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Czechs solve Belarus puzzle

It took a while, but Jagr & Co. earn 3-0 victory

03-05-09
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Zurich  SWITZERLAND
The Czechs played great defence and permitted precious few scoring chances. Photo: Matthew Murnaghan / HHOF-IIHF Images

ZURICH-KLOTEN – Propelled by two goals in the second period, the Czechs beat Belarus 3-0 in Kloten tonight. The result leaves Belarus in fourth place in Group F, meaning it will now face Russia in one quarterfinal crossover game on either May 6 or May 7. The Czech Republic finish third in the group and will face an opponent in another quaterfinal that will be determined tomorrow.

 

"We knew if we lost we'd play Russia," admitted Josef Vasicek, "but there are also other good teams like Sweden and the U.S. and a couple of others, so that's not the only reason we wanted to win."

 

Petr Cajanek scored twice and Patrik Elias had the other. Jakub Stepanek earned the shutout by making just 18 stops.

 

Belarus frustrated the Czechs for much of the game, clogging five men in the centre-ice area and forcing the Czechs time and again to dump the puck in and give chase. More often than not it was Belarus that came away with possession. They also kept the Czechs to the outside and gave up few quality scoring chances.

 

"Their style is tough to play against," Vasicek said. "We had to just chip the puck in, but we were effective and Stepanek made all the stops he had to, and that gave us confidence.

 

 

It took half a game for the Czechs to score the game’s first goal, a short-handed marker at that. Petr Cajanek stole the puck in centre ice and skated down the left wing before ripping a slap shot beyond the reach of Vitali Koval.

Patrik Elias made it a 2-0 game late in the second period on a power play. At a sharp angle to Koval’s left, he took one shot and then knocked in the rebound with the goalie down and out.

The Czechs were more dominant in the third period and were able to penetrate the Belarus blueline more effectively. They scored their third goal on another power play. Ales Hemsky's one timer was stopped brilliantly by Koval, who kicked a pad high in the air to make the save, but Cajanek smacked the rebound home.

 

"The power play and penalty killing were the keys to the game," said Vasicek of the team's perfect killing of his team's six penalties.

 

Although the Belarusians kept the game close they generated few quality scoring chances. Czech goalie Jakub Stepanek was forced to make few quality saves and the Czechs, to their own defensive credit, didn’t give Belarus any hope for optimism during the night. The score was close, but the Czechs were markedly superior and were in control throughout.

ANDREW PODNIEKS

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