Teamwork, “incredible” goalie help Czechs reach semis at hockey worlds

Lukáš Dostál

Excitement surrounding the Ice Hockey World Championships being held in Czechia has intensified further after the hosts beat the USA 1:0 in the quarter-finals on Thursday. Now the Czechs face Sweden for a place in the final.

Cheers were no doubt heard in every corner of the country on Thursday night as Boston Bruins forward Pavel Zacha scored from a deflection during a power-play to give Czechia the only goal in their quarter-finals clash with the USA in Prague.

Photo: Zuzana Jarolímková,

That goal came in the second period but the Americans were repeatedly denied a chance to equalise by the exploits of Czech goaltender Lukáš Dostál, who was named most valuable player.

Dostál is playing only his second World Championships but stepped up on the big occasion, making 36 stops. The 23-year-old from the Anaheim Ducks said it was probably his best international game to date – but still found time to praise his Czech teammates.

“I’m very proud of the guys. It was a very important game. Our plan was to control the match when it was 1:0. It was play-off hockey, so pretty end-to-end stuff. There was a lot of emphasis on defence and I’m glad it turned out the way it did.”

The Czech team’s biggest star, forward David Pastrňák of the Boston Bruins, was making his first appearance of the tournament on Thursday, after flying in from the US during the week. And he was among those lining up to praise goaltender Dostál.

“He was incredible. They were bombarding him from all directions and luckily Luki was on his guard and produced a very focused performance. I’m very proud of him.”

For his part defenseman Radko Gudas said key to the Czechs’ success against the Americans was teamwork.

“Everyone was a team player. Nobody was playing for the name on their own jersey. We knew it was going to be a tight match and it was great that we managed to keep all their players in check and not allow them any major chances or major breaks.”

Photo: Zuzana Jarolímková,

Czech coach Radim Rulík also emphasized the role togetherness and unity played in his charges’ quarter-finals success.

“Naturally I congratulated the players in the changing room for an excellent team performance. The whole tournament we have been working on playing as much like a team as possible. And every one of them left everything out there on the ice.”

The scorer of the game’s only goal, Pavel Zacha, is 27 but is still new to the international scene at senior level.

“It’s my first World Championships and that was my first goal for the national team, so I’m absolutely delighted. But I’m proud of the whole team and above all I’m glad we managed it for the nation and for our fans, who have created an amazing atmosphere here..”

The home fans will have at least one more chance to create a special atmosphere on Saturday afternoon, when the Czechs face Sweden for a place in the final.

Author: Ian Willoughby | Source: Český rozhlas
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