HC Ocelari Trinec is once again the champion of the Czech Extraliga by way of a 3-0 shutout victory over the Bili Tygri Liberec in the fifth game of the championship final. Led by Winnipeg product Jack Rodewald, Trinec collected its second-straight title and third in the past 10 years.
“To win a championship is the most exciting experience that I have had in professional hockey,” Rodewald told Game On. “It has been an awesome experience over here. The team treats us exceptionally well and the group of guys we had on the team were great to me.”
Joining the team midway through the year, Rodewald made an immediate impact in the regular season, before coming up clutch in the playoffs, scoring the opening goal of Game 5 at nearly the exact mid-point on a man advantage, before adding an assist on the empty-netter late in the game. In doing so, he helped his teammates collect a first place postseason finish in Czech Republic’s highest level of professional hockey, winning the series 4-1.
— Tipsport extraliga (@telhcz) April 26, 2021
“It was an adjustment at the beginning coming to a new country and league,” Rodewald added. “With the 10 months off due to COVID it was especially tough. The most enjoyable part was the group of guys on the team and how they made me feel at home even though everything was brand new.”
After having taken the Masaryk Cup as champs in 2018-19, Trinec entered 2020-21 as the reigning victors with the COVID-19 taking away the 2019-20 season. Defending its title as the best in Czech Republic, the Ocelari welcomed a number of newcomers to the team for the 2020-21 season. But none had quite the impact that Rodewald displayed.
Rodewald put up five goals and 15 points in 22 regular season games for Trinec, before collecting six goals and nine points in 16 playoff matches. He also displayed his good old-fashioned Manitoban grit, often throwing heavy checks while not backing down from a fight, despite still familiarizing himself with a brand new continent.
For Trinec head coach Václav Varada, the win was even more special, as it happened to land on his 45th birthday.
“This is something amazing, I’m very happy,” Varada smiled between tears of joys post-game at the Werk Arena. “That’s how I imagined it. It was such a strange motivation. Tears were there, more to come. It is in me, the main thing is yet to come. We never had to, we just wanted it. I told players this every day that the basis is to want. We really wanted a lot, which was visible.”
Potting the game’s opening tally 9:07 into the second period on a man advantage, Rodewald displayed some of the skillset that saw him put up 23 goals and 47 points in 59 games for the Belleville Senators in 2018-19.
The Manitoban forward previously spent the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons between the Ottawa and Belleville Senators, before being dealt to the Florida Panthers organization for the start of the 2019-20 season. Rodewald, however, only suited up in the minor leagues for the Springfield Thunderbirds, where he collected five goals, 16 points and 21 penalty minutes in 43 games the past season.
After joining the easternmost squad within the 14-team Czech Tipsport Extraliga in early-January, Rodewald showed signs of his offensive prowess, despite being placed in unfamiliar territory.
“I didn’t know anything about the Czech Republic before I went, so I was able to experience a new country,” he said on his travels to Europe. “However, everything has been locked down since I got here because of COVID, so I was unable to get the full experience that I would have had during a regular year. It would have been cool to travel around a bit more and see more cities but I enjoyed it regardless.”
It would probably be fair to say that HC Ocelari Trinec also enjoyed having Rodewald and his skillset along for the championship ride.
— HC Oceláři Třinec (@hcocelaricz) April 4, 2021