Jiri Hudler, who hadn't played for the Czechs since 2004, scored five goals in the first Euro Hockey Tour event. Photo: Europhoto
KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic – The first major men’s national team event of the season ended with a success for the Czech Republic, which won the first Euro Hockey Tour tournament on home ice.
The Euro Hockey Tour consists of four, round-robin tournaments during the four international breaks. The Czech Republic, Finland, Russia and Sweden play in the series. Last season, the Czechs finished in last place with three wins in twelve games, but they couldn’t be stopped last weekend in Karlovy Vary.
Roman Cervenka and Jiri Hudler led the team to a 2-0 victory against Finland on opening night, while Lukas Mensator earned a shutout with 29 saves.
The victory was even bigger against Sweden, 5-2. The Swedes didn’t make use of a 31-27 shots advantage. Josef Melichar, Jaroslav Bednar, Hudler, Josef Vasicek and Petr Kumstat scored the Czech goals.
A sell-out crowd of 5,682 attended the last game against last year’s tour winner Russia on Sunday. Petr Schastlivy opened the scoring for Russia on the power play at 5:10, but it was again Hudler, who scored the 1-1 goal at 17:30. He tied the game a second time at 57:21 and after Russia held a 2-1 lead for most of regulation. A shoot-out decided and the game-winning goal was scored by who else than Hudler, who played his only World Championship in 2003.
Russia finished the tournament in second place with a 3-2 win over Finland and two shoot-out losses. Finland was third with three points thanks to a lopsided 8-3 win against Sweden. The Swedes earned just two points from a 4-3 shoot-out victory against Russia.
It’s the first time since 2002 that the Czechs won an exhibition tournament, which came at the Euro Hockey Tour at Baltika Cup in Moscow. It was during the successful era between 1996 and 2005 when the Czechs won five World Championships and the 1998 Olympic Winter Games.