Kubalik on fire
by Derek O'Brien|21 MAY 2023
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Matt Zambonin

Czech winger Dominik Kubalik has been on fire at the 2023 IIHF World Championship. After recording 10 points in his first four games, he scored his seventh goal in the first period of game five against Norway, making it the fewest games it’s ever taken a Czech player to reach that number in a single tournament.

“It’s nice, but I’ll appreciate it later,” Kubalik said when informed of his milestone after Czechia’s 2-0 win. “I hope I’m not done and I continue to do well. I’m not going to change anything and I hope it continues for me and the others.”

Kubalik was also happy to score on his wife Klara’s birthday, and she was in attendance with other family members.

“I wanted to give her a present. I think the goal and the win did it,” he said. About having family present in Riga, he said: “It's great to have those closest to you around. I don’t want to be alone. I like to put hockey out of my head, go to a cafe and talk about something else with them. I’m glad we could win for them.”

This is Kubalik’s fourth World Championship and he’s shown a knack for putting up points in all of them. His first two World Championships were in 2018 and 2019 before he went to the NHL while he was playing for Ambri-Piotta in Switzerland, and he scored at better than a point-per-game pace. Before this season, he had 26 points in 26 career games.

Kubalik missed last year’s Worlds but this year he’s back, apparently better than ever, following his first season with the Detroit Red Wings. Unlike when he played the full season in Europe, he doesn’t get the benefit of international breaks with the Czech national team.

“I’m trying to get ready but overall, the style we play it’s no different for me so I’m just trying to get used to my shot, playing on the first unit and first line. That always helps,” the 27-year-old said.

A big reason for the number of goals Kubalik has scored this season is playing on the top forward line and power-play unit with centre Roman Cervenka. The playmaking captain has drawn the primary assist on most of his goals, and the two have shown remarkable chemistry despite no previous history.

“It is actually the first time we’ve played together,” Kubalik said about Cervenka, “but there are a lot of guys I’ve played with before so I’m happy that the chemistry is there.”

The third spot on the top line has not been constant due to several injuries on the team. At the start it was Filip Chytil but he got hurt early in the second game against Kazakhstan. Lukas Sedlak stepped in and played very well until he chipped a bone in his foot the next game against Latvia. Both players are now out of the tournament. Since then, Michael Spacek and Vladimir Sobotka have both taken turns with Kubalik and Cervenka.

“That’s an unfortunate part of it. Injuries happen and you have to be ready for it,” Kubalik reasoned. “Of course, it’s a really big shame for those guys because they were playing well and it always sucks to get hurt. But for our team, we’ve got a lot of guys, a lot of talent in our room, so there are no problems.”

About quickly finding chemistry with new linemates, he said: “You have to. There’s no other way so you’ve just got to get ready and get used to it as quick as possible.”

Kubalik seems to be able to do that. Thanks in part to his offensive contributions, Czechia has now qualified for the quarter-finals.

“That’s the thing we wanted,” he said. “Now we have two games coming up that will be a big test.”

After playing Norway on Saturday, the Czechs have a quick turnaround and a game against undefeated Switzerland on Sunday. They then finish up the group stage on Tuesday against Canada. The order those three teams finish at the top of Group B will likely be decided in those games.

“My main focus is going to be on my body and get ready for tomorrow because it’s going to be a big game and it’s back-to-back, so I’m pretty sure that we need to be ready.”