ZURICH-KLOTEN – The last time the Czech Republic won World Championship gold was 2005. Quite conveniently, it was the last time Josef Vasicek was a member of the national team. Fast forward four years and he’s looking to add another gold to his trophy case.
The Czechs are off to a 2-0 start with a showdown against Finland on Wednesday in the final game of the Preliminary Round for both teams.
The Czechs are, of course, featuring Jaromir Jagr, who remains incredibly talented and the most recognizable player on the team. But the Czech Republic also has many quality skaters who have already chipped in over the first two games of the tournament. As testament to that fact, it is not Jagr who is leading their team in scoring, it’s Petr Cajanek.
There seems to be a good mix of players on the roster.
“We know each other for a long time so it’s the reason we have gotten off to a good start but it is still early in the tournament and the good games are coming soon.” Said Vasicek.
The Czechs have been able to move the puck well on the power play. As a result, they have been incredibly effective of taking advantage of their chances, boasting a 42% power play that is second in the tournament.
“We got great guys on the power play and so far have been generating a lot of chances which is great to see,” said Vasicek. “The power play will be huge down the road but we have to make sure we work on our shorthanded effectiveness because that too will be a big factor in the very important games.”
The 2005 World Championship was held as the NHL season was scrapped due to the lockout. That meant more NHL players were available to take part in the tournament. The Czechs were no exception as they were loaded with top players, including Jagr, Martin Straka, Vaclav Prospal, and Martin Rucinsky.
In the final against Canada in Vienna, Vasicek scored a shorthanded goal to close out scoring for the Czechs as they won 3-0. It was his first and only goal of the tournament. The Czechs won their first title since 2001 and ended Canada’s two-year World Championship reign.
“It was a great experience with a great finish that I will never forget,” said Vasicek, who now plays for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in the KHL. “It was different because it was during the lockout and all the guys from the NHL could play. It was a great tournament with plenty of great memories.”
The contrast of styles between Finland and the Czech Republic will make for a fascinating game. Vasicek knows now that each game from here on out is of supreme importance in terms of standing.
“Finland skates up and down so it will be tough,” he said. “We have to keep in to five-on-five situation and not give up any bad penalties. It will be an interesting game.”