Day of quiet: New Year
Teams at the World Juniors practiced today, but no games were held. The Czechs arrive in 2012 off a loss to the Finns. It was a loss prompted by cumulative penalty mishaps. The Czechs are the most penalized team in the tournament thus far, and have manage to stave off worse damage by spending vast amounts of minutes shorthanded. It could only last so long. The shifty Finns were able to take advantage of this, and perhaps the fatigue from a tremendous win over the US. Their speed and ability to pick seams eliminated any shot the Czechs had. And in the topsy-turvy, emotional and quick-scoring World Juniors, it’s easy to get down by a trio of holes. It’s perhaps easier to come back, but not easy enough. The loss didn’t help the Czechs much, but having secured a berth, it wasn’t the end.
In an interview with Blesk, coach Miroslav Přerost simply said fatigue was the cause of his team’s failing. He said his team will be even more motivated against a tougher rival in the Russians. Moreover, he said the coaching staff’s familiarity with the Russian club–its tactics, its players–was far deeper and more nuanced than it might be against other nations. The Russians will be hard to beat, regardless. As the reigning champs, and a team with layers and layers of offensive pop, the Czech defense will need to be firing on all cylinders–ideally with David Musil, whose status for tomorrow remains unknown. The tragedy of this tournament is that we don’t know how many players may be returning to play with injuries they’d otherwise sit with on their home clubs. Alas, the expectation of Musil on the on the blueline awaits.
Thus, tomorrow, the Russians await the Czechs. Not for the first time.
The Slovaks will face Finland, who seem to finally be finding their scoring touch and having received outstanding goaltending from Sami Aitokallio. The Slovaks will need stout goaltending from Juraj Simboch, who has been more than serviceable thus far. Tack on the astounding four goal comeback against the Swiss, and, well anything could happen. But I think Finland has the better shot.