Cervenka orchestrates Czech win
by Andy POTTS|18 MAY 2024
Czechia's Lukas Sedlak slots home the opening goal in Saturday night's victory over Great Britain.
Saturday night is party night in Prague and the Czech national team played its part with a comfortable victory over Great Britain. A four-point game from captain Roman Cervenka led Czechia to a 4-1 scoreline and keeps the host nation atop the Group A standings.

The big news pre-game was Martin Necas’s arrival on the Czech roster. He lined up for his country here just 41 hours after his Carolina Hurricanes came out of the NHL playoffs against the Rangers.

With the host nation already on a high, the addition of a livewire forward with 9 (4+5) points in 11 playoff games added a new dimension. For Necas himself, it’s a rare World Championship outing. The 25-year-old last played in this tournament in 2018, having also featured in that year’s World Juniors.

"It’s something you don’t get to do every year," he said. "It feels special, that’s why I’m here. that’s why I got here so quick. Playing a home World Championship might happen only once in your hockey career."

However, it was evergreen captain Cervenka who dominated this game. The 38-year-old had four assists, two of them on goals for Lukas Sedlak, to lead his team to victory.

"He's a leader for a reason," said defender Radko Gudas. "He’s one of the best players on the team. He makes us happy, he’s doing well, he’s leading these young guys in the right way.

"It's very special to have him in the group, feeling this well and playing this hockey."

Czechia wasted no time imposing itself on this game. After two minutes, Roman Cervenka burst clear of the British defence in a repeat of his raid in the opening seconds. He was denied the first time, but take two saw Ben Bowns’ poke check drop for Sedlak to open the scoring.

A couple of minutes later it was 2-0. Jakub Krejcik had all the space he could wish for to unleash a wrister and Ondrej Kase screened Bowns as the puck ripped into the net.

Then Necas started to show why the Czechs were eager to get him on the first flight home. In the sixth minute, he circled into position and produced a fiery shot that Bowns blocked over the glass. Moments later we saw the Carolina forward’s nifty skating to good effect, cutting a swathe through a punch-drunk GB defence only for Bowns to make yet another big save. In between, Libor Hajek dinged the iron.

There was a danger that things could quickly get ugly for the Brits, but some inspired goaltending by Bowns, coupled with a successive penalty kill, offered something to cling onto. Although the Czechs were dominant, they couldn’t add to their early goals. Then, late in the first, a British power play posed some questions of Lukas Dostal when he was called into action by Robert Dowd and Evan Mosey.

"They came out flying and we were a little flat footed," admitted British defender Ben O'Connor. "They got two quick goals and that really woke us up, but after that I thought we did well. 

"They’re a top five nation and we showed we can play with them at times."

The second period began with two more quick goals. The Czechs struck after just 36 seconds when Cervenka and Sedlak executed a perfect two-on-one break.

This time, though, Britain found a swift response. Another power play presented an opportunity and some terrific play from Liam Kirk saw the Litvinov forward force Radko Gudas to open up a lane. A feed to the doorstep invited Evan Mosey to apply the finishing touch.

That might have sparked the Czechs’ own power play into life. Running a moderate 3-from-14 ahead of this game, a swift bit of tic-tac-toe produced a goal 11 seconds after Dowd sat for tripping. Inevitably, Cervenka was involved as another Litvinov man, Ondrej Kase, finish it off as a reward after drawing the initial foul.

After that, Britain found it tough to generate more offence, something not lost on Gudas.

"I liked our whole effort," he said. "We were responsible, we were there for each other. We took some penalties that should not happen, I don't think those are in our DNA. But we held our ground and didn't let them have too many opportunities."

There was no doubt about the eventual outcome of the game, but there was still time to see if Necas could mark his first appearance with a goal. He remained lively throughout the game and had a couple more good looks. However, Britain’s impressive Bowns completed 41 saves on the night to hold the Czech offence at bay through the final, goalless frame.
Czechia vs Great Britain - 2024 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship