5 things we’ve learned about Czechia
by Lucas Aykroyd|14 JAN 2024
Captain Adela Sapovalivova (left) and assistant captain Tereza Plosova (right) are leaders on and off the ice for the successful Czech U18 team at the 2024 U18 Women's Worlds.
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Andrea Cardin
It is unknown whether coach Dusan Andrasovsky reinterpreted the “Great moments are born from great opportunity” dressing room speech from the 2004 movie Miracle before the Czechs upset Canada 4-2 in Saturday’s semi-finals.

It is, however, clear that the Czech players worked extremely hard to pull off the biggest shocker in the history of the IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship.

“Miracle” is the right word when your first win over Canada is a) in the medal round b) against the tournament’s top squad statistically through four games, and c) over the two-time defending champs.

Win or lose in Sunday’s gold medal showdown with the U.S., the Czechs – who claimed the bronze medal in 2008 and 2014 – have already achieved their best finish in history. 

Yet we’re not finished with spotlighting the historic success they’ve earned in Zug, Switzerland. Here are five things we’ve learned about Czechia.

1. The Czechs celebrate like no one else

If you thought this young team – featuring 13 players born in 2007 or later – whooped it up with unrestrained joy after downing Sweden 4-2 in the quarter-finals, they took it up a notch with their post-Canada dash down the hallway and full-throated singing in the room.
If they win the gold medal, you’ll be able to hear the victory cries in Prague.

2. Timing is everything in these tournaments

A Cinderella run appeared improbable for the Czechs early on. Not only did they blow a two-goal in their opening 3-2 loss to Finland, but they followed that up by losing 8-1 to Canada. How times have changed.

Captain Adela Sapovalivova, playing her third U18 Women’s Worlds, explained the shift in her team’s mindset: “I think the first game that we played against Canada, we were a bit scared, because it’s Canada, you know what I mean? It was hard to play with them because ‘they are Canada and we are Czechia.’ [Our current players] had never even won a quarter-final or anything like that. And then we had a bad first period. Also, in the second period we [allowed two shorthanded goals], so that sucked. But here, we just said before the game that we had nothing to lose. Just go and play and we will see.”

“I think we didn't have much luck in the 8-1 game,” added linemate Anezka Cabelova, who scored twice in the semi-final. “But now we played with our hearts and we sacrificed. We jumped to block shots! That’s what I think was a big difference.”

3. One line can carry you a long way

The Czechs emphasize that their current three-game winning streak is a team effort. And indeed, without goalie Aneta Senkova’s jaw-dropping 45-save performance against Canada, without big defensive plays from blueliner Adela Fromova, without timely secondary scoring from forwards Klaudie Slavickova and Linda Vocetkova, this might be a different story.
Still, the top line of Sapovalivova, Cabelova, and Tereza Plosova is clearly driving the bus. They’ve generated 11 of Czechia’s 17 goals to date. They’re all logging monster minutes, with Sapovalivova averaging 23:03 per game, Plosova 21:11, and Cabelova 21:04. Is their best yet to come?

“We play so many minutes, but we are really good friends off the ice, and I think you can see it on the ice,” Sapovalivova said. “We talk a lot together, and I just know where the girls are. I just pass and Teresa or Anezka is there! So it's really nice.”

4. Big games with the big girls carry weight

Canada’s Chloe Primerano and Caitlin Kraemer may well fulfill their promise as generational talents. They might even find themselves wearing gold medals at the 2026 Olympics in Milan, Italy.

Yet right now, Sapovalivova and Plosova both have something that their highly touted Canadian peers don’t: experience at the IIHF Women’s World Championship. (You could call that the curse and blessing of Canada’s great depth.)

Sapovalivova garnered back-to-back bronze medals at the last two tournaments in Herning, Denmark (2022) and Brampton, Ontario (2023), contributing five goals and an assist. Plosova joined her on the Brampton teams, adding an assist in her Women’s Worlds debut.

For U18 stars with the requisite maturity, competing against grown women – including legends like the U.S.’s Hilary Knight and Finland’s Jenni Hiirikoski – is a wonderful way to turbocharge your development. Sapovalivova and Plosova are proving that in spades.

5. Czech hockey is riding high at every level

Here’s the 30,000-foot view. The Czech men are restoring their traditional place in the hockey world with a bronze medal at the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship and silver and bronze medals respectively at the 2023 and 2024 World Juniors. And the Czech women are blazing a bold new path with their two aforementioned Women’s Worlds bronze medals and either gold or silver at the 2024 U18 Women’s Worlds.
It’s a great time to be part of the Czech hockey family. But the party doesn’t end after they turn out the lights in Zug and everyone flies home.

There will be another can’t-miss opportunity to celebrate the Czech junior players – female and male – who have brought glory to their nation during the upcoming men’s Worlds in Prague and Ostrava (10 to 26 May, 2024).

Looking a little further down the road, what the U18 women have accomplished this year sets the stage magnificently for the 2025 Women’s Worlds. They’ll take place in Czechia in another historic first.