It may not be the most important competition for US fans, but the Czech Republic will go insane if they get beat the USA this Thursday.
It’s been 6 long years since the Czech Republic last took home a medal from the Hockey World Championships but a subtle sense of optimism has been slowly developing among Czech hockey fans of late. In 2012, the Czechs lost to Slovakia in the semis before beating Finland in the bronze medal match. This time around, the Czechs are quietly hoping for even more.
Standing in their way are team USA, who despite getting turned over by Finland in their last match are always a huge threat and one of the tournament favourites.
The Czechs started off a little inconsistently, losing to the old nemesis, Sweden before narrowly beating Switzerland. The last few matches have seen a big turnaround with David Pastrňák and David Krejčí being introduced to the team after the Boston Bruins exited the Stanley Cup.
The Main Men:
Team USA: Patrick Kane
Patrick Kane isn’t usually a regular at the annual IIHF World Championships because he’s often on a lengthy playoff run with the Chicago Blackhawks.
This year, however, the Blackhawks failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup, so Kane decided to support his country and the fans are sure glad he did, as on Tuesday he broke the record for most points recorded by an American in a single tournament. Kane scored a goal and added an assist in his team’s group finale against Finland, bringing his tournament totals to six goals and 11 assists. The previous record was 16 points set by Richard Roberge way back in 1962.
“It’s not a good feeling losing,” Kane said following the loss to Finland. “It could be good for us to make sure we won’t deal with this again and stay positive. We’re a good team, we’ve had a good tournament to this point. [The Czechs] have some talents, it will be a tough game against them.”
Team CZ: David Pastrnak
Bruins forward David Pastrnak had only just joined the Czech team last Thursday morning after being knocked out of the NHL playoffs by the Tampa Bay Lightning, but immediately made his presence felt in a 4-3 overtime victory against Russia. Pastrnak scored two goals, including the winner with 1:37 left in OT, and added one assist while Bruins teammate David Krejci finished with a goal and three assists.
Pastrnak is young and relatively experienced, but he’s also a great skater, skilled with the puck and a really strong player. The Bruins rate him highly and Team CZ will be hoping that he can put one over his NHL rivals in the American team.
The Czechs enter the IHFF quarters in third position, meaning they’ll face the USA who came second in theirs after that 6-2 loss to Finland.
Russia face Canada in what promises to be a pretty memorable match, whilst one of the favourites, Finland, face Switzerland and the Swedes line up against unfancied Latvia.
The game starts at 16:15 CET on Thursday 17th May
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