The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/30/11 at 09:16 PM ET
Updated 4x with Mrazek called “disgusting” by Team USA’s Jason Zucker at 8:32 PM: You might be wondering who the masked man who just stopped 52 of 54 shots and helped the Czech Republic defeat Team USA 5-2 (link to recap which includes embedded highlights) at the World Junior Championships might be.
Petr Mrazek currently tends goal for the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s, and while his goals-against isn’t exactly pretty, he’s won 16 times while backstopping a team that admittedly plays “run and gun” hockey—kind of like the hockey the Czechs played against the Americans—and the Red Wings very astutely picked Mrazek with the 141st overall pick of the 2010 Entry Draft. The Wings were already planning
on signing Mrazek and
having him turn pro with the Grand Rapids Griffins next season, but today’s performance might have added a bigger rookie bonus to the contract
he’ll ink sooner than later
he’s already signed .
The level-headed and ever-smiling youngster actually didn’t play on last year’s Czech World Junior team because he’d been “blacklisted” by the Czech Republic’s Ice Hockey Federation for choosing to play in the CHL instead of playing for HC Vitkovice in the Czech Extraliga (one might recall Slavomir Lener’s rant about the CHL being the damnation of the Czechs’ junior program at the World Hockey Summit, and Mrazek being requested to pay several hundred thousand dollars to buy his way out of his rights-holder’s contract had something to do with that speech), so it speaks to Mrazek’s maturity that he let bygones be bygones and jumped at the chance to play for the Czech Republic this time around…
But Red Wings director of player development and Czech junior team assistant coach Jiri Fischer made an ironic comment about Mrazek’s status as an unheralded goaltender going into the tournament while speaking to the Score’s Justin Bourne:
Mrazek hasn’t gotten the attention that the goalies of other top countries have, but asked if his abilities weren’t being properly recognized at the tournament Fischer was succinct: “We know the strength of Petr and whatever everybody else thinks that’s their decision.”
I guess “everybody else” thinks that he’s pretty decent after today’s performance.
Update: The Edmonton Journal’s Mitch Goldberg was thinking the same thing:
Three games, two wins, one shutout and countless fist pumps. That’s all it took for Petr Mrazek to earn the crowd’s affection here at the World Junior Hockey Championships. Nobody in this tournament so far has captured the fans’ attention more so than the Czech Republic’s 19-year old goaltender, who led the team to a berth in the quarter-finals after a gigantic 5-2 win over the Americans. Mrazek’s lightening quick reflexes, astonishing consistency and passionate exuberance has captured the spotlight in his first World Junior Hockey Championships.
“I’m just glad to be here,” he says. “It’s such a great opportunity to be the number one goaltender and I’m loving it.”
Mrazek left the Czech Republic in 2009 to come to Canada and play in the Ontario Hockey League with one year remaining on his Czech league contract. The Czech hockey federation was furious, and barred Mrazek from participating in this tournament for the past two years. This year, they let reason triumph emotion, and boy has it paid off. Mrazek has made a tremendous mark over the last five days. Beginning with a shutout over Denmark (something that the Canadians nor the U.S. could do) followed by a 33-save performance in a losing cause against Canada. Then he created waves when, after stopping Mark Stone on a penalty shot, triggered his arms in a joyful celebration earning him boos and disgust from the Canadian crowd.
Today, however, it was a different story. With the game on the line, American forward Josh Archibald came in alone on a penalty shot, and to the crowd’s pleasure Mrazek turned the shot aside and engaged in a similar celebration. This time, they loved it. Following the Czechs’ fourth goal, a pile-up of happy Czechs slid its way into the Czech zone, and Mrazek turned on the jets, skated full speed towards the pile and leaped into the madness. The crowd roared again.
With time winding down and Team USA’s net empty, Mrazek fired a shot from behind his own net that flipped past the American defenders and sailed towards the yawning net. The crowd leaped from their seats, their anticipation building… could this be happening? Not quite. As the puck skidded just inches wide of the net, they remained standing and gave Mrazek a hefty applause.
Following the game, “Mrazek” chants filled the arena and the jubilant goalie saluted the crowd and hopped into the boards like he just couldn’t handle himself.
“I started playing goalie when I was four,” he said. “My parents told me that I would just leave by blocker and catcher on in the house, I wouldn’t take them off.”
Update #2: Mrazek’s style apparently received some criticism earlier on, according to Yahoo Sports’ Neate Sager…
Update #3: Here’s what Mrazek had to say about his team’s win and his performance while speaking to the Canadian Press:
“I was so focused before the game because it was the America and I’m playing in [North] American hockey,” said Mrazek, with the Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario Hockey League. “I wanted to win this game. The guys helped me a lot in the zone, with rebounds. It’s a win for the team.”
Mrazek shone earlier in the tournament in a 5-0 loss to Canada. The win put the 2-1 Czechs in second place in Pool B but they can’t catch Canada. They wrap up the preliminary round against Finland on Saturday while Canada plays the U.S.
U.S. forward Jason Zucker said the loss was stunning.
“No words can describe it,” said Zucker. “We played a fantastic game tonight. I thought we played outstanding. Usually if you get 54 shots in a game you give yourself a damn good chance to win [but] hats off to them. They played well and their goalie played great.”
“I don’t really know what to say,” said [JT] Miller. “We hit three posts, so I guess it just wasn’t our day I guess. It’s not like we played bad and got beat up on. We played our best and it still wasn’t enough, which is just really upsetting.”
Update #4: According to the CBC’s Tim Wharnsby, the U.S. really hates Mrazek’s antics:
Petr Mrazek dropped his knee to the ground and pumped his blocker.
The Ottawa 67’s goalie did it again. Just like he stopped Canadian Mark Stone on a penalty shot two nights earlier, the 19-year-old from the Czech Republic turned the trick again on United States forward Josh Archibald early in the third period on Friday. Mrazek was ecstatic and exhibited his excitement with his celebration. The 14,733 onlookers at Rexall Place shared in the youngster’s jubilation. A minute later Czech Petr Holik would put his team in front for good en route to a stunning 5-2 victory.
The loss meant the U.S. had been purged from the medal round at the 2012 world under-20 championship and meant Canada had a spot in the tournament semifinals in Calgary on Tuesday. It also meant the Canada-U.S. on New Year’s Eve will be a meaningless affair in terms of tournament standings.
“No words can describe it,” U.S. captain Jason Zucker said. “We played a fantastic game. I thought we played outstanding. Usually, if you get 54 shots in a game you give yourself a damn good chance to win that game. Hats off to them. They played well. Their goalie played great.”
Mrazek, a Detroit Red Wings prospect, skated a victory lap after his 52-save effort. But his antics on the penalty shot didn’t sit well with Zucker and his teammates.
“Disgusting,” he said. “They didn’t have the game won at that time. Ridiculous.”
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.