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2021 Worlds: Team Czech Republic preview

The Czechs have a great goalie and skilled forwards but also have a young blue line that has a lot to prove

Women’s Euro Hockey Tour, Six Nations tournament final: Russia vs Czech Republic Photo by Dmitry Feoktistov\TASS via Getty Images

The Czech Republic’s national team is on the rise. Currently ranked 7th in the world by the IIHF, the Czech national team made its debut in the top division at the 2016 Worlds after dominating the 2015 Division I Worlds in France. Over the past few years, this club has been measuring itself against the rest of the IIHF’s Top-10 national teams in the world rankings.

The Czechs finished 8th in the 2017 Worlds but bested Switzerland to avoid relegation. Their roster, which features some of the most dangerous forwards on the globe, continues to prove that it belongs in the top division. It may be hard to believe for some, but the Czech have yet to compete in the Olympics in women’s hockey. So this is a huge tournament for them on their path to qualifying.

2019 Worlds

At the 2019 Worlds in Espoo, the Czech club was the class of Group B. They went 4-0-0 in the group stage, winning all four games in regulation and putting up five goals against Sweden. That 5-3 victory was a statement. It let the world know that the Czechs were truly a rising power and it pushed Sweden closer to its eventual and disastrous relegation.

The offense was a force to be reckoned with and Klára Peslarová was outstanding between the pipes. In the group stage, the Czech power play racked up five goals and five different skaters had two goals — a sign of a balanced attack and a deep group of forwards. Everything was going in the right direction, and then they hit a roadblock called Finland in the quarterfinals.

Mlýnková got the Czechs on the board early in the second period in the quarterfinal, but Finnish goaltending legend Noora Räty closed the door after that. Finland scored the next three goals of the game, two of which came on the power play, to hand the Czechs their first and only loss of the 2019 Worlds. It was an anticlimactic ending, but, overall, a successful outing.

Roster

Forwards: Kateřina Mrázová, Alena Mills (Polenska), Kateřina Bukolská, Klára Hymlárová, Denisa Křížová, Tereza Mazancová, Noemi Neubauerová, Michaela Pejzlová, Vendula Přibylová, Lenka Serdar, Tereza Vanišová, Natálie Mlýnková, Kristýna Pátková
Defenders: Sára Čajanová, Sammy Kolowrat, Magdalena Erbenová, Pavlína Horálková, Daniela Pejšová, Tereza Radová, Klára Seroiszková, Aneta Tejralová, Dominika Laskova (D/F)
Goalies: Klára Peslarová, Viktorie Švejdová, Kateřina Zechovská
Head Coach: Tomáš Pacina

Story to Watch | The Czech Defense

We all know Peslarová is a great goaltender and that the Czechs have a few of the best forwards in the tournament, but what about that blue line?

The Czech defense is exceptionally young, with only one player over 25 years old — Pavlína Horálková. There is a lot of pressure on Horálková, Sammy Kolowrat, and Aneta Tejralová to lead this defense, bend but not break in their own zone, and move the puck to the team’s dangerous forwards. Horálková and Tejralová have been honing their skills in Russia in the ZhHL and Kolowrat has been doing the same in the NWHL. Expect them to clock in with a lot of ice time. Kolowrat led all Czech defenders in Espoo at the 2019 Worlds with 22:15 TOI/GP.

After that trio, the oldest defender on the roster is RPI’s Magdalena Erbenová — and she’s 21. This tournament will be a big test for those youngsters and for the blue line in general. Five of the eight listed defenders weren’t on the Czech roster at the 2019 Worlds and three of them are teenagers.

Key Player | Kateřina Mrázová

In my opinion, Mrázová is one of the most entertaining and talented centers on the planet. Her hands are just magic and she can create something out of almost nothing. That ability makes her a gamebreaking talent and was the driving reason to her leading the Czech team in TOI/GP at the 2019 Worlds in Espoo.

Mrázová, 28, is in her prime and her most recent season in the SDHL is evidence of that. She finished the 2020-21 campaign with Brynäs with 63 points — 23 of which were goals — in just 29 games. That’s an average of 2.17 Pts/GP in a league that is considered to be at least the second-most competitive in the world. And while it’s true that she won’t have Swiss sensation Lara Stalder on her line on the Czech team, she will have other targets like Alena Mills, Denisa Křížová, and Tereza Vanišová to make plays with at even strength and on the power play.

The Czechs will want the puck on Mrázová’s stick as much as possible in Canada. At the 2019 Worlds, she had a goal and two assists while averaging 3.0 SOG/GP.

Key Youngster | Sára Čajanová

Čajanová, a left-handed defender, is 18 and this will be her first senior World Championship representing her home country. The captain of the Czech’s U18 2020 World Championship, she could be a big part of the national team for at least the next decade. She’s represented her country in three U18 tournaments and in those 15 games she’s scored one goal, earned three assists, and taken a single minor penalty.

With that said, the main reason why Čajanová is our Key Youngster is what she’s done in the Czech2 league and, more recently, in the SDHL. She joined Brynäs last season and had a goal and five assists in her first nine games in the SDHL. In the high-scoring Czech2 league, she’s averaged 3.73 Pts/GP across seven seasons. Yes, you read that right. I didn’t call it a high-scoring league for nothing.

There’s also a Brynäs connection here with Mrázová and Křížová, who also played there last season. Could Čajanová see time on the power play? Maybe, but Tejralová had three assists on the advantage for the Czech Republic at the 2019 Worlds. Just how big of a role Čajanová and her fellow youngsters will play is a storyline to keep a close eye on.

Editor’s note: the Czech roster has been updated to include the additions that were not on the initial roster announced in April.

Data courtesy of TheirHockeyCounts.com, EliteProspects.com, and the IIHF.