Czechs take “bronze that feels like gold” in ice hockey

The Czech Republic came third at the Ice Hockey World Championship in Finland on Sunday. A storming comeback win over the United States gave the Czechs their first medal at a major tournament in 10 long years – bronze that players say feels like gold.

The Czech Republic were 3:2 down to the United States at the end of the second period of Sunday’s game for third place at Ice Hockey World Championship in Tampere.

But then the Czechs went into absolute overdrive.

At the start of the third period David Pastrňák scored two and captain Roman Červenka one goal within just three minutes to give them a 5:3 lead.

David Pastrňák | Photo: Michal Kamaryt,  ČTK

By the end of the game Pastrňák had bagged a hat-trick as he and his teammates secured a famous 8:4 victory.

It was the Czech Republic’s first medal at a major hockey tournament since way back in 2012, when they also took bronze, also in Finland.

Czech forward David Krejčí was watching from the bench in the third period as his teammates almost lined up to find the net.

“It was just an experience on the bench, with one goal after the other: the third one, the fourth, the fifth, the sixth… There were two more later, but that didn’t make much difference. Seeing the guys and the coach with smiles on their faces was simply a fantastic feeling.”

David Krejčí | Photo: Michal Kamaryt,  ČTK

Krejčí gave a lot of the credit for the turnaround to the Czech Republic’s Finnish coach, Kari Jalonen, who in the final period put Pastrňák in the second line.

Alongside the Boston Bruins superstar Tomáš Hertl, who had previously had an underwhelming tournament, suddenly sprang to life and notched up three assists.

Captain Roman Červenka, who is 36, shone in Finland, topping the points table with 17, for the best World Championship of his career.

A hoarse Červenka told Czech Radio how the turnaround had been achieved.

“That’s how we imagined it in the changing rooms after the second period. We said that we had to leave everything on the ice. We succeeded in scoring a goal quickly, which helped us a lot. Then we felt we were on top and we managed to see it through to the end.”

David Pastrňák spoke for many fans when he said the bronze medal at the World Championships had felt like winning the competition for the Czechs.

Kari Jalonen | Photo: Michal Kamaryt,  ČTK

David Krejčí echoed that sentiment.

“If we were always winning every year and coming home with a medal, then third place would be a little different. But in this case it had been 10 years, so we are celebrating it like gold.”

Coach Jalonen, who took over in March, told reporters that it was a big thing for the Czech Republic to have finally secured a medal, saying that seeing their idols come home as heroes would encourage young children in the country interested in playing ice hockey.

Photo: Michal Kamaryt,  ČTK