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Day Two at the WJC: Czechs topple Danes

December 28, 2011

The Czech Republic took down a beleaguered Danish squad last night. (photo: ČTK)

Let’s focus on what will be my bread and butter in this tournament: the Czech Republic and Slovakia. In the coming 10 days, I hope to provide comprehensive coverage on the teams’ progress in the WJC (or “MS” as they are better known in the Czech and Slovak lands).

In what seems to becoming the status quo in Alberta, the Czechs beat Team Denmark by the sizable margin of 7-0 last night in Edmonton, with Petr Mrazek delivered a perfect, albeit not entirely difficult to achieve, shutout. But it wouldn’t be fair to say this win was anything ordinary or unimportant. On the contrary, the Czechs’ efforts to stave off relegation at this World Junior tournament are of monumental importance. Last night was a great start.

Indeed, Czech newspaper IDNES went so far as to coin it a povedený vstup in its headline. Or, an “hilarious entrance.”  Seven goals–hilarious? I am not too sure. The Czechs were like a coffee maker in this first game–they were tentative about the task at hand initially, slow to start, slow to get the water to the right temperature. But by the second period, all systems were “go,” the coffee had been ground, and they were ready to roll. Defensively, they looked quite strong. Certainly stronger than the Russians in the match they played against the Swiss two days ago. Offensively, they have a enough pop to get the job done. Even if most of their goals were ugly, coming out of disorganized scrambles, Tomas Hertl, Dmitrij Jaskin and Radek Faksa et alii proved last night they are capable. In a post-game interview, head coach Přerost noted that this year’s team is stronger. He said the Finns lost because they played timidly against Canada, and that his team will need to play “boldly” against the host country.

And so, tonight, the Czechs face Team Canada. I don’t know if I’d predict an upset. But, I think the Czechs could be a surprising team in this tournament. The absence of Martin Frk and their poor performance last winter have led many to doubt the team. But the strength of their goaltending in Mrazek and the offensive punch and puck-moving of their defensemen (Daniel Krejci is a revelation), give them a sound chance.

In the day’s only other match, Slovak squeaked past Latvia just barely, handily beating them, 3-1. They skated well and handled the neutral zone effectively, getting energy from Martin Marincin and Tomas Jurco only later in the game’s second half.

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