GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Czech Republic head coach Alois Hadamczik claims his team won't be intimidated today, but he did ask permission to bend the rules a bit. "It would be good if they let us play both of our goalies," Hadamczik quipped in his post-game press conference after the Czechs defeated Finland 3-0 to earn a berth in today's semis against 4-0 Canada. "Canada is the favourite entering the game, but it's what's at the end of the game that matters."
CZECH REPUBLIC 3 FINLAND 0
Speaking through an interpreter, Hadamczik may have cracked a few jokes, but facing Canada today won't be a laughing matter.
Canada has crushed its competition to the tune of 32-5 in the round-robin, but the Czechs deserve full marks for pulling out a couple of big wins over the United States and Finland to get them to this point.
"We can't think this is going to be an easy win, but you cannot give them too much respect," said Czech captain Petr Vrana. "If you're going to (do that) they're going to run all over you like nothing because they are really good. You've got to play really hard.
"We've got to play good defence because they score a lot of goals. We've got to try and shoot as much as we can and go for rebounds. I don't think their goalies are as good as it looks like."
Perhaps the biggest weapon the Czechs have is in goal, where Marek Schwarz is coming off a 21-save shutout and has lost only once (to the Russians) in the tournament.
Schwarz, a first-round pick (17th overall) of the St. Louis Blues in the 2004 NHL entry draft, is the kind of goalie that can go out and steal a game but he's an emotional guy who is known to come unglued.
However, Schwarz is looking to rebound from last year's debacle that saw him pulled from the game after allowing five goals on 31 shots in a 7-1 loss to Canada in the 2004 world junior semis in Finland.
"That was a bad game for us," said Schwarz. "I'm very excited, I want to beat Canada. It's going to be a hard game. I'm ready."
The Czechs roster features only four returnees, but 12 guys currently play in the Canadian Hockey League, including six in the OHL, three in the WHL and three in the QMJHL.
Many of those 12 will be facing teammates today.
Martin Tuma normally plays for the Soo Greyhounds with Jeff Carter, Vrana plays for the Halifax Mooseheads with Stephen Dixon, Michal Gulasi plays for the Lethbridge Hurricanes with Brent Seabrook and Roman Polak plays for the Kootenay Ice with Nigel Dawes and Jeff Glass.
Probably the most interesting sub-plot in the game features a pair of Rimouski Oceanic players going head-to-head.
Sidney Crosby of Canada and Zbyneki Hrdel of the Czechs have played on a line during the past two seasons and are close friends.
The two spoke yesterday morning and were hoping to meet up in the semifinal.
"He's a good guy, we hang out a lot," said Hrdel. "It's great to play with him, but (playing against him) is part of the game. It doesn't matter who you play against, you have to play 100%. I can't wait to see him (today) on the ice ... it's Team Canada and they will play tough."