Pavelec defends fellow Czech's antics
|Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec defended Petr Mrazek, the Czech goalie who stopped 52 shots in a win over the U.S. on Friday at the World Juniors in Edmonton. (Jason Halstead/QMI Agency)
WINNIPEG - He's a goalie from the Czech Republic so it was no surprise to hear Ondrej Pavelec getting the gears from his teammates Saturday, a day after his countryman put on a wild and controversial show at the world junior hockey championship in Alberta.
Pavelec, the Winnipeg Jets starting goaltender who is expected to be in net for Saturday’s key Eastern Conference matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs, defended Petr Mrazek, the goalie who stopped 52 shots in a win over the United States Friday but made bigger headlines with his celebratory antics, which included chest-bumping the boards and jumping onto the pile after his team scored a big goal.
“It’s a big win for them,” Pavelec said Saturday after the Jets gameday skate. “They were really excited, he was really excited. Probably only the U.S. guys are mad right now because they are going home.”
Pavelec motioned toward a few of his teammates, like Blake Wheeler, Tim Stapleton and Jim Slater, who are all American, as he uttered those last words.
Not surprisingly, those players didn’t share Pavelec’s positive opinion of Mrazek’s behaviour.
“I thought it was a little over the top,” Stapleton said. “Give the kid credit … they won. I don’t know if I’m all for the celebrations, though.
“Now the kid’s a star and everyone knows who he is, so good for him.”
The Czechs eliminated the U.S. from medal contention with the win, which was a bitter pill to swallow for current members of the American team and alumni like Wheeler.
“It’s fine to be excited and happy,” said Wheeler, who played for the U.S. at the 2006 world juniors in Vancouver.
“At a certain point it was way overboard. He gets burnt on a (penalty shot). The kid fried him and he missed the net, and he fist pumps and he’s in the corner chest bumping the fans. There’s a time to draw the line. If I was on the U.S. team — I don’t know, maybe not — but I would’ve liked to put one right at his head at the end of the game. I’m sure they all did, too.”
Pavelec believes Mrazek, a Detroit Red Wings draft pick, will soon learn that his behaviour is not always going to be acceptable.
“He’s still a kid, he was excited. He will figure it out later,” said Pavelec, who was more thrilled for his country than interested in talking about the junior team’s goalie.
“Nobody believed in them. Nobody thought they were going to beat anybody so that’s why they were so excited.
“I watched the game and cheered for them, but it’s only one game.”
So, has Pavelec ever seen a goalie behave like that before?
“Yes, after a Stanley Cup final maybe. I’ve never seen that before in that situation but everybody’s different.”
Stapleton figures Pavelec might have something special up his sleeve after watching his countryman on Friday.
“He’s a Czech player, so maybe Pav will be doing pile jumps tonight after goals,” Stapleton laughed. “I’m sure he’s going to do something.”
Stapleton was joking of course, but it begged the question: What would happen if a goalie pulled a Mrazek in an NHL game?
“You saw what happened with (Artem) Anisimov in New York when he did that kind of celebration, so I’m sure if it started with the goalies, something would happen,” Stapleton said.
For the record Anisimov got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for pretending to shoot a rifle after scoring a goal and also had to deal with some angry members of the Tampa Bay Lightning. He also publicly apologized to his teammates.
It’s safe to say Mrazek’s celebration won’t be starting a trend at the NHL level.