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2021 Worlds: Team Czech Republic Recap

The Czechs made huge strides in Calgary

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

How they finished

  • Record: 4-2-0
  • 7th place, first in Group B in the group stage

Team Czech Republic looked like a squad on a mission in the group stage. They blew Denmark out of the water 6-1 to kick off the tournament, defeated Hungary 4-2, shut out the Japanese 4-0, and proved their quality against Germany in a 2-0 win to wrap up group play.

The Czechs dominated the shot share in their first four games and just looked too deep for most of Group B to handle. Their highly-entertaining offense averaged 4.0 goals-per-game and goaltender Klára Peslarová allowed just three goals through the team’s first four starts. They looked like a force to be reckoned with.

As their reward for finishing first in Group B, the Czechs played the Finns in the quarterfinals. In one of the most entertaining games of the tournament, the Czechs found themselves on the losing end of a 1-0 epic goalie duel. It was a game that they easily could have won but the offense just couldn’t solve the riddle that was Anni Keisala that night.

As a result of that loss, the Czechs final game of the tournament was a rematch against Team Japan for placement. Again, the Czechs were involved in one of the best games of the tournament and, again, they were on the losing side. Team Japan struck twice on the power-play and the Czechs were unable to keep pace despite a late goal by Daniela Pejšová with the goalie pulled to make it a one-goal game. Those heroics were just too little, too late. The Czechs finished in 7th.

What went right

When the Czech Republic’s offense was cooking it was wildly entertaining to watch. After six games, they averaged a +12.67 shot on goal differential and were a +9 in even-strength goal differential. Naturally, a lot of that has to do with them out-classing some of the teams in Group B but those are still impressive numbers. Although Alena Mills led the way with five goals, the Czechs had eight other goal scorers in the tournament. That speaks to this team’s greatest strength: its offensive depth.

The Czechs were well-coached and their young blue line looked solid defense in front of their star goaltender. With the exception of their placement game against Team Japan, they were great on the penalty kill and on the PP. The spotlight performance on defense was undoubtedly Dominika Lásková, who averaged 21:30 TOI/GP and had four goals from the blue line.

What went wrong

This isn’t an easy question to answer. For much of the tournament, the Czechs looked like they were on the verge of being a team that belonged in Group A but they lost their two most important games. So, let’s talk about how they lost them.

Something that stood out in both losses is that the Czechs gave up prime scoring opportunities — namely breakaways — due to defensive breakdowns in the neutral zone. Most of the time Peslarová came up with the big save when they needed her to, but that was only most of the time. Breakdowns in coverage played a huge role in the Czechs’ losses to Finland and Japan.

This is absolutely a cliche that is used too often in hockey journalism but the Czechs need to work on their consistency. Also, we need to embrace the truth that you can play a better game than the opposition and still lose — and that is what happened to the Czechs in the quarterfinal against Finland. Sometimes a game really just comes down to making a quality chance count regardless of what the quantity of your chances looks like. That’s hockey.

What comes next

If you’re a fan of Czech women’s hockey, you have a lot to be excited about right now.

The vast majority of this national team’s core is just entering its prime and there are a few key youngsters who could develop into something truly special. Of course, the big question for the Czechs after their performance in Calgary at the 2021 Worlds is how they will respond in their Olympic qualifying play, which begins on Nov. 11 in Chomutov. It would be surprising to see them fall short after what we saw in Calgary.

This team really feels like it has the potential to take that next step sometime in the next few years here.

MVP(s)

Forward | Alena Mills: Mills led the Czechs in scoring with seven points in six games, five of which were goals. She had a hat trick, three of the Czech’s five power-play goals, and was a major factor in every game of the tournament. She finished with 15 iSOG — I’d love to know her iCF — and an average ice time of 17:14 TOI/GP but it really felt like Mills was always somehow involved in her team’s best chances.

Mills, 31, was so important to the Czech club not only as a goal-scorer but also as a leader. In the early stages of the tournament, it looked like she had an individual award coming her way with the way she played out of the gate but her shooting percentage and the Czech Republic’s offense came back down to earth.

Goaltender | Klára Peslarová:

Peslarová was the only goalie in the 2021 Worlds who was in the crease for every minute her team played (excluding situations where the goalie was pulled). She finished the tournament with a dazzling .933 Sv% that does admittedly lose some of its shine in the context of her average workload of 17.59 SA60. With that said, there is no doubt that Peslarová was one of the best goaltenders in the tournament.

She showed up in a big way for her team’s biggest games and cruised to victory when the Czech’s offense was too much for the opposition to handle. Peslarová finished with a 0.369 GSAA/60 in all situations and allowed just four goals at evens in her six starts. She may not have faced as many shots as Anni Keisala or Switzerland’s goaltenders but she still stopped a ton of pucks.

The future of Czech goaltending is in very good hands.

All data courtesy of IIHF.com, EliteProspects.com. and the author’s own tracking.