by Lisa McRitchie on 01/03/12 at 06:00 AM ET
It was a battle of the goaltenders, nearly staring each other down from opposite ends of the ice. For the Czech Republic their goaltender Petr Mrazek was named player of the game as the Czechs lost to Canada 5-0, and the for the Russians Andrei Vasilevski has allowed only 4 goals on 121 shots. Vasilevski had not allowed a goal until the Saturday night game against Sweden. And now, they meet on the ice.
Jakub Culek of the Czech Republic’s goal was the first goal of the game, but and equalizing goal from Russia’s Dani Apalkov was scored soon after. And this concluded the scoring summary for regulation time.
In the overtime period, once again the team’s goaltenders stole the show and made the two teams appear very well matched. But it was an unseen high stick that from Russian Nikita Kucherov on Czech defenceman Daniel Krejci that would have the biggest impact on the game. While Krejci lay sprawled on the ice, Grigor Zheldakov scored the game winner.
Jiri Fischer, former NHLer, is currently working for the Detroit Red Wings in player development and at the same time is assistant coach for the Czech Republic World Juniors team. It is Fischer who addressed the media after this tough loss for his team.
To Fischer, goaltender Mrazek “Kept us in the game. He was pretty much the main reason why the score was so tight in the second period.” For Fischer, whose face could not hide the disappointment felt by the team, this game was “Just a pretty emotional tough loss for the boys.”
For Russian head coach Valeri Bragin speaking through the team’s translator, the pride and confidence in his tem was apparent. “I think that today was a real deserved victory for us, so we just worked hard to win. It was a very tough game.”
Bragin was eager to begin talking about his team’s next matchup, Canada. “We know everything about Canada and they know everything about us. They basically have one friendly game against the United States because they took first place in their group we played two hard games, but only tomorrow who show who has the advantage. We have a practice and they have a rest so we shall see what will help more.”
Bragin is not the only one to speak with confidence about Russia’s performance; Nail Yakapov had some strong words on the game against the Czechs. “Our goalie is better, we win. We scored two. Our goalie is better.” Stated Yakapov, and more than once.
The arena had been filled with cheers for the Czech Republic and Yakapov and his team heard them. “Every fan just say Czech Republic, Czech Republic and I don’t know why. I think because we’re better and stronger and we’re the best team in the World Juniors. So, we don’t care, we don’t need the fans we have the team.” Best Team at the World Juniors? That is yet to be seen, and Russia first has to get past Canada. “We’re pretty excited and we want to beat Canada and we have everything,” says Yakapov. They certainly have confidence.
This was Edmonton Oilers’ draft pick David Musil’s first game in Calgary for the World Juniors. Musil played some heavy minutes and was a key factor in his team’s defence. Musil is still a young defenceman and playing for the Vancouver Giants, this tournament is an all new challenge and one that means a lot to him.
Musil was quick to speak of the outstanding play of goaltender Mrazek, but unfortunately, goaltending was not enough. “It would have been nice to win the game not just for [Mrazek] but for the whole country.”
Fischer is able to start looking ahead to the Czech Republic’s next game which will be Thursday night against the Slovakians. “There’s certainly lots of rivalry with the Czech republic,” states Fischer. “[Slovakia] is probably our biggest rival since we broke into two countries, and for next year.”
While the Russians walk away with dreams of a second gold medal win, the Czechs are left to think about next year and what might have been and begin plans for next year.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
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