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WJC: Exhausted Czechs lose 4-0 to Finland

by Ryan Dittrick / Edmonton Oilers

Dec. 23 - Oscar Klefbom

Edmonton, AB - Following a spirited, emotional and overall entertaining 5-2 win over the Americans one night ago, there was little time to rest as the Czech Republic returned to battle in a 2pm start against Finland.

There was a lot on the line, too. The winner in this contest determined who would lock-up Group B's second spot, moving on to challenge Switzerland or Slovakia in the quarters. Third place would be awarded to the loser, who would move on in a head-to-head battle with a much more skilled opponent (Russia or Sweden).

This time, Czech hero Petr Mrazek was unable to celebrate.

Riding an emotional wave captured last night proved challenging, as the blue and white scored a pair in the opening period 4:35 apart to build a daunting two-goal advantage; it was too much to overcome, as the Czechs were unable to solve Finnish netminder Sami Aittokallio on 28 attempts, while the opponent tallied another late in the second and one more in the third to win 4-0.

Prior to puck drop, it was announced that shutdown rearguard and Oilers prospect David Musil would not be dressed. No. 6 took a solid hit in last night's game and skated to the bench in obvious distress midway through the game's second period. The 18-year-old returned to action without missing a beat, concluding his evening with one shot on goal and a team-best +3 rating.

Post-game, Musil understated his ailment and was mum with details, but it was clear that the lumbering blueliner was not at 100 percent. Under the circumstances in which he was hit and the word given to media, it appears as though Musil has endured a mild concussion.

He was unavailable to comment, but Assistant Coach Jiri Fischer did elaborate on the defenceman's condition.

"He got hit pretty hard and didn't see it coming," he explained, calling it a blindside hit in his post-game media scrum. "He improved overnight, but he still wasn't ready to go. We've got a resting day a tomorrow, a good practice day, and we'll see how he's going to be on the ice.

"Hopefully he'll be ready for the quarters (in Calgary)."

Finland opened the scoring at 11:44 when, with Radek Faksa in the box serving a tripping minor, Mikael Granlund and Teemu Pulkkinen connected, dishing to Alexander Ruutu at the doorstep who slammed the puck into the gaping cage behind the goalkeeper.

The Finns extended to a 2-0 lead when a series of Czech miscues led to an odd-man chance in the slot; three red-clad skaters engaged on Pulkkinen, leaving Miro Aaltonen alone to snap a redirected shot through Mrazek on his nation's 10 shot at 16:19.

With passion and energy largely vacant in the Czechs, the game remained close. Through 20 minutes, Finland held a slight 13-11 edge in attempts on goal.

While the middle period was duller than expected, Finland sealed the win and second-place in Group B when Joonas Donskoi cashed on a breakaway at 14:17, closing the door on a Czech comeback.

Teemu Pulkkinen scored another in the third to establish an eight-point tournament total (5G, 3A) through his team's four games to this point.

The Czech Republic recorded a mere seven shots in the third period, while Finland raced out to a 36-28 advantage.

"It was certainly very draining, emotionally," said Fischer, who wasn't especially surprised with this club's outing vs. Finland. "It wasn't easy to have the same head on the shoulders as yesterday, but I think it was a good learning experience, and we have to get better."

Next up, the Czechs will get a tough assignment: either Russia or Sweden will play host in the team's next test.

-- Ryan Dittrick, - Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick       

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