Five Thoughts: Czechia After Five

Czechia's path to the podium looks a lot brighter after their narrow defeat of Germany.

Five Thoughts: Czechia After Five
Natálie Mlýnková controls the puck, with Germany's Nicola Eisenschmid close behind. Photo via the Czech Ice Hockey Association.

Czechia has clinched their chance to play in a medal game at the 2024 Women’s World Championship with their defeat of Germany in the quarterfinals. It was an exciting, close game that spoke well of Germany’s progression as an international threat. It was also a good warm-up for Czechia’s next game against Canada.

The Game Plan

Czechia came out of the gates ready to play the same fast, physical, overwhelming style of hockey that was successful against the Finns and the Swiss. The trouble was, so did the Germans. They forced Czech skaters to the outside of the ice, smothered them to create turnovers, and in general looked a lot more comfortable on the smaller ice surface than the other European teams Czechia has faced. This really looks like a team that watched Czechia’s ascent into Group A and said, “We can do that, too.”

The Goalies

The final shot count of this game was 24-17 for Czechia. The defense on both teams deserves a lot of credit for stifling play and keeping shooters to the outside, particularly Germany. But both goalies showed why they are the number one for their teams. Germany’s Sandra Abstreiter in particular made several excellent saves, but she and Klára Peslarová were each calm and well-positioned, giving their teams confidence even as the game stretched on with no score.

A Shrinking Margin

Czechia was shut out twice in the preliminary round by the US and Canada. Against Finland and Switzerland, they scored 10 goals, including two empty netters. Against Germany, they scored one goal.

Last year, Canada won their semifinal game against Switzerland in overtime, and it put teams on notice that they shouldn’t underestimate Group B teams. This game should serve the same purpose. The field of competitive teams is expanding, and no team should take a win for granted. Even for the most recent medalists, all it takes is a bad bounce while the other side is having a good game.

The Difference

After two and a half periods without a goal, the tension in this game was high. The crowd was engaged, audibly reacting to hits and shots. A shot off the crossbar for Czechia was called a goal on the ice for Denisa Křížová, but that was corrected when the officials initiated a review. The brief seconds of rest while the play was reviewed seemed to settle some of the frantic energy in the rink, and it was only a few shifts later that the ice was broken.

The sole goal of this game was scored by defender Daniela Pejšová at 12:54 of the third period. It turned out to be the game-winner, her second straight. Her powerful shot from the point went over Abstreiter’s shoulder as she was screened by two of her own players. 

The Odds

Czechia only took two penalties against Germany, an improvement over their previous few games, but the second penalty was a game misconduct for Denisa Křížová for checking from behind. As of this publication, the IIHF has not publicly issued a suspension for Křížová, meaning she will be available to play against Canada in the semifinals.

Another player who may yet be available is Kateřina Mrázová, who has been skating independently in Utica as she recovers from an injury sustained in the pre-tournament game against the US. If Mrázová is able to return, it would be huge for Czechia. Mrázová is a veteran of the team and an anchor in their top six. Prior to her injury, she was also having an excellent club season, placing fourth in PWHL scoring as of the international break.

Bonus Thought: Squirtle Supremacy

Czechia seems to have picked an unofficial mascot, and it’s very cute.