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Goalie swap

Don't blame goalie Vokoun for Czech's semifinal loss

Posted: Friday February 24, 2006 7:29PM; Updated: Friday February 24, 2006 7:29PM
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Tomas Vokoun
Despite being eighth in the NHL with a .919 save percentage, the Czech coaching staff had no faith in Tomas Vokoun.
Vladimir Rys/Getty Images

TURIN, Italy -- Czech Republic head coach Alois Hadamczik is good at stating the obvious.

Asked about his dubious decision to swap Milan Hnilicka, his starter, for Tomas Vokoun after Sweden scored five times through the first half of the semifinals, Hadamczik said, "When you get so many quick goals, something must be changed. That's why we changed goalkeepers."

Duh. What remains a mystery is why Hadamczik benched Vokoun in the first place. The coach took a gamble on Hnilicka, a former NHL journeyman in the Czech league, and was eliminated from the Games after a 7-3 loss to Sweden.

While there was speculation Vokoun did not practice the day before because of a groin injury, Hadamczik insisted that the Czech's top goalie was healthy and simply needed a rest.

Hadamczik apparently had no faith in Vokoun, the Nashville goalie who is eighth in the NHL with a .919 save percentage, after he dropped three goals against Canada during round-robin play. Hadamczik yanked him after the first period.

Hnilicka, the Czech's third goalie, had allowed only one goal in five periods until he enlisted an open-door policy with Sweden. Hadamczik said the decision to keep Hnilicka in the net while Sweden amassed a 5-1 lead had little to do with the goalie. "I was not convinced that it was Hnilicka's fault. It was the fault of the defense," he said.

The Czech's top pair of defensemen, Pavel Kubina and Tomas Kaberle, were certainly no match for the Peter Forsberg-Mats Sundin-Fredrik Modin line.

Thirty seconds into the first period, the Czech defensive duo had apparently skated across the French border because they were nowhere in sight when Modin shot a puck through a wide-open net. Kubina and Kaberle were on the ice but missing in action for four goals that Sweden made at equal strength.

"We couldn't keep up with them today," Kaberle said afterwards. "We had trouble getting good defense. We were all over the place."