CHLers continue to lead the way for Czechia

For the second straight World Juniors, Czechia are into the semi-finals.

And a big reason why has been the performance of its CHL players.

Regina’s Stanislav Svozil leads the tournament in scoring among defencemen with eight points while Kelowna’s Gabriel Sztruc and Charlottetown’s Jakub Brabenec both sit in the Top 10 in tournament scoring.

“We feel very confident,” said Gatineau’s Marcel Marcel who himself has six points. “We are playing incredible games. Our style is so powerful it’s really amazing. We can feel the strength of our team and it’s making us comfortable.”

Czechia won Group A with a 3-0-1 record after wins over Canada, Austria and Germany and an overtime defeat to Sweden. They then crushed Switzerland 9-1 in their quarterfinal as Marcel and Szturc each scored twice while Brabenec and Svozil each had two assists.

Furthermore, goaltender Tomas Suchanek has been one of the tournament’s best storylines. The Tri-City netminder has played every minute thus far and has a 4-0-1 record and has already set a World Juniors record for most assists by a goaltender with four.

In tonight’s semi-final, Czechia will get a chance at redemption against Sweden. For a number of Czechia’s team, such as Svozil and Szturc, it’s also a chance to eliminate the team that denied them a bronze medal at the 2022 tournament.

“We are so happy but there are next steps ahead that we need to accomplish,” said Kitchener Rangers defenceman Tomas Hamara.

Their 33 goals in the tournament are tied with Canada for the most while their seven goals against are the fewest. In all, Czechia’s 10 CHL skaters are +54 in the tournament through five games.

“We are confident but you still have to be humble,” Marcel said. “We know our strengths but we also know the strengths of our opponents.”

The Olympiques forward is quick to admit that the team’s win over Canada in their tournament opener sparked their confidence and since that victory, the team has added belief that they can win gold.

“It built more strength within the team because we won against the strongest team here,” he said. “Our confidence flew higher. It was very good to win against Canada.”

Czechia have not medalled at the World Juniors since 2005 when they won bronze. Their only two gold medal performances came in back-to-back years in 2000 and 2001.

Frankly, there’s a lot at stake over the next two days. But, led by its CHL stars, they sincerely believe they can medal.

“I think we are playing well, playing the right way and we are confident,” Hamara said.

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