By Margann Laurissa, CHL special for The Czech List
Just as quickly as November started, it is almost at its end. The Canadian Hockey League has only two more weekends in this month. The many Czechs in the CHL are continuing to play extremely well and it is showing on the scoresheet. It is amazing to think that all of these players have been reasonably so good and contributing to their teams in many different ways. With the sharp decline in Czech contingency in the CHL up until this season, it is great to see these players performing at such a high level.
In the OHL, David Tomášek and his Belleville Bulls teammates had a busy four-day stretch that saw them playing three games. On November 12, he scored his third goal of the season against the Kingston Frontenacs, tying the game 2-2 with 4:33 left in regulation. The Bulls emerged winning the game in a shootout. He did not record points in either of Belleville’s other games, November 14 in Ottawa and November 15 against Guelph. He did, however, have an even ranking and two penalty minutes in those two contests. If there is anything that has been redemptive with Tomášek this season, it has been his commitment to playing better defensively. He already has a plus-10 ranking this season, which is best on the team. Dominik Mašín and his Peterborough Petes teammates played two games this past weekend. On November 14, he was a minus-2 in the Petes’ 7-2 loss against the Battalion in North Bay. The next night, Mašín recorded a powerplay assist on what emerged to be the game-winning goal in Peterborough’s 5-1 win over the visiting Niagara IceDogs. The Sarnia Sting, unfortunately, were dealt a blow to their lineup this past weekend for their games against the Oshawa Generals and the Sudbury Wolves as Pavel Zacha missed both games due to suspension. Despite the fact that Zacha was out of the lineup, the Sting played well in his absence, going 1-1 in those two contests. He still finds himself third in Sting team scoring and second in OHL rookie scoring. With the Sudbury Wolves starting to play minutely better, Pavel Jenyš continues to have a stellar first season in North America. The Wolves had a busy weekend road trip with three games in as many days. On November 14, against the Mississauga Steelheads, he recorded a powerplay assist, making it his third straight game with a helper, and he got into a fight with Everett Clark. The next night, he had no points but managed to maintain an even plus/minus ranking in a 5-2 loss to the Sarnia Sting. On November 16, in Kitchener against the Rangers, Jenyš scored his fifth goal of the season as the Wolves emerged victorious 3-2 in a shootout. He is still leading the Wolves in scoring with sixteen points.
In the QMJHL, Filip Chlapík and the rest of the Charlottetown Islanders had only two games but they made the best of both of them. After a low-scoring 2-1 win over the Victoriaville Tigres on November 15, the Islanders had a remarkable 5-1 victory over the Drummondville Voltigeurs the next night. That game turned out to be, so far, the best in Chlapík’s QMJHL career. The rookie forward figured in on every goal, recording his first QMJHL hat trick and two assists, overwhelmingly deserving of first star honours. Chlapík’s 32 points have him third in league rookie scoring and eleventh overall among all scorers. Václav Karabáček and the Gatineau Olympiques had a pair of road games this past weekend. On November 14, in Rimouski, Karabáček scored a goal in the Olympiques’ 7-4 loss to the Océanic. In the same Gatineau-Rimouski game, Océanic defenceman Jan Kosťálek had a very solid outing. He recorded a goal, two assists, was plus-4 and had two hits in that contest, earning first star honours. On November 16, Kosťálek recorded a penalty, his only impact on the scoresheet, in a 3-2 overtime victory over the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. With four goals already this season, he is one away from tying his tally mark from each of the last two seasons. The Saint John Sea Dogs had a three-game road trip this past weekend, with stops against the Québec Remparts, the Chicoutimi Saguenéens and the Baie-Comeau-Drakkar. Jakub Zbořil had a powerplay assist during that stretch, as well as a minus-2 ranking. The Val-d’Or Foreurs had a two-game home stand this past weekend, hosting the Shawinigan Cataractes and the Québec Remparts. On November 15, against Shawinigan, both Jan Mandát and Daniel Krenželok recorded assists in a 7-4 Foreurs win. The next night, Mandát had two goals in another 7-4 victory. Another player with a busy weekend was Filip Pyrochta of the Victoriaville Tigres, who had a road trip in which they visited the Moncton Wildcats, the Charlottetown Islanders and the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. On November 15, Pyrochta recorded an assist, his fourth of the month thus far.
In the WHL, the increase in confidence in Kelowna Rockets forward Tomáš Šoustal has been quite evident of late. On November 11, he had an even ranking in a 4-3 Rockets victory over the Chiefs in Spokane, despite being heavily shorthanded. On November 14 and 15, the Rockets had a back-to-back road series with the Prince George Cougars. While Šoustal did not record any points on November 14, he made up for it the next night. He scored two goals, including the game winner on the powerplay, in a 6-2 Rockets victory. On November 18, he recorded an assist in a 4-3 overtime loss against the Royals in Victoria. Medicine Hat Tigers goaltender Marek Langhamer continues to have a solid overage WHL campaign, demonstrating that he is one of the top netminders in junior hockey. On November 15, he made 36 saves in regulation and stopped seven of eight in the shootout as the Tigers were narrowly defeated 3-2 in Brandon against the Wheat Kings; for his efforts, Langhamer was named second star. On November 18, he made 23 saves in a 4-2 win over the Red Deer Rebels. He is now second in the WHL in goals-against average (2.25) and seventh in save percentage (.915%). Moose Jaw Warriors forward Jiří Smejkal appeared in two games, on November 12 at home against the Seattle Thunderbirds and November 14 on the road against the Prince Albert Raiders. After nineteen games without one, Smejkal finally scored his first WHL career goal in the game against Seattle. In addition, he was plus-3 as the Warriors soundly defeated the Thunderbirds 6-2. Smejkal was a minus-3 against Prince Albert but, in the end, it is nice to know that the monkey is finally off his back and he knows he can score in the WHL. The Prince Albert Raiders were quite busy with three games in four nights, giving both Šimon Stranský and Tomáš Andrlík some good chances to put up points. The first two games, home contests on November 12 against the Regina Pats and November 14 against the Moose Jaw Warriors, were not the best for Stranský, who was minus-4 in them combined. As for Andrlík, he got into a fight with Braden Christoffer in the game against Regina. Both of them had three shots on goal each against the Pats. On November 15, the Raiders travelled to Swift Current to take on the Broncos. While Andrlík had no points in that game, Stranský was dynamic, assisting on both of Prince Albert’s goals and tallying the shootout winner. Tri-City Americans overage forward Richard Nejezchleb is truly demonstrating that he belongs in Kennewick. He has been dynamic since his acquisition and he made it even clearer this past weekend. On November 14, Nejezchleb scored a pair of powerplay goals, including the game winner, as the Americans defeated the visiting Victoria Royals 4-1; he was named the game’s second star. The next night, November 15, he had another pair of goals, as well as an assist, in a 5-3 road win over the Spokane Chiefs, earning first star honours.
It is absolutely amazing what confidence in oneself can do. For the many Czech imports in the CHL, their increase in confidence is allowing them to reach their potentials, equalling them to or possibly bettering their North American counterparts. The acclimation process is a difficult one, indeed, but it is also one of patience. It is nice to see all of these players doing so well and, as the season continues, the echelon of talent and offensive production should get higher. It has been a great season so far and it seems as though it will be for the balance of the campaign.