The annual IIHF Ice Hockey World championships kick off tomorrow (May 10) in Slovakia, and the Czech Republic has a tough draw to open the tournament.
Two-time defending world champions Sweden will meet the Czech Republic tomorrow night in Bratislava as the 2019 tournament officially gets underway. Sweden dominated the 2017 and 2018 IIHF tournaments, and is considered a favorite in this year’s edition.
Last year, Sweden topped the Czech Republic 3-2 during the opening qualifying round.
The Czech Republic is in Group B qualifying play in 2019, with seven matchups against Sweden, Norway, Russia, Latvia Italy, Austria, and Switzerland on the schedule in Bratislava through May 21.
Group A, comprised of the United States, Canada, Germany, Finland, Slovakia, Denmark, France, and Great Britain, will play in Košice.
Should the Czech Republic place in the top four teams in Group B, they’ll advance to the quarterfinal playoffs against top teams from Group A beginning on May 23. The final and bronze medal games will be held in Bratislava on May 26.
Here’s what’s on tap for the Czech Republic in the qualifying round:
May 10: 20:15 – Czech Republic vs. Sweden
May 11: 20:15 – Norway vs. Czech Republic
May 13: 16:15 – Russia vs. Czech Republic
May 16: 20:15 – Czech Republic vs. Latvia
May 17: 20:15 – Czech Republic vs. Italy
May 19: 16:15 – Austria vs. Czech Republic
May 21: 20:15 – Czech Republic vs. Switzerland
The 2019 Czech IIHF roster includes 9 players currently in NHL, including star wing Ondřej Palát from the Tampa Bay Lightning and Jakub Vrána, who won a Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals last season.
Star forward Tomáš Hertl and wing David Pastrňák will not be joining the Czech team for the IIHF as they advance with the San Jose Sharks and Boston Bruins, respectively, in NHL playoff action. Goaltender Petr Mrázek is also leading the Carolina Hurricanes in the NHL playoffs.
Since the country was formed in 1993, the Czech Republic has won a total of six IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships. Their last win was in 2010, however, and the Czech Republic hasn’t placed higher than third since 2012.