CALGARY -- The choice was put to Petr Mrazek: Either chase your fortune across the ocean or stay in the Czech Republic and play for your country.
As it turned out, the youngster is having a blast doing both.
"Two years ago, I chose to go to Ottawa (of the Ontario Hockey League) and (the Czech federation) were mad and they told me I couldnt play for national team," the netminder explained. "It was a big disappointment for me. My dream was to play in the North America and be drafted by the NHL."
Hes accomplished both. The Detroit Red Wings selected him in the fifth round of the 2010 NHL entry draft and hes the starting goalie with the OHLs Ottawa 67s. The 19-year-old was as shocked as anyone when -- mere weeks before the Czech teams camp was set to open for the 2012 IIHF world junior championship -- he was extended an invitation.
"I woke up, I had a couple of missed calls from my agent and my parents, and I was so happy! Theres just one chance to play for the under-20," he said.
Mrazeks exuberant celebrations -- the jabs in the air after stopping Canadians and Americans on penalty shots -- have already become stuff of legend at this years tournament and the 19-year-old will have to be at his fist-pumping best on tonight when the Czechs take on Russia in one of two quarter-final matchups.
The winner will meet Canada in one semifinal on Tuesday.
"Were going very well so far," said Mrazek, whose squad dropped a 4-0 decision to Finland on Saturday. "Well try to do something (on Monday) against Russia and make it to the semifinal. Im feeling great here, but the defence and forwards are helping me a lot.
"We have to win if I want to do some celebrations and if we . . . when we win the Calgary fans will see some, too."
"Hes an extremely passionate guy," Czech assistant coach Jiri Fischer said. "Ever since he celebrated after stopping the Canadian penalty shot, there was a lot of misconception about him. A lot of people thought he was showboating. On the ice hes one of our leaders and hes not afraid to show it. I think its very refreshing when somebody enjoys hockey as much as he does."
Getting by the high-flying Russians wont be an easy task and the Czechs know it. Coming off a lacklustre offensive effort against Finland on Saturday -- had they won they would have avoided Russia for now -- theyll have to be firing on all cylinders with frequency, while at the same time trying to stymie a potent, always churning Russian attack.
"Theyre extremely dangerous every time they touch the puck in the neutral zone," Fischer said. "They have tremendous strength beating players one on one and were aware of that. Every time they cross blue-line they can score out of anything. They have a lot of firepower."
Fischer conceded that not only do the Czechs need to start finding the net -- they were shut out in two of their four round-robin games -- but they must not allow the Russians too many extra man opportunities as that particular power play is lethal.
"We lost too many battles and then all the stick penalties we took against the Finns -- its just unacceptable. That has been an issue," he said.
-- Postmedia News;