The Czechs and Slovaks faced off on Wednesday night in a game as much for pride as it was for fifth place of the World Junior Championship. It would turn out to be a 5-2 decision in favour of the Czech’s, contributing to the ongoing rivalry between the two countries.
“That’s a big rivalry. Everyone want to win and be first in the middle of Europe. We win so that’s good for us,” said Czech backstop, Petr Mrazek, with 29 saves in the win.
The Czech’s came out full-steam ahead, putting up three goals in the first that the Slovak’s would be unable to overcome.
Daniel Krejci, Petr Holik, Dominik Uher and Vojtech Mozik each chipped in two points for the Czechs while Milos Bubela had two for the Slovaks.
Mrazek, one of the hidden gems to emerge from this year’s World Juniors said the fifth place finish is a bit of let-down after their impressive preliminary round.
“If someone would tell us before the tournament that we would be fifth place we would take it but it’s really disappointing after the Russian game.” The Czech's suffered a devastating 2-1 OT loss to Russia in the quarter-finals, in which Mrazek made 43 saves.
The animated Mrazek, well-known for his fist pumping antics following a big save, had an incredible tournament for the Czechs. Logging a .928 save percentage while facing 208 shots over all six games played for the Czechs, he is sure to be a contender for the tournament’s top goaltender.
“I think it was a very good tournament for me, the best one I had. Something special for me, you know my last chance to play here (WJC).”
A fifth round draft pick by the Detroit Red Wings in 2010, his world juniors debut will no doubt boost the reputation of this prospect.
Drawing comparisons to retired Czech goaltender, Dominik Hasek after his stellar Dec 30th performance against the Americans, where he stopped 52 of 54 shots on goal en-route to a 5-2 Czech upset.
“Dominik Hasek for everybody was a hero in the Czech Republic. He won Nagano (1998 Winter Olympics), he won Stanley Cups, I like him but I didn’t like his style, it wasn’t my style.”
As to which NHL goaltender Mrazek looks up to, he responded “my goalie coach from Ottawa says I look like Marc-Andre Fleury. I like Marc he is playing very well, so maybe him.”
Mrazek has been with the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s since 2009, putting up big numbers ever-since his North American debut.
“That was my decision with my parents. My dream was play North American hockey and try to be drafted by the NHL.”
This offbeat goaltender also wears #2, a rather unusual number in the world of goalkeepers, but there is a simple explanation for that.
“They didn’t have chance to make a new jersey for me with my number so they ordered the number before I was allowed to play for national team, that was three weeks before the tournament.”
The bronze medal game between Canada and Finland will take place tomorrow at 1:30pm MST while Sweden and Russia go for gold at 6:00pm (MST).Author: Avery Buye