, but then we started playing smarter and we won."

Things should only get more difficult from this point. After playing the United States Hockey League's Waterloo Black Hawks on Sunday (16:00 MSK, 14:00 CET, 7am CT), they play two MHL teams: the host Omsk Hawks (Tuesday) and Dinamo-Shinnik Bobrusk (Wednesday). Karlovy Vary will be a member of this league too in the upcoming season.

Tournament semifinals will be played Saturday and the final on Sunday.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Eliáš wins 2nd Zlatá hokejka decisively

With the season he had, it shouldn't have even been close and, when the voting results were released, it wasn't. Patrik Eliáš, who recorded 78 points in 82 regular-season NHL games and then helped lead the New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup Final, won the Zlatá hokejka, awarded annually to the best Czech hockey player in the world, by a decisive margin. He previously won the award in 2009.

Eliáš, who is awaiting his U.S. Green Card, was not able to attend the event in person. "I consider the Zlatá hokeja a big award, which I appreciate, and I regret that the time couldn't be managed so that I could come to Karlovy Vary in person," he said via telephone from the Caribbean. On his season, he said, "It was unbelievable how we were able to come together in New Jersey under a new coach (Peter DeBoer). We enjoyed every moment of it."

Jaromír Jágr, a ten-time winner of the award, finished a distant second place, two points ahead of Ottawa Senators forward Milan Michálek. "(The voting result) is a nice reflection of the best season of my career," he told Martin Kézr of website sport.cz.

Other winners from Saturday night's gala were Radka Lhotská, who won as best female player for backstopping the Czech women win the IIHF Division I tournament and qualify for next year's World Championship in Ottawa, Pavel Kubeš, who won for best sledge hockey player, and Petr Mrázek for best junior hockey player.

From zlatahokejka2012.cz, here are the final voting results:


 1. PATRIK ELIÁŠ     New Jersey Devils (NHL)   594 points
 2. JAROMÍR JÁGR     Philadelphia Flyers (NHL) 409
 3. MILAN MICHÁLEK   Ottawa Senators (NHL)     407
 4. RADIM VRBATA     Phoenix Coyotes (NHL)     358
 5. PETR NEDVĚD      Bílí Tygři Liberec (ELH)  336
 6. ROMAN ČERVENKA   Avangard Omsk (KHL)       322
 7. JAKUB VORÁČEK    Philadelphia Flyers (NHL) 310
 8. MARTIN ERAT      Nashville Predators (NHL) 303
 9. TOMÁŠ PLEKANEC   Montreal Canadiens (NHL)  279
10. ONDŘEJ PAVELEC   Winnipeg Jets (NHL)       202 



11. Jakub Kovář (Č. Budějovice) 178 points, 12. Jakub Petružálek (Khabarovsk, KHL) 165, 13. Martin Straka (Plzeň) 161, 14. Tomáš Fleischmann (Florida, NHL) 160, 15. Marek Židlický (New Jersey, NHL) 149, 16. Tomáš Pöpperle (Sparta Praha) 147, 17. Aleš Hemský (Edmonton, NHL) 140, 18. Petr Koukal (Pardubice) 110, 19. David Krejčí (Boston, NHL) 99, 20. Jiří Novotný (Astana, KHL) 97, 21. Petr Ton (Sparta Praha) 91, 22. Petr Vrána (Khabarovsk, KHL) 68, 23. Tomáš Vokoun (Washington, NHL) 59, 24. Jakub Štěpánek (St. Petersburg, KHL) 57, 25. Filip Kuba (Ottawa, NHL) 50, 26. Petr Čáslava (CSKA Moscow, KHL) 46, 27. Radek Duda (Plzeň) 42, 28. Martin Hanzal (Phoenix, NHL) 35, 29. Tomáš Rolinek (Magnitogorsk, KHL) 29, 30. - 31. Jiří Hudler (Detroit, NHL), Jakub Nakládal (Ufa, KHL) both 27, 32. Petr Tenkrát (Sparta Praha) 26, 33. Zbyněk Irgl (Minsk, KHL) 22, 34. Tomáš Divíšek (Kometa Brno) 19, 35. Rostislav Klesla (Phoenix, NHL) 15, 36. Petr Sýkora (Davos, Switzerland) 13, 37. Jan Kolář I. (Pardubice) 11, 38. Petr Kumstát (K. Vary) 10, 39. - 42. Jaroslav Bednář (Lugano, Switzerland), Jiří Burger (Vítkovice), Marek Kvapil (Dynamo Moscow, KHL), Petr Mrázek (Ottawa, OHL) all 9, 43. Zbyněk Michálek (Pittsburgh, NHL) 7, 44. - 45. Miroslav Blaťák (Ufa, KHL), Jakub Klepiš (Dynamo Moscow, KHL) both 6, 46. - 48. Petr Průcha (St. Petersburg, KHL), Petr Sýkora (New Jersey, NHL), Jiří Trvaj (Kometa Brno) all 5, 49. - 52. Jan Kolář II, Robert Kousal (both Pardubice), David Květoň (Třinec), Ondřej Němec (Cherepovets, KHL) all 4, 53. - 54. Martin Havlát (San Jose, NHL), Roman Horák (Calgary, NHL) both 3, 55. - 59. Jan Chábera (Kladno), František Lukeš (Litvínov), Michal Neuvirth (Washington, NHL), Martin Růžička (Khabarovsk, KHL),Ladislav Šmíd (Edmonton, NHL) all 2, 60. - 66. Jan Buchtele (Pardubice), Petr Čajánek (Zlín), Milan Gulaš (Č. Budějovice), Petr Holík (Zlín), Viktor Hübl (Litvínov), Jakub Krejčík (Slavia Praha), Vladimír Sobotka (St. Louis, NHL) all 1.

Previous winners:
1969 - Jan Suchý
1970 - Jan Suchý
1971 - František Pospíšil
1972 - František Pospíšil
1973 - Vladimír Martinec
1974 - Jiří Holeček
1975 - Vladimír Martinec
1976 - Vladimír Martinec
1977 - Milan Nový
1978 - Ivan Hlinka
1979 - Vladimír Martinec
1980 - Peter Šťastný
1981 - Milan Nový
1982 - Milan Nový
1983 - Vincent Lukáč
1984 - Igor Liba
1985 - Jiří Králík
1986 - Vladimír Růžička
1987 - Dominik Hašek
1988 - Vladimír Růžička
1989 - Dominik Hašek
1990 - Dominik Hašek
1991 - Bedřich Ščerban
1992 - Róbert Švehla
1993 - Miloš Holaň
1994 - Roman Turek
1995 - Jaromír Jágr
1996 - Jaromír Jágr
1997 - Dominik Hašek
1998 - Dominik Hašek
1999 - Jaromír Jágr
2000 - Jaromír Jágr
2001 - Jiří Dopita
2002 - Jaromír Jágr
2003 - Milan Hejduk
2004 - Robert Lang
2005 - Jaromír Jágr
2006 - Jaromír Jágr
2007 - Jaromír Jágr
2008 - Jaromír Jágr
2009 - Patrik Eliáš
2010 - Tomáš Vokoun
2011 - Jaromír Jágr
2012 - Patrik Eliáš

Most wins:
10 - Jaromír Jágr
 5 - Dominik Hašek
 4 - Vladimír Martinec
 3 - Milan Nový
 2 - Jan Suchý
 2 - František Pospišil
 2 - Vladimír Růžička
 2 - Patrik Eliáš

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Czech women win in Latvia, advance to Ottawa 2013

After winning last year's Division I, Group B World Championship in Caen, France, the Czech Republic women's national team entered this year's Division I, Group A tournament in Ventspils, Latvia, as the lowest seed. Therefore, the fact that they finished with a 4-1 record to win the group might surprise the casual observer.

Photo: Romualds Vambuts, iihf.com
However, anyone who has paid attention to Czech women's hockey knows that the program has improved in leaps and bounds over the past few years. Their success at the U18 level is evidence of that. They have been a regular competitor in the top group, where two years ago, in Stockholm, they finished fourth. This year, in Zlín and Přerov, they finished sixth, playing their last game before a raucous crowd of more than 3000.

“It’s amazing. We just came up from one level below,” 19-year-old forward Lucie Povová said to IIHF.com's Marek Merk. “We wanted to win, but we didn’t expect to get to the highest division that fast.”

A student and player at Northeastern University, Povová has a good sense of how women's hockey, and the Czech team in particlar, is perceived arond the world. “I think we’re going to get much more respect from the people because in the Czech Republic no one really recognizes women’s hockey and even in the States or in Canada people are going to recognize us. They play well, but we’re up there too now. It’s really amazing.”

Though the Czechs won the group, they didn't take the easiest route, surrendering four goals in the first period of their first game against Japan and losing 4-3. The second game was key, though, as they beat Norway 2-1, with Denisa Křížová scoring the winning goal with 6:58 remaining in regulation time. Norway ultimately finished second, one point behind the Czechs, so taking the full three points in that game proved crucial.

After that, they beat the host Latvians 5-0, Kazakhstan 3-2, and Austria 6-1 to take 12 of a possible 15 points.

The team's leading scorer was Sonja Nováková, with 7 points five games, followed by Alena Polenská and Šimona Studentová with 5 each. All three players scored 3 goals, as did Povová. 

In goal, 31-year-old Radka Lhotská was selected as the tournament's top goalie with a miniscule 0.83 goals-against average and a .962 save percentage. 

“I haven’t really realized what we have achieved here yet, but I think this will come later,” she said after the last game. "I feel great, but the main thing is that we won. We all battled like a team.”

The win means that the Czech Republic advances to the top group for the first time ever. Next year's Women's World Championship will take place in Ottawa, Canada. 

“I’m really looking forward to going to Ottawa,” Lhotská concluded. “It was our dream and now it's come true.”

Final standings:

1. Czech Republic  5 4 0 0 1 19:8 12 
2. Norway          5 3 1 0 1 20:7 11 
3. Japan           5 3 0 0 2 15:10 9 
4. Austria         5 2 0 0 3 16:18 6 
5. Latvia          5 1 1 0 3  5:20 5 
6. Kazakhstan      5 0 0 2 3  7:19 2 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Canadian U18 women win gold in Zlín, Czechs finish 6th, attendance record shattered

Below is my tournament recap for Eurohockey.com. For statistics, interviews and individual game summaries, visit  u18wwc2012.com/eng/index.asp.

Over 3000 fans in Přerov watch Czech Republic-Finland. Photo:
Stanislav Heloňa, u18wwc2012.com.
This past weekend, the 2012 IIHF U18 Women's World Championship finished in Zlín and Přerov, Czech Republic. The tournament finalists, Canada and the USA, were expected beforehand. The local interest was not. 17 480 fans watched the 22 tournament games, which almost doubled the previous record.

On the first day of the tournament, 1400 fans in Prerov came out to watch Canada defeat Switzerland 13-1. At the same time, so many fans crammed the arena in Zlín for the for the first game of the host team, the Czech Republic, that rink staff had to scramble to find places for them all to watch the game.

"The public interest has surprised us in a very pleasant way," said tournament executive directer Ondřej Šebek on the official website. "We all think it is a great advertisement for Czech women's hockey. The first game in Zlín surprised us a bit; we did not expect so much interest. However, we made some adjustments for the second game so that all spectators could choose a place from where to see the game."

If fan interest was a surprise, the results on the ice were not. As anticipated, the two traditional powerhouses of women's hockey, Canada and the USA, won their groups easily. Canada outscored Switzerland, Finland and Germany 26-1, while the US beat up on Russia, Sweden and the Czechs 28-1. Leading the way offensively for the Americans was Haley Skarupa, who recorded hattricks in all three group games and netted 11 goals in the tournament. In the semifinals, Canada took care of Sweden 7-0, while the Americans handled Germany 7-1, setting up the much-expected final.

Emerance Maschmeyer makes one of her 28 saves in the gold-
medal game against US captain Alex Carpenter. Photo: Jiří Zaňát,
u18wwc2012.com.
In the championship game, the US outshot Canada 28-16, but strong defensive play and outstanding goaltending from Emerance Maschmeyer kept the Americans from scoring, while Canada got two power-play goals and won the gold medal game, 3-0.
"We have practiced the penalty killing for a long time," said Canadian head coach Pierre Alain after the game. "Since August, when we held a camp focused on this. You have to work on your specialty teams for such short-duration events like this one. We worked a lot on this."

Earlier in the day, Sweden won the bronze medal with a 4-1 victory over Germany. The Germans led 1-0 after one period, but held the lead thanks to great goaltending from Franziska Albl. Albl had stopped 74 of 80 shots in a group-stage game against Canada and was also very good in her team's quarterfinal victory over the Czech Republic. She was named the tournament's best goaltender.

Finland took fifth place with a 5-3 victory over the Czechs in Přerov, a game that attracted more than 3000 fans. "The atmosphere was indescribable," said Czech coach Tomáš Výtisk. "I have never seen that in my life and maybe I never will again, just as the players."

One of the most dramatic finishes was in the game which determined who would stay in the top group and who would be relegated; Russia beat Switzerland 3-2 in a shootout and they will return to the 2013 tournament, while Switzerland will be replaced by Hungary.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Women's U18 attendance record likely in Zlín and Přerov

After two days of action at the IIHF U18 Women's World Championship in Zlín and Přerov, the total attendance of the last three tournaments has already been eclipsed. With the event only one-third complete, they are over halfway to the tournament record, set in 2008 in Calgary.

"The public interest has surprised us in a very pleasant way," executive director Ondřej Šebek announced on the tournament's official website.

The championship opened on New Year's Eve and the first games began at 1pm local time. Right away, it was apparent that organisers had underestimated what kind of crowds they'd draw. In the tournament's primary venue in Zlín, the host Czech team opted to use PSG Arena, a practice rink for the local Extraliga club that has seating for 429, rather than 7,000-seat Ludek Čajka Arena next door. Since last year's tournament in Stockholm averaged fewer than 200 fans per game, the feeling was there would be no atmosphere in the larger venue. The atmosphere has not been lacking in Zlín.

An overflow crowd watches Czech Republic-Sweden on New
Year's Eve. Photo Jiří Zaňát, u18wwc2012.com.
Arena staff were overwhelmed trying to find places for fans to watch, with the final attendance count being 860. In Přerov, an even more impressive total of 1400 came out to see Canada and Switzerland. The new arena in Přerov has seating for 1951, and can accommodate up to 3000 with standing room.

"Players and team officials both told us that they don't get atmosphere like this even in America," said Lubomír Svoboda, who is on the tournament organising committee and based in Přerov. "I promised the association in Prague that spectators will come out in Přerov, but 1400 people, that surprised us all."

"The first game in Zlín surprised us a bit; we did not expect so much interest," admitted Šebek. "However, we made some adjustments for the second game so that all spectators could choose a place from where to watch the game."

After eight games in two days, the tournament's total attendance so far is 6060, for an average of 758 per game. By comparison, the total gates from the last three tournaments in Stockholm, Chicago and Füssen have been 3284, 4270 and 4810, respectively. The inaugural U18 women's championship, held in Calgary in 2008, drew a total of 9872.

On the ice, things are going more according to pre-tournament expectations, with Canada and the USA dominating their respective groups. On Tuesday, the US plays the host Czech squad and the Americans are anticipating the atmosphere in the building. 

"It's gonna be pretty loud and we expect the Czechs to be pumped for it," said forward Anne Pankowski. "Everyone's pretty excited."

The Czech Republic-USA game begins at 19:00 CET, 1pm ET, 10am PT. At the exact same time, Canada plays Finland in Přerov. The medal round will all be played in Zlín, with quarterfinals on Wednesday, semifinals on Friday and medal games on Saturday. 

For the schedule, game recaps and other information, visit the tournament's website at u18wwc2012.com/eng/index.asp. Although there is no live television or internet coverage of the games, live, up-to-the-minute commentary is available at eurolivescores.com.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Czech Republic will host 2012 U18 men's and women's championships

It has long been known that the IIHF Women's U18 World Championship will be played in the Czech Republic in early January 2012. On Wednesday, Czech website hokej.cz announced that the men's edition of the tournament will be held in the same country, subject to rubber-stamp approval from the IIHF Congress.

"Information was sent to us from the IIHF, stating that we will host the tournament," said Czech Ice Hockey Association (ČSLH) Gereral Secretary Martin Urban. "Officially, it still must be confirmed by Congress." The ČSLH website is also announcing they will host the tournament, which suggests the information is true.

The tournament was originally scheduled to be held in Switzerland, but rumblings began during the 2011 tournament in Germany that the Swiss may relinquish their right to host, citing a lack of suitable venues that were willing to host. The Czech Republic and Denmark stepped to the forefront as possible replacements, and now it seems that the Czechs will, indeed, host both the women's and men's U18 events.

Hosts for both tournaments have not been announced, but there are many possible candidates.

 
Among last season's top women's teams were Pardubice, Slavia Praha, Karvina, Kladno, and Plzeň. While Prague isnt likely to host, the others are all possibilities, as is Slaný, which hosted a 5-teams U18 womens tournament last December, prior to the World Championship in Sweden. Slaný is just 13 km north of Kladno, which could make them suitable candidates to co-host.


Hradec Králové hosted a U18 tournament in February 2011.
Photo: Stanislav Souček, hockeynews.cz.
As for the men's event, Pardubice has hosted World U20 Championships in 2002 and 2008, and the area's passion for hockey makes them likely front-runners for this event as well. Nearby Hradec Králové hosted a five-team U18 tournament in February, making them ideal co-host candidates. Indeed, the Czech Republic is no stranger to hosting U18 hockey tournaments. The Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament is annually co-hosted in South Moravia, usually Břeclav, along with a Slovak city, usually Piešťany. Junior hockey is usually more popular in Moravia, as seen by the excitement in Znojmo over their national junior title. Znojmo's 5,500-seat Hostan Arena would seem to suit the needs of the tournament, although the departure of the Orli Znojmo professional team to the Austrian League might not earn them any points with the ČSLH. Brno's 7,200-seat Hala Rondo and the area's passionate fans is another option worth considering.

Of course, cities won't be chosen until after the IIHF formally approves the host nation. That won't happen until their next Congress meeting, August 22 to 24 in Istanbul, Turkey.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Czech women win IIHF Division II championship

From iihf.com:

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, iihf.com.
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

Friday, January 7, 2011

Czech U18 women advance to semi-finals

Defenceman Markéta Vytisková celebrates with goaltender
Veronika Hladíková after beating Japan. Photo: Phillip
MacCallum, HHOF-IIHF Images
.
For the first time ever, a Czech women's team has advanced to the semi-finals of an official IIHF world championship tournament.

After dropping their first two games of the 2011 IIHF Women's World U18 Championships, the Czech Republic dispatched Japan 4-1 in their final group game on Tuesday and then topped Germany 3-1 in Wednesday's quarter-final, setting up a semi-final match-up against the United States on Friday.

The win against Japan was an expected result, and the result may have been flattering to the Japanese team as the Czechs had a 43-25 edge in shots. They were led by 2 goals from Markéta Vytisková and 1 goal and 1 assist from Kateřina Kaplanová.

In the quarter-finals, they were the benefactors of an upset in the other group, as Germany's victory over Finland meant that the third-place Czechs crossed over to play the second-place Germans instead of Finland, who are traditionally more powerful. Having beaten Finland, some predicted that the Germans would be able to handle this Czech team. However, the Czechs came out storming and were unlucky to finish the first period still scoreless, as they outshot the Germans 14-6. Undaunted, they continued to apply the pressure, and midway through the middle frame Kateřina Solničková finally solved German goalkeeper Sonja Grüber, giving the Czechs a 1-0 lead. In the first minute of the third period, Solničková set up Klára Chmelová for the eventual game winner; the teams traded goals after that point.

“We played with a big heart. We were pretty tired, after the game and having played with practically just two lines, so we left everything on the ice,” Czech captain Jana Fialová said after the game, as reported by Risto Pakarinen of IIHF.com. “Now our goal is to win a bronze medal.”

Indeed, given their semi-final opponent, that is probably the only realistic goal.

In the other quarter-final, Finland shook off its group stage loss to Germany and beat the host Swedes 3-2, meaning that Friday's semi-final match-ups will feature Finland against Canada at 15:30 Central European Time (9:30 AM Eastern Time) and the Czech Republic versus the USA at 19:00 CET (1:00 PM ET). The two games Saturday will be at the same times, with the earlier game being for the bronze medal and the later game for the championship. All four games can be seen streaming at:

http://www.iihf.com/channels1011/ww18/live-stream.html

 Most pundits would agree that it is extremely unlikely for the Czech Republic to advance to Saturday's final, given that the U.S. women's program, on the elite level of the world, has so far outscored its opposition 28-1 in the tournament, including an 11-0 win over the Czechs in the tournament opener. In fact, it would be a surprise if they finish better than fourth place. However, that would still make it the best finish ever by a Czech women's team at a world championship tournament at any level, which is an encouraging sign.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Czech U20 men barely beat Germany to avoid relegation, U18 women start 0-2

Ondřej Palát scores his first of 2 to tie the game. Photo:
Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images.
We know for sure now that the Czech Republic will appear at next year's World Junior Championship in Calgary and Edmonton, AB. By virtue of their 3-2 win over Germany on Sunday night, they can finish no worse than eighth at this year's tournament. But they didn't make things easy on themselves.

For the first time in the tournament, the Czech team didn't score the first goal. After a scoreless first period, Germany's Norman Hauner beat Filip Novotný early in the second to open the scoring. Michal Hlinka then tied it for the Czechs on a power-play five minutes later to tie the score.

Despite going 0-4 in Group A, Germany was not blown out in any game, and they hung around in this one as well. In fact, early in the third period, Marius Mochel scored to give the Germans a 2-1 lead. As the period reached the halfway point, the score remained unchanged. Then they received some help from an unlikely source. Ondřej Palát scored his first goal of the tournament with 9:16 remaining to tie the score. Then, as overtime loomed, Palát scored again with exactly 1:00 to play in regulation time to give the Czechs the 3 points they needed to clinch a berth in next year's tournament.

The Czech Republic was once again led by captain Jakub Jeřábek in this game. The 19-year-old defenceman from Plzeň 1929 chipped in with 2 assists and has been their best player all tournament.

Had they lost Sunday, the Czech Republic would have needed a win on Tuesday against Slovakia to avoid relegation. Now the game will merely determine who finishes seventh and eighth. Last year, the teams faced an identical situation, and the Czechs won to get seventh place and the 2-3-6-7 group for this year's tournament, which turned out to be a lot stronger than the 1-4-5-8 group that Slovakia got into. Of course, being that the top six positions of this tournament haven't been determined yet, there's no way to say which is preferable at this point. The fifth teams in each group for next year will be Denmark and Latvia, to be determined randomly.

Sweden scores against the Czechs at the Women's U18
Championships in Stockholm. Photo: Matthew
Murnaghan / HHOF-IIHF Images.
The Czech women's U18 team has lost its first two games at the 2011 IIHF Women's U18 World Championship in Stockholm, Sweden, but they still have a good shot at the quarter-finals. They were blown out 11-0 by the USA in the opener on Saturday, and then lost a tight game, 3-2 to the host Swedes on Sunday. The Czechs were outshot in the game 42-28, but stayed with the Swedes thanks to the netminding of Veronika Hladíková. Kateřina Solničková gave the Czechs the lead in the first period and then, trailing 2-1 in the dying seconds of the second period, Kateřina Kaplanová scored a buzzer-beater to tie the score. Lina Backlin scored the winning goal for the Swedes at 7:26 of the third period.

Despite the loss, the close showing against one of the world's leading women's teams is a considerable accomplishment for the Czech Republic, whose women's hockey program is trying to catch up to the powers of Europe. They will play their final group game on Tuesday against Japan, with the winner clinching third place and a spot in the quarter-finals.