A lonely history

Ondrej Nemec, shown here celebrating a semi-final win at the 2010 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship en route to gold with goaltender Tomas Vokoun, is one of only two Czechs ever to score on Canada in a World Junior semi-final. Photo: Matthew Manor / HHOF-IIHF Imagges

Only two Czechs have scored on Canada in WJC SF

If there’s one area where the 2018 Czech team excels, it’s scoring goals. That’s a good thing, considering the woeful Czech semi-final history against Canada.

The Czech Republic has never scored more than one goal on Canada in a World Junior semi-final since the IIHF introduced the playoff system in 1996. Canada won the only two previous encounters, 7-1 in 2004 and 3-1 in 2005.

So who were those two lonely Czech goal-scorers and what became of them?

In 2004, Ondrej Nemec got the goal with a rising slap shot on the power play. Although the puck-moving defenceman never made the NHL despite being drafted in the second round by the Pittsburgh Penguins (35th overall in 2002), he established himself as a star in both the Czech Republic and the KHL. He won three World Championship medals in a row (gold in 2010, bronze in 2011 and 2012).

Today, Nemec, 33, is the captain of HC Kometa Brno. Brno won the Czech Extraliga championship in 2017, and Martin Necas, currently second in 2018 World Junior scoring (3-6-9), was on Nemec’s team.

In 2005, Rostislav Olesz got the goal on a shorthanded 2-on-1 rush. Drafted seventh overall by the Florida Panthers in 2004, the skilled winger played 365 NHL games with Florida, Chicago, and New Jersey (57-77-134). Although he won World Junior bronze in 2005 and tied Russia’s Alexander Ovechkin and Canada’s Jeff Carter for the tournament goals lead (seven), the two-time World Championship participant’s biggest international team accomplishment was Olympic bronze in 2006 in Turin, Italy.

Today, Olesz, 32, is the captain of HC Vitkovice in the Czech Extraliga. World Junior winger Daniel Kurovsky (1-1-2) is one of his teammates.

Of note: getting just one goal isn’t particularly impressive, but in 2005, no team fared better than the Czechs against the Canadians – widely acknowledged as the best World Junior squad ever. That unbeatable team featured Sidney Crosby, Patrice Bergeron, and Shea Weber, among other future NHL and Olympic superstars. Canada defeated all its other opponents by four or more goals.

Looking at more recent history, the Czechs, who have five returning players, can take some heart from having scored three times in last year’s 5-3 quarter-final loss to Canada. In this tournament, they’ve also gotten more goals (22 in five games) than they have at any World Juniors since Saskatchewan 2010 (28 in six games). Filip Zadina (5 goals) is contending for the tournament lead, and Necas (3 goals) and Filip Chytil (2 goals) are also names to watch.

So win or lose, perhaps Nemec and Olesz will welcome some new members to their club on Thursday.

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