Czechs off to semis in historic win
by Liz Montroy|01 SEP 2022
Czechia's Daniela Pejsova celebrates her 1-0 goal against Finland.
photo: Andrea Cardin / HHOF-IIHF Images
Aneta Tejralova scored within the first minute of overtime to send Czechia to the semi-finals in a 2-1 win over Finland, a tight and highly anticipated match-up. This is the first time Czechia has ever qualified for the semi-finals, and the first time that Finland will not play for a medal on the final day of the Women’s World Championship.

Like in all of their other meetings at the World Championships, the first period was scoreless. These teams have played each other three times before (all in the quarterfinals), in 2016, 2019, and 2021. Finland came out the winner in all three, but as the years went by, Czechia continued to close the gap; while they lost 5-0 in 2016, in 2021 the score was just 1-0. Klara Peslarova was in the net for Czechia for each of these games, and got the start again in Frederikshavn.

The Czechs had control of the first 10 minutes, with Adela Sapovalivova putting a target on her back with a few chances in front of Finland’s net. The latter half of the first period belonged to Finland however, with the Finns pouncing on a number of Czech giveaways and finding ways to get open in front of Peslarova. Elisa Holopainen, Finland’s leading scorer in the preliminary round, looked particularly threatening with a number of high quality chances.
Finland vs Czechia (QF) - 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey Women's World Championship
FIN CZE 01 SEP 2022
Shots were even at nine all heading into the second period, another 20 minutes of opportunities at both ends of the ice. Both teams’ penalty kill units were put to use in the second, with Peslarova and Finnish goalkeeper Anni Keisala making saves off of scrambles in the crease.

"[The Finns] play really good in front of the net, they make the traffic and everything so it was hard to see the puck," said Peslarova. "My defence are really good players and helped me to block the shots. They always yell at me where is the puck, or I can say to them 'where’s the puck?'. Communication was the key for today’s game."

Defender Daniela Pejsova gave Czechia a 1-0 lead at 37:00. Jumping up into Finland’s zone, she received a pass from captain Alena Mills with her back to the net, and spun around to face Keisala and score her fourth of the tournament. 

"We have a signal, so I’m sliding from the blueline in front of the net, but it didn’t work out," said Pejsova. "But then I ended up in front of the net in the middle and then I saw the puck, so I just turned and I just shoot it because that’s what our coach told me to do."

Finland started the third period with 56 seconds remaining on a power play, their best scoring chance coming from Holopainen. The Czechs nearly saw their one goal lead disappear a few moments after another successful penalty kill when Peslarova got tangled up with several players in the crease, sprawling on her back and leaving the top of the net wide open.

A delayed penalty call gave Noora Tulus an opportunity to jump on a pass from Holopainen and put Finland on the board.

"What's wrong with a tie game? Nothing. [Finland is] one of the best in the world, so you can't waiver to the scoreboard, up or down," said Czechia head coach Carla MacLeod. "That was a really important piece. There was a nervousness for them, so at that point it's important to stablizie and be like, we are okay, because we were okay. It was a competitive game and that's all we can ask for. That's what we wanted to be in."

With the game tied at 1-1, Finland seemed to have found an extra gear. Peslarova made a big save on a breakaway from Petra Nieminen, who found another scoring opportunity a few moments later, but was stopped by Dominika Laskova, who took a penalty for interfering with Nieminen.

"Honestly we were really happy to get that goal," said Finnish captain Jenni Hiirikoski. "I think we created a lot of chances, but there was two good goalies in both nets today and they both did an awesome job, so it was small margins today."

The game headed to extra time, and Czechia's Tejralova gave her team a historic victory by scoring just 41 seconds in, her first goal of the tournament. 

"I was actually on the ice still," Czechia's Natalie Mlynkova said about what she remembers about the goal. "[Tejralova] read the play very well. She got the pass and I was actually so surprised she shot the puck. She said she was about to pass it for a rebound or something. I was just behind her and I had the best view in the house."

The entire Czech bench piled onto the ice as the buzzer sounded, celebrating what is a monumental moment for Czechia's women's ice hockey program.

"Just playing for this team and playing with those girls every single camp, every tournament, it’s actually unbelievable how much fun we have," said Mlynkova. "I believe that as a little country we can do great things and big things, and I think it was time because we have a talented team."

"I’m just thrilled for the group," said MacLeod. "There’s players that have been here for 10, 15 years trying to make that step to the next level and they accomplished a huge thing last year qualifying for the Olympics, but it’s a driven group and they want more and they wanted more. It’s just neat to be a part of it, and hopefully in a way or two help them see their own potential. That’s kind of been the objective of our staff, for [the players] to see how great they are. We helped them play to their strengths, because that’s what you need in these events. To me I’m pretty lucky that myself and our staff had a front row seat to them earning this opportunity and I couldn’t be more proud of them."

Czechia joins Switzerland and the United States in the semi-finals on Saturday, with their exact opponent yet to be determined, as teams will be reseeded following the last quarter-final (Canada-Sweden). Finland will play in placement games on Saturday in an attempt to finish in fifth place.

Finland vs Czechia (QF) - 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey Women's World Championship