Five Thoughts: Czechia After Six

Czechia's gold medal hopes were dashed by a well-executed game by Canada. They'll have to refocus on the best prize available, a bronze medal.

Five Thoughts: Czechia After Six
Denisa Křížová battles Canada's Jocelyne Larocque. Photo via Czech Ice Hockey Association.

For the third straight year, Czechia’s gold medal aspirations died in the semifinal game against a North American team. They will regroup for their bronze medal push on Sunday.

The Matchup

In the preliminary round, Canada scored five goals and shut out Czechia. On Saturday, they repeated the shutout and put four goals past goaltender Klára Peslarová. Their dominance in the shot count increased between the two games, from 42-13 in the round robin to 47-9 in the semifinal.

That being said, Czechia looked better in this game than they did in the previous game. While the Canadians still played a smothering brand of hockey, the Czech skaters looked better prepared for it. Rather than hesitating when a puck-carrier saw an opponent bearing down on them, their ability to retreat or to make a tactical play at speed was improved.

The History

These two games were only Czechia’s second and third played against Canada at an IIHF tournament. Because of the tournament format, Group B teams have scant opportunities to play against Group A teams. In past years, Czechia has faced Finland on numerous occasions when they have been in separate divisions, and even more when they played in the same division and at European tournaments.

More playing opportunities against the top teams in the world can provide a motivated team with the experience to raise their game. In classic hockey terms, they can learn ‘what it takes to win.’ Now ensconced and seemingly somewhat secure in Group A, Czechia will have that opportunity more in the future. For other teams, it would take a redrawing of the lines between divisions to allow them that access without having to unseat one of the perennial contenders.


Once again, all four of Canada’s goals happened because their skaters were able to access the space directly in front of the goal. Three of the goals in this game happened off the rush, while once was the result of a rebound chance. What Czechia did right was keeping shots to the outside, particularly on the penalty kill, and blocking an impressive number of shots.

What went wrong was turnovers. Again and again, Canada denied controlled zone entries, forced passes to areas they could easily intercept, and recaptured their own shot attempts. Czechia had trouble clearing their own zone and trouble entering Canada’s zone when they had the chance. The best Czech chances were off the rush, but their skaters looked tired and were unable to capitalize with speed when the Canadians challenged. Canada looked poised and consistent, and Czechia was unable to force them out of their game plan.

Mind the Gap

It was strange to watch a Czech team play at an IIHF tournament without top six center center Kateřina Mrázová or top pairing defender Dominika Lásková. They are two of Czechia’s five players to compete in the PWHL. Missing them was a huge part of the squad’s ability to be competitive against the North American teams.

In the semifinal game, Czechia lost another center in Klára Hymlárová, who played during the first period but later left the game. Hymlárová was named one of Czechia’s top three players in the tournament alongside Aneta Tejralová and Klára Peslarová, and she accepted her trophy out of uniform.

The Medal Game

In the preliminary round, Czechia defeated Finland by a score of 4-0. Two of those goals were empty netters. Finland didn’t look as though they were quite up to speed in what was their first game of the tournament. At this point, they have accomplished what Czechia was never able to do–scoring on the United States and Canada– and they should be equally tired on the back-to-back as Czechia. 

In 2022, it was Czechia's defeat of Finland in the quarterfinals that started Finland's fall to Group B. Last year, Czechia beat them again in the quarterfinals and kept them out of a medal game. The Finns made it back to group A and back to the bronze medal game, but they'll need a medal to declare that their slide down the rankings is in the past.

For the Czechs, they have played this tournament without two of their best players. Winning their third straight bronze medal would speak to the depth of the player pool that has been cultivated in Czechia and abroad over the last few years and structured by the new era of managers.

Both teams have a lot to prove.