WJC: Musil's Czechs halted with heartbreak OT loss
With the loss, the Czech Republic will now challenge Slovakia for 5th place
Calgary, AB - The World Junior Championship is about glory. It's about passion, camaraderie and excellence.
It's also about heartbreak; a necessary emotion, sadly, when competing on the world's grandest on-ice stage.
At 0-0 and 1-1, the teams carried an even score through 60 minutes. Overtime was necessary, and it was there where a most disappointing end became an all-too-real, nightmarish moment.
"It's pretty disappointing," said a saddened David Musil post-game at Scotiabank Saddledome. "Any goal against is really disappointing. Holding on in the game and playing 1-1 and getting a bad goal like that, you can't do anything with it."
The bad goal was an overtime winner, and it was scored by Russia's Grigori Zheldakov 1:30 into the extra period. With a Czech skater down, laying motionless in the corner to Petr Mrazek's right, No. 12 stepped into a slapper and beat the heroic netminder to send Russia into the semis.
It's Canada vs. Russia for the right to play for gold, while David Musil's Czech Republic will now challenge Slovakia to seed the medal-less.
Mrazek was beaten, but it was a rare occurrence in an otherwise exceptional outing. He stopped 43 shots, was named Player of the Game once more, and stamped his name into his nation's record books as a premiere 20-and-under puck-stopper.
"Our goaltending was outstanding today," Musil explained. "He played good the whole tournament and it's sad, because we should have gotten the win for him. It would have been nice to get the win, not only for him, but for the whole country.
It started well enough and, with the adopted hometown crowd behind them, the underdog struck, snatching a 1-0 lead in the game's middle period.
But it's the sting of giving it away and pawing multiple opportunities aside that pains most.
The Czech Republic opened the scoring at 7:26. Tomas Hertl and Dmitri Jaskin helped engineer a play, enabling Jakub Culek to pounce on the loose puck at the doorstep, slapping the puck past an outstretched Andrei Vasilevski.
Not to be outdone, Russia squared the score later in the stanza. Danil Apalkov raced down the middle, crossed the line and snapped a long-ranger wrister on goal. In a rare bumble, Mrazek was unable to corral the routine shot, having it bounce in off the underside of his blocker and into the pristine, at-the-time unbeaten twine.
"We should have used the power-play," Musil said, disappointed with what could have been. "We had so many power-plays in the whole tournament and we didn't even score one goal. That was one keys in the whole tournament.
"[Vasilevski] was good," he added, noting his opponent's 44-save outing. "We created chances, but we weren't there in the right spots at the right time. We needed to bear down more, but we didn't have the ending."
As poor as the man-advantage was, its underwhelming success bit most at the game's most inopportune times. Tonight, it was seconds before the game-winner. Russia's Nikita Kucherov was assessed a high-sticking minor late in the third, bringing the Czechs' sputtering power-play into overtime.
Nothing was generated, so Russia turned the tide.
"There are positives," said Musil, looking back on his even-rated game. "We played a good game against the US; we hadn't beat them in a long time, so that's something. But this was a pivotal game and we lost it."
Now having to get up in the morning and prepare for a game in which a medal can't be won (vs. Slovakia to seed 5th and 6th) on Wednesday, Musil, still rattled with Monday's conclusion, wants to keep it simple.
"I think we've got to score more on the power-play. We've got to play a full 60 minutes and that's pretty much it."
So it is. 60 minutes remain to help grade national pride.
Heartbreak, as it happens, is sports' calling card.
- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com - Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick
Oilers prospect David Musil looks back on his team's heartbreaking overtime loss.
Check out the complete photo gallery from Monday's Russian victory.
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