Czech Republic advance to semi-finals at Olympics after win over Slovakia
People around the Czech Republic stayed up late on Wednesday night to cheer on the Czech ice hockey team, who - in an intriguing twist of fate - faced former federal partners Slovakia in the quarter-finals at the Winter Olympics in Turin. All the disappointment with the Czech Republic's poor results in the group stage were forgotten on Wednesday, as the Czech team finally gelled and won 3:1 to reach the semi-finals.
Slovakia, by contrast, surprised many by winning all of their group games and topping their group. Their great form and the strong rivalry between the two former partner nations certainly increased tension and interest ahead of the quarter-final clash.
Before the Olympics all the talk was about who would be in goal for the Czechs, the veteran Dominik Hasek or Tomas Vokoun, who was also in great form before the games. In the end, with Hasek injured and Vokoun out of sorts, Liberec goaltender Milan Hnilicka started an Olympic game for the first time in his career; he repaid coach Alois Hadamcik's faith with a man-of-the-match performance.
Afterwards Rucinsky - whose performance was his best so far - said the team had played as one for the first time, and had simply wanted to win more than the Slovaks. He admitted they had disappointed Czech fans in previous games in Turin, but said he hoped Wednesday's performance had finally brought them some joy.