December 30, 2011
EDMONTON — Anyone who gets the chance to see Ottawa 67's netminder Petr Mrazek play in the Ontario Hockey League knows he's a character. They also know he's talented enough to win games on his own.
But now, after the Czech Republic stunned Team USA with a 5-2 victory, Mrazek will be known by more than just those who follow the OHL. The 19-year-old netminder made 52 saves to lead his team to victory and put the 2011 bronze medallists from the U.S. on the brink of relegation.
"I think this was the best game I've ever played in my life," said Mrazek.
"I was so focused before the game because it's America, right? I wanted to win this game."
The game was tied 2-2 at the start of the third after Tomas Hertl beat U.S. netminder Jack Campbell with a beautiful backhand shot. Mrazek made a number of highlight reel saves, including stopping U.S. forward Josh Archibald on a penalty shot with 8:33 left and the score square at 2-2. It was the second save on a penalty shot the Detroit Red Wings prospect had made during the tournament.
"After the penalty shot I felt great," said Mrazek. "I believed that we could score some goals after that and win this game."
In the dressing room, the team spoke about how upsetting the 2010 goal medal-winning Americans was a real possibility.
"We had great teammates in the dressing room that said, 'We can do it, if we play hard and smart,' "said Mrazek. "And we did."
The Americans threw everything they had at the Czech goalie once Petr Holik scored 59 seconds after the penalty shot to give the Eastern European country the lead. In the third period alone, Mrazek made 21 saves.
"Petr Mrazek deserves a lot of credit for the win," said Czech defenceman David Musil. "He's a huge part of our team and we've got to thank him for that."
The showman in Mrazek came out once Tomas Filippi scored his second of the game to pad the Czech lead at 4-2. The goalie left his crease and went running towards the blueline to jump on his celebrating teammates.
"With all the saves that he makes he can do it," said Musil of the celebration. "The U.S. team probably hates it, but it gives us energy and we built on it after."
U.S. head coach Dean Blais credited Mrazek for his play after the game.
"I thought he was good. I thought he was lucky and you need a little bit of both," said Blais. "He was in the right place at the right time and we had guys looking for rebounds too. I think our chances were 24-5 on the quality chances. "
As for the Mrazek's celebrations, the veteran coach didn't seem to mind.
"That's OK," said Blais. "Hockey's an emotional game and when you have a good game like he did, he celebrated the way he thought."
On the goal to make it 5-2, Mrazek jumped into the Czech bench and after the game he was mugged by the coaching staff as the crowd of more than 14,700 chanted his name.
"I wanted the fans to stand up here and I think 16,000 (stood) up," said Mrazek. "It was an incredible feeling for my team."
But not everyone was happy with the goaltender showing his passion — not that it mattered to Mrazek or many of the fans in the crowd who were fully behind him.
"I don't care if the U.S. team, if they don't like my celebration," said Mrazek. "If I did some celebrating the Canadian fans stood up and they enjoyed it. I am happy with that."