The Czech Republic defeated the Finnish National Junior team 3-1 at the World Junior Championship in Russia last night on the strength of a breakout goal by Tomáš Hyka and a power play goal by Marek Hrbas during the first period of the game. The quick 2-0 start to the game was precisely what the Czechs needed after falling into a 2-0 hole against Sweden in the opening match of the tournament.
The Finns tried their best to dig their way out of the first period gap, and at times created wonderful scoring opportunities that came close to tying the game. What prevented the Finns from doing so stemmed more from the solid and sound game from the Czech defense than from a lack of effort or execution on the part of Finland. Several plays were smothered by defenseman David Musil and the final push by the Finns to tie the game was denied in large part because of Musil’s presence on the ice. Every Czech defender played well on both ends of the ice. Hrbas deflected Petr Šidlík ‘s shot from the point on the power play, and the defenseman had a handful of other opportunities to add to the scoreboard.
Finland managed to narrow the Czech lead to one in the second period when Teuvo Teravainen put his team on the board but even that goal barely made it into the net. The played started when Teravainen received the puck in front of the net. With Czech defenders hovering, Teravainen only managed to get a weak shot on net and he was very lucky to score a goal on the play. It was the last goal that the Finns managed to score.
The Finns pulled goaltender Joonas Korpisalo with 1:17 left in the game, and called a time-out with 28 seconds left in the game but it was to no avail. The Czechs kept Finland from creating any serious opportunities during the final moments of the game and handed Finland its first loss of the tournament. For Finland, the result was a step back after its 5-1 victory over Latvia but this game served as a positive step in the right direction for the Czech Republic.
Not only did the team win the game, the young players also played a more solid and less nervous game than they did in their Boxing Day loss to Sweden. From the Czech point of view, the solid two-way game was exactly what the team needs in order to make some noise in the tournament. If players like Musil continue to make their presence felt on the ice, the Czech Republic will go home with good news for its fans. The Czechs now have a few days off in preparation for its final round robin match against Latvia on December 30th.