January 12, 2012

Mrazek Ready For "Last Chance To Win in Junior"

The Under-20 World Junior Championships are over, the OHL trade deadline has passed, and the 67’s only have to worry about their play to finish the season. The team was added as the 10th ranked team by the CHL this week. The defense is as deep as it’s been in many years. Ottawa has made deals to improve their already dangerous offense. But their goaltending may be their strongest point heading into the final stages of the season.

During the aforementioned World Juniors, goaltender Petr Mrazek became a bit of a sensation for his performance while representing the Czech Republic. I had a chance to quickly speak with Petr and ask him about his experiences on the world stage and how he’s looking forward to the rest of the Ontario Hockey League season.

Although Ottawa has one of the larger facilities in the OHL, the junior tournament in Calgary and Edmonton was something else for Ottawa’s star goalie. “It was unbelievable, 15,000 fans on our side against the US, and then Finland and Russia.”

Mrazek’s fame came mostly from his performance against the United States. His wild celebrations and near-miss on an empty net attempt, to go along with 53 stops, made him an instant hit. He says that there was no hesitation on his attempt at a goal. “I knew I would shoot the puck when I started behind my net, because I saw a lot of their guys on the side. I tried last year in Ottawa and missed, and this year’s was closer so maybe if I get another chance it’ll be in.”

Winger Shane Prince happened to be walking by during the interview, jokingly adding “yeah, Petr’s gonna score a game winner for us in the playoffs!”

As for the celebrations, those weren’t so pre-meditated. “Before the game I didn’t think, I can do something like this. I’m almost always a quiet guy so I don’t know why I did it”, he said with a chuckle. When asked if he would ever have a similar liveliness if Ottawa found themselves in a big game, he simply responded “I don’t know, we’ll see what happens in the playoffs. It happened in the situation (at the juniors).”

His game against the United States was amazing, but Mrazek may have topped it, although in a slightly more relaxed way, in the quarterfinals against the Russians. Unfortunately, his 43-save performance was marred by a controversial overtime goal. Many felt that the Russians should have been given a high-sticking penalty right before the overtime winner. Petr, however wishes that they had won the game before it even got to that point.

“It was a little tough, but we had a great chance to score on a 4-on-3 powerplay.”

The 2010 draft choice of the Detroit Red Wings still won goaltender of the tournament to go along with a 5th place finish in the tournament. Now that he’s back, it’s all about doing everything to win a championship with Ottawa.

“I think every moment I enjoyed there with the guys on the ice off the ice. We had fun, we had a great team so every minute of the tournament, I enjoyed it. This is last chance to win something here in junior so I will try my best.”

Dating back to December 10th’s game in Sudbury, Mrazek has been on a hot streak, allowing just two goals in his last three starts and collecting a shutout in his first game back against the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors. ”That was a pretty nice shutout, my first game in Ottawa after World Championships but now it’s over and now I have to start thinking for the next games.”

Despite being a star in Alberta, Ottawa’s netminder never lost sight of the team he plays for in junior. Petr wore a 67’s logo on the back of his Czech Republic mask and followed the team whenever he could. “I watched one game against Kingston when they lost 5-2 but I just checked out on the website how the guys played because a couple of games weren’t available.”

Finally, he touched on the recent trades that his team has made. “Absolutely, that’s two top players (John McFarland and Mike Cazzola), so I think they can really help us.”

In the three games (vs. Canada, Finland and Russia) that the Czech Republic lost, the team only scored one goal. When they did score in bunches, Petr Mrazek did his part to ensure the win. If he keeps up his performance, mixed in with Ottawa’s high-powered offense, the 67’s could find themselves challenging for an OHL Championship.

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