Training of the Czech hockey team before the Swedish Games, February 7, 2023, Prague. Pictured is coach Kari Jalonen.
Malmö (Sweden) – The Czech hockey players will start today's opening game at the Swedish Games in Malmö against the home team with Aleš Stezka in goal. The experienced forward Jan Kovář will be the captain of the team. Defender Ondřej Vála awaits his national debut. The match between first and second in the standings of the Euro Hockey Tour series will begin at 7 p.m.
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The 26-year-old Stezka has only one national team start to his credit – last April he intercepted the Euro Hockey Challenge duel against Austria in Linz and helped to win 4:1. He is having an excellent season in Vítkovice, when he picked up 22 wins in 35 extra league matches, conceded an average of 2.18 goals per match with a success rate of 92.24 percent and kept five clean sheets.
“Aleš confirms this season long-term excellent performance, so I think it's clear there. His form is improving and you can see it in Vítkovice as well,” assistant coach Libor Zábranský told reporters after today's skating session.
The choice of the captain was quite obvious, which will be the thirty-two-year-old Kovář, who also holds this role in Zug and had the “c” on his jersey, for example, at the 2021 WC in Latvia. His assistants will be other forwards Vladimír Sobotka and Jiří Smejkal. “It's always nice when you can be the captain. I wasn't stressed about it in any way, but I'm taking it,” Kovář said with a smile. for a meeting in Prague. “Fortunately, he is now healthy and he will join the team today. He will be in training tomorrow, which we are of course happy about, because we wanted to have nine defenders here. But we will see how we will use him in the game,” said Zábranský.
Twenty-four-year-old Pardubice full-back Vála will make his debut, and forwards Adam Musil and Oscar Flynn will not play alongside Mozík. The coaches have not yet revealed the plan for deploying the players in the next matches. “Today he will be Honzo Bambula as the thirteenth striker, then we will decide what and how to proceed,” said Zábranský.
He praised the players' approach to training. “The boys want to represent. Everyone knows that the World Cup is coming up and everyone wants to show themselves in the best possible light. They put a lot of energy into the training sessions in Prague. And you could see it today, so I just hope that they will carry it into the match tonight . Compared to the match in Switzerland, the Swedes have thirteen different players, so we'll see what that brings. We'll stick to our style of play,” said Zábranský.
“The matches will show more, but we've had a few good ones training sessions and I believe that we will enter the tournament well,” wished Kovář. “It's still so raw in the power play, but we tried it. We know what we have to do, what positions to be in, now it's up to us how we can make it happen.”
In both matches during the season, the Northerners had the upper hand. At the beginning of the Karjala tournament in České Budějovice, the Czechs lost 1:4, then even 0:4 at the Swiss Games. “I saw the lineup that the Swedes took to the tournament. They took a very strong team, I know a few of the guys and they are tall, strong guys, so I expect a match full of fights. It will be a fight,” Kovář sensed.
” The coaches try to read certain situations, how the opponent plays them, but in the final it's all about us. You can have the best system in the world, but if you don't play well, you have no chance to win. If we believe in ourselves and play good hockey, we can to win with everyone,” added Kovář.
After the fight with the Swedes, the hockey players will have a duel with Finland on Saturday at noon and a match with Switzerland at the same time on Sunday.
Expected line-up CR: Stezka – Zámorský, Jordán, J. Jeřábek, Kempný, L. Zábranský Jr., Klok, Vála, Pýcha – Chlapík, Jan Kovář, H. Zohorna – Lakatoš, Sobotka, Smejkal – Hrabík, Jašek, M Kovařčík – Flek, Černoch, O. Beránek – Bambula.