Recognized as Czechia’s Female ice hockey Player of the Year in 2019, the honor propelled Denisa Krizova to a greater level of acclaim. Having worn Czechia’s jersey throughout the 2010s, excelling in IIHF and ISBHF play, Křížová, raised in Horni Cerekev, enjoyed a new milestone.
Wearing the number 16, Křížová held a place on Czechia’s Olympic roster at Beijing 2022. Marking the first time that the proud hockey nation debuted in women’s ice hockey at the Winter Olympics, it marked an experience that affirmed her standing as a world-class talent. Making her Olympic debut on February 3, the first-ever game for Czechia on the world’s biggest stage, the event provided a jubilant Křížová with a combination of history and national pride.
“It was special from the beginning that we even made the Olympics. We could be part of the biggest event in the world.”
Facing off against host China in the February 3 match, opening Group B play, emotions ran high for both teams. With Tereza Radova scoring unassisted in the first period, recording Czechia’s first Olympic goal, Křížová placed her name on the scoresheet in the second period.
With assists credited to Noemi Neubauerovva and Sara Cajanova, the three became intertwined in Olympic history. Prevailing versus China in a 3-1 final, victorious in their Olympic debut, Křížová’s goal stood as the game-winning tally.
The victory, including Křížová’s contributions held important ramifications through the tournament’s progression, as the top three teams in Group B qualified for the elimination round. Reflecting on the magnitude of the game winning goal, the moment stood as a tremendous point of pride for the talented forward,
“I was very excited and of course nervous to play my first game there and I am happy we won. I would help the team to win with that goal, and (glad) that we started the tournament with the win.”
Having played with the national team since she was a teenager, Křížová has enjoyed over 85 international appearances in the Czechia jersey. Currently playing professionally with Brynas IF of Sweden’s SDHL, she skates alongside fellow Czechian Olympians Katerina Mrazova and Sammy Kolowratova. Akin to Krizova and Mrazova, Kolowratova also played NCAA and NWHL hockey, competing with the Vermont Catamounts and Metropolitan Riveters.
Křížová’s efforts were essential in the opportunity to compete in Beijing. In the Group C Olympic Qualification tournament, held in Chomutov, Czechia, Krizova contributed at least one point in each contest. With the host team recording an undefeated record, it marked more than a proud pinnacle for Krizova. With a commendable work ethic and solid skill set, her presence enabled her to play a huge role in Czechia’s Olympic dream,
“I like to lead by example, so I focused on myself to do my best to help the whole team to success.”
Heading into Beijing, a key objective for Czechia involved qualifying for the Quarterfinal round. Finishing in second place in Group B play, trailing only Japan in the standings, it marked a fait accompli. Considering that Denmark also made their Olympic hockey debut, and China enjoyed their first appearance since Vancouver 2010, Czechia’s qualification marked an impressive achievement.
Facing off against the United States in the quarterfinals, a feeling of full circle defined Křížová’s appearance. In addition to her standing as a female sports hero in Czechia, her skills shone on the other side of the Atlantic.
In addition to spending her teens at the National Sports Academy in Lake Placid, New York, host of the 1980 Winter Games, Křížová amassed 169 career points (sixth all-time) for Boston’s Northeastern Huskies.
From the outset, one of Krizova’s teammates at Northeastern included Lucie Povova, both members of Czechia’s entry at the 2013 IIHF Women’s Worlds. Having also played with McKenna Brand and Lauren Kelly, they would become teammates on the Boston Pride during the 2018-19 NWHL season. As a side note, that season saw Mrazova also grace NWHL ice, wearing the Connecticut Whale colors.
Another pair of familiar faces from Křížová’s terrific time at Northwestern were prevalent in her Olympic quarterfinal appearance. US captain Kendall Coyne-Schofield, plus Hayley Scamurra were other celebrated Huskies alumnae participating in the contest.
Following their historic goals in the 3-1 win versus China, there was a sense of serendipity that Radova and Křížová collaborated on Czechia’s last goal scored in Beijing. Despite the fact that the US emerged victorious by a 4-1 tally in the quarterfinal match, Czechia enjoyed the first lead of the game.
Keeping the US off the scoreboard in the first period, Radova and Křížová earned the assists on a second period goal scored by Michaela Pejzlova. Along with Klara Peslarova recording an astonishing 55 saves, including 26 in the third, Czechia is a nation on the rise in the game’s global picture. Undoubtedly, the achievement of reaching the quarterfinals, climbing to eighth in the world rankings, holds the potential for greater glories in the next Olympic cycle.
“It meant a lot to me and to all of us. It was a dream come true that we all were chasing since we were a little kids. So qualifying for the Olympics was a moment that I will never forget.”
Another seminal moment for Krizova, enriching the Olympic experience, involved the Opening Ceremonies. Taking place at Beijing National Stadium on February 4, an event which unveiled the world’s largest LED screen, the theme of the event was One World, One Family, included the slogan, “Together for a shared future.”
Such an event helped set the tone of celebration and attainment. Providing Křížová with inspiration, her reflections encompass more than just athletic competition. With friendship, enjoyment and celebration part of a bigger picture, moments to cherish forever, the memories made remain poignant,
“Being at the Olympics and be part of the opening ceremony was another special moment I really enjoyed to be part of. Still gives me shivers thinking about it. I think we all had so many favorite moments and enjoyed every day there.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”