Czech goalkeeper Tomas Vokoun will have the chance to go out on top. Playing in likely his final game for the Czech Republic, the Florida Panthers netminder saved 35 shots in leading the Czechs to a 2-1 upset over mighty two-time reigning champions Russia in Sunday’s final to win the 2010 IIHF ice hockey world championship in Germany.

The Czechs jumped ahead after just 20 seconds on Jakub Klepis’s goal and made it 2-0 on captain Tomas Rolinek’s goal with 1:47 remaining in the second period. Vokoun did allow a goal to Detroit Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk with 35.3 seconds to play.

But it was just enough for the Czechs to celebrate their 12th world championship title and sixth since the separation of Czechoslovakia following crowns in 1996, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2005.

Vokoun was a member of the 2005 title winning Czech side – his only teammate from then and now was the legendary Jaromir Jagr. And the 33-year-old Vokoun is happy he has reached a point in his career that he can appreciate the magnitude of the achievement.

“I’m lucky I’m at the age where I can enjoy it. When you’re older you realize it’s a big deal, especially since this team wasn’t a favorite by any means. But will and hard work took us really far,” said Vokoun.

The 11-year NHL veteran has lived in Canada or the United States for the past 15 years and said after the game that he has likely played his final game in a Czech uniform after winning two world titles and 2006 Olympic bronze.

“We knew this is the last game of the year. Coming into the tournament, if I had one wish, it would be to win my last game in a Czech uniform. This is probably my last game. This is a great moment for me and an unbelievable moment for all the guys in the locker room. We were doubted from the beginning to the end. Now, nobody can doubt us.”

The Czechs, who had just four NHL players compared to 14 for the record 25-time world champs Russia, faced plenty of do-or-die situations coming into Sunday’s final in Cologne

They needed to beat Sweden in the third game of the tournament and final first round match to advance to the second round. After losing to Switzerland, the Czechs needed victories over Latvia and Canada to reach the final eight.

Then coach Vladimir Ruzicka’s men struggled to beat Finland 2-1 in a shootout in the quarterfinals. And in the semifinals, Karel Rachunek scored with seven seconds left to force overtime against Sweden before winning in a shootout.

“Obviously we got the breaks. You can’t do it without it,” admitted Vokoun.

“Luck, you can call it whatever you want. Obviously when you score with seven seconds left in the semifinals and then win in the shootout there is some luck involved. This team put itself in a chance to win every game.”

Still Vokoun is realistic and knows that the Czech win over Russia was an upset.

“There is no way we should be able to beat Russian on an even level with the team we played tonight when you look at the players they have,” he said.

“In one game anything can happen. I highly doubt that we would beat them in a playoff series four times to knock them out.”

Vokoun also was humble about his place in Czech hockey history. When asked who is the best Czech goalie of all time – him or Dominik Hasek, Vokoun shot out: “No way, Hasek is way better than me.”

Right up there with Hasek in the annuls of Czech greats is Jagr, who won his second world title, proving that the former NHL Hart Trophy winner is still among the best in the world.

The difference, the Avangard Omsk forward said, was the Czechs’ will and hard work.

“Look at our line-up. They played so hard and I am so proud of them,” Jagr said after the game.

“The talent doesn’t matter. It is how much you work.”

And the two-time Stanley Cup champion was glad to see his young teammates celebrate.

“I am so happy for the guys. We have a lot of guys who play in the league in the Czech Republic and no one knows them,” said Jagr, who plays in the Russian KHL.

Jagr limped off the ice and past reporters after the gold medal ceremony after a clipping hit on him late in the game. And the 38-year-old admitted the nine games in 15 days has left him drained.

“I am so tired,” said Jagr.

Still, Jagr remains committed to playing in the white, red and blue Czech jersey.

“I hope (I’m not done). As long as I can play, I will play. I love playing the Czech team, and if I can help, I will play.”

IIHF world championship fans will have to wait another year to see if Jagr is back – and help the Czechs defend their title.



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