January 03, 2012
CALGARY-- It was a very strange end to what was undoubtedly the best game of the 2012 world junior championship -- a 2-1 overtime win by Russia over the Czech Republic.
A goaltending clinic between Russian Andrei Vasilevski and Czech Petr Mrazek had forced the quarterfinal between the two countries into overtime with the game tied 1-1. Mrazek, who plays for the OHL's Ottawa 67's, deserved a much better fate after a spectacular 43 save performance.
Just seconds before Russia scored the game-winner, Czech defenceman Daniel Krejci (back, photo) went down face first -- the victim of a high stick from Nikita Kucherov-- and remained flat on the ice just behind the goal line taking himself out of the play. Russian defenceman Grigori Zheldakov used the sudden advantage to score at the 1:30 mark.
"I had my face on the ice so I didn't see it, I just heard it," said Krejci. "I was just like, 'Oh my God, what happened?' I saw the Russian guys going together and celebrating. It was an awful feeling."
On the reply it looks as though Kucherov's stick glanced the defenceman as he was following through on a shot that hit the post. When asked to point out exactly where on his face the stick hit him, Krejci pointed below his left cheek, though there was nary a mark.
"The referee didn't do anything, I don't know why," said Krejci after the game.
"Maybe he didn't see it? That's hockey."
Mrazek backed his defenceman after the game saying that a penalty should have been called.
"The guy was on the ice and everybody will see high sticking on the highlights," said Mrazek.
But Czech assistant coach, former NHLer Jiri Fischer, wasn't buying that defence given the severity of the game. A win would have put the Czech Republic into the semifinals, now they'll be playing for fifth place.
"Those are excuses," Fischer said of the non-call. "We got scored on that's the bottom line."
Understandably Krejci was bitter after the game -- particularly with the Russians. When asked how the defending gold medallists would stack up against Canada in Tuesday's semifinal, the 19-year-old was blunt.
"Canada is better," said Krejci. "The Russian guys are really (cocky) ... I don't know I hate Russia.
"Canada is playing very simple hockey and Russia's guys are all offensive, no defensive play. Canada is simply better than them. I think they will win."