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Put Pavs in net, his hero says

After showing vs. Latvians, coach agrees with Hasek

Posted: 02/15/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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SOCHI, Russia -- Ondrej Pavelec's world at the Olympics is not much different than it is in the NHL, where everyone has an opinion on whether he should be a No. 1 goalie.

One big difference here is Pavelec has Czech Republic legend Dominik Hasek in his corner.

Pavelec finds himself in the middle of a tug of war between cranky and unpredictable Czech Republic coach Alois Hadamczik and the rest of the Czech hockey nation, including Hasek.

Greatest moment

Hasek, who just happens to be the author of the greatest moment in his country's hockey history, told Czech website isport.cz on Friday after his country's 4-2 win over Latvia the net should be Pavelec's.

"If he keeps playing like this, he should for sure be Czech No. 1 goalie here," Hasek said.

When told of his hero's comments, Pavelec nearly blushed.

"I haven't heard that, but if he said that, it's a good thing. Everyone in our room is talking about 1998. We want to be '98 all over again," he said, referring to the gold medal the Czechs surprisingly won behind Hasek's brilliant performance in the first Olympic tournament to include NHL players. "If we want to win, I have to be the best."

Pavelec was oddly not even dressed for his team's opening 4-2 loss to Sweden but turned in a strong performance Friday, turning aside 18 of 20 shots, including a few key saves during a late-game Latvian power play.

"I felt good. It's good to get a win and to be part of the Olympics," Pavelec said. "I wanted to play against Sweden, but it was a coach's decision. I did my job and we won. I have no idea who play in the next game, but obviously I want to play."

The Czechs' next game is today against Switzerland. Moments after Pavelec spoke, Czech management confirmed he will get the start.

"(I was) a little bit nervous, but it was an easy game for me," Pavelec said. "Against Latvia, they don't have too many shots. They wait for power plays and they make some good plays there. The guys helped me a lot and we scored the goals at the right time."

Part of the struggle for a goalie moving from the NHL ice surface to international play is the angles shots come from, and Pavelec got caught off guard on Latvia's second goal.

"The angle confused me. (The big ice) is no excuse at all, but I knew right away that it was my goal. It was a bad goal. We've got practise tomorrow, so it's something that I have to work on," he said.

Hadamczik made some curious choices when building his team, leaving NHLers such as Radim Vrbata and Jiri Hudler off the roster while opting for KHL players including his son-in-law, Michael Barinka. Pavelec was asked about the controversy.

"We know. Of course we know. We read the paper, we look at the Internet, we know what's going on. But those questions, I think those are questions for the coach. He picked the team and it's a tough job."

Against the Latvians, Jaromir Jagr had a goal and showed the poise and hockey sense that makes him one of the greatest players in the world on any size of ice.

Jagr had time and space in the offensive zone all day and appeared to be playing chess while the Latvians were engaged in checkers. The 42-year-old Jagr's legs may be getting a little tired, but mentally he's still improving.

"I don't get old, man. I am alive. God help me," he smirked, before pushing aside questions on the turmoil surrounding his team. "We always feel good. We are from the Czech Republic; we are always loose, man. We've got always fun. No pressure."

The win kept the Czechs' hopes of securing a bye to the quarter-finals alive, but Jagr is only focused on just one goal.

"We have to probably win at least four more games (to win gold)," he said. "So no big deal."

Jets forward Michael Frolik had another clean game for the Czechs, doing his job on the fourth line in a mostly checking role.

Lativan defenceman Arturs Kulda, also a member of the Jets organization but currently not under contract, said after the game his future with Winnipeg is uncertain.

"I have a two-year deal in the KHL and I'm happy there. Winnipeg still owns me, but I don't know what their plans are," Kulda said. "We'll see."

Martin Erat, Marek Zidlicky and Jakub Voracek also scored for the Czechs.

Former Manitoba Moose forward Herb Vasiljevs and Jakub Sprukts scored for Lativa.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 15, 2014 C3

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