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2019 World Championship Preview: Czech Republic

Will the Czech Republic’s talented group of forwards be enough to get the team out of the group stage?

Ice Hockey Women’s 5 Nations Tournament - Day 1 Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images

Schedule

Team Czech Republic is in Group B with Sweden, Japan, Germany, and France.

  • April 5, 9:00 a.m. ET | Czech Republic vs. France
  • April 6, 5:30 a.m. ET | Czech Republic vs. Sweden
  • April 8, 5:30 a.m. ET | Czech Republic vs. Japan
  • April 9, 11:00 a.m. ET | Czech Republic vs. Germany

Roster

Czech Republic has not released their roster yet, but we will add it when it becomes available.

  • Forwards:
  • Defenders:
  • Goaltenders:

Players to Watch

With no official roster, our players to watch are based on previous tournaments.

Denisa Křížová is one of the Czech Republic’s brightest stars. She spent the 2018–19 season playing with the Boston Pride in the NWHL.
Pat McCarthy

Klára Peslarová

The Czech Republic’s rising star in the goal crease just might be their secret weapon in this year’s Worlds.

Peslarová, 22, is already second all-time in games played among goaltenders for the senior women’s team. After dominating the Czech women’s league and posting an .868 save percentage in the third-tier men’s league in her home country last year, she returned to the SDHL this year.

Peslarová’s .924 save percentage for MODO this year was the fifth-highest save percentage in the SDHL (among goaltenders who appeared in more than 10 games). No SDHL goaltender who faced more than 22 shots per 60 minutes of play had a better save percentage than the Czech netminder. She’s the real deal, and the Czechs are going to need her to play that way.

Kateřina Mrázová

Mrázová was one of the brightest stars and most popular players of the 2018–19 NWHL season. The crafty forward had 12 points — seven of which were primary points recorded at even strength — in 15 games to lead the Connecticut Whale in scoring. On half of the Whale’s 22 goals this year, she was either the scorer or had the primary assist. That’s just crazy.

The 2019 NWHL All-Star led the Czech team in shots on goal (22) at the 2017 IIHF Women’s World Championship in Michigan, but came away with just one goal and one assist in six games. Since that tournament, Mrázová has established herself as an elite forward. She absolutely carried the Whale’s offense this season after playing more of a support role at the University of Minnesota–Duluth in her collegiate career.

She’s a big-time player. The 2019 Women’s World Championship is the perfect stage for her to take her game to the next level. She and fellow NWHL star Denisa Křížová are undoubtedly players to watch in Finland.

Al Saniuk

Tereza Vanišová

No player has scored more goals for the Czech Republic at the Women’s Worlds than Vanišová. The Maine Black Bear star has seven goals and two assists in the 16 career games at the Women’s World Championship. She went off at the 2017 Worlds with five goals in six games.

Vanišová led the Black Bears in goals (17), shots (117), plus/minus (+13), and penalty minutes (59) by a wide margin. Only nine players in the Hockey East conference have scored more goals than the Czech Republic’s talented wrecking ball. In other words, Vanišová was definitely the player to watch this year for the Black Bears.

In November, Vanišová talked to Lucas Aykroyd for IIHF.com about how the Czechs compare to some of the top teams in the world. It’s clear that she’s on a mission to earn more respect for her home country at this year’s Worlds. She’s a woman on a mission.

“I think we have a team that is able to win against many teams. I think we can beat Sweden, Switzerland, and teams from the same level as us. I think the top four teams are U.S., Canada, Finland and Russia. Maybe we would be able to beat Russia more than Finland. I think Finland is better. It’s hard to say. It depends.”

Last time around

The Czechs finished in eighth place in the 2017 Worlds with a record of 0–2–1 in group play. The rising hockey power’s best game of that tournament was their first game against Switzerland in the relegation round. The Czechs bested Switzerland by a score of 4–2 on April 4 — after all, it’s not every day that you score three goals on a goalie like Florence Schelling.

Switzerland went on to win the relegation series with a 3–2 OT win in Game Two and a 3–1 win in Game Three. It was a disappointing end for the Czechs after a sixth-place finish in the 2016 Worlds.

Storylines

In the 2017 Worlds, the Czech offense was more than a little bit Jekyll and Hyde. Although the national team averaged an impressive 28.0 shots per game, they scored just three goals in group play before the floodgates opened up in the relegation series against Switzerland. The Czechs have too much skill at forward to fall flat in the group stage again.

Another area that the Czechs need to improve on this time around is keeping their composure late in games.

The Czech national team blew a 1–0 lead against the Swiss with 3:45 left in regulation on March 31, 2017, and were robbed of a valuable point in the standings when the Germans went up 2–1 with 1:37 left in the third period the very next day. All told, the Czechs allowed four goals in the final eight minutes of regulation at the 2017 Worlds. That can’t happen in Finland this year.

Data courtesy SDHL.se, eliteprospects.com, @CreaseGiants, hockeyeastonline.com, worldwomen2017.com, NWHL.zone, and the author’s own tracking.