Czechs lament wasted chances
By LANCE HORNBY, TORONTO SUN
Six years later, the Czech Republic has found how bitter the taste of Nagano can be. In a game very similar to their shoot-out win over Canada in the semi-final at the 2002 Olympics, the Czechs reversed roles with the red and white, dominating play, then falling in overtime.
'WE WERE BETTER'
"We were the better team," forward Vaclav Prospal said. "We flew over here and put on a good show. But five or 10 years from now, no one will remember that, only that Canada won in overtime."
Milan Hejduk, who had a couple of chances to put the Czechs in control in regulation and was stopped in the extra period by Roberto Luongo, still hadn't taken off his equipment almost an hour after the game.
"You don't have that many chances to beat Canada in their own building," he lamented. "This is such a disappointing loss for us."
He did pay tribute to Luongo's quickness in overtime, filling what little hole Hejduk had to shoot at when Martin Rucinsky put him in the clear. Hejduk also had Luongo down without a stick early in the game and shot high.
The Czechs had dedicated the World Cup to their late coach, Ivan Hlinka, who died in a car crash on the eve of training camp. After a sluggish start, two losses and some controversial lineup changes, substitute coach Vladimir Ruzicka brought the team within a goal of the final.
The aging Czechs had put a lot of stock in winning the Cup and reminding the world of their late-1990s dominance of the sport at the international level.
"Most of us have played our last game for the national team." winger Jaromir Jagr said. "It's always tough to leave with a loss."
Jagr fought off various ailments to play last night. But goalie Tomas Vokoun gave further indication that he will be a force in the coming years with the Nashville Predators.
'WE CAN BE PROUD'
"That (Kris Draper) goal was a bad one, a long shot that you have to stop," Vokoun said of Canada's third goal. "But we came back. We can be proud of every player here. We played with a lot of heart and passion."