Tomas Plekanec potted three goals for the Czech Republic at the 2006 Worlds, including this critical tally in the semi-final game against Finland.
MONTREAL - It may not have been the souvenir they were hoping to bring back from the 2006 World Hockey Championship in Riga, Lativia, but Canadiens Jan Bulis and Tomas Plekanec proudly returned home to their native Czech Republic with silver medals around their necks.
Without top guns like Jaromir Jagr, Patrik Elias and Milan Hejduk at their disposal, the Czechs scratched and clawed their way to the gold medal final before being blanked 4-0 by Sweden on Sunday. Plekanec was among a handful of youngsters afforded an opportunity in the absence of the big names that did not make the trip to Riga.
The 23-year-old native of Kladno ended up with three goals, just one shy of the team scoring lead, while maintaining a team-high plus-two rating. None of Plekanec's goals was any bigger than his shorthanded effort in the semi-finals, a tally that sent the Czechs on their way to both a 3-1 victory over Finland and a berth in the goal medal game.
Plekanec looked right at home on the World stage despite having limited previous international hockey experience. He had made a pair of trips to the World Juniors with the Czechs, winning a gold medal in 2001.
It's been a busy year for Bulis on the international stage; the Pardubice native recently made his Czech Republic debut at the 2006 Olympics in Turin this past February, helping lead the Czechs to a bronze medal. An unrestricted free agent as of July 1, Bulis was held off the scoresheet in nine games at the World Championship.
Despite losing only one game heading into the gold medal final, the reigning champion Czechs came up just short of their first back-to-back world titles since winning three consecutive gold medals from 1999 through 2001.
The 2007 World Hockey Championship will make its way to Russia next spring.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com.