Rampant Czechs rout Norway
Two goals from Lukas Kaspar and a second clean sheet in two World Championship appearances for Dominik Furch caught the eye as Vladimir Vujtek's team romped to a 7-0 triumph over Norway, improving to four wins from four (one in a shoot-out) to tighten its grip on first place.
Back-to-back wins over Switzerland and Kazakhstan had boosted Norway's hopes of forcing a play-off spot to mark head coach Roy Johansen's 15th World Championship campaign, but with Sweden and Russia to come in the next two games this heavy defeat puts a dent in that prospect.
Roman Cervenka fired the Czechs in front in the sixth minute, greeting David Pastrnak's appetising feed with a vicious one-timer past Lars Volden. Norway had shown enough prior to that to suggest that this could turn into a competitive game, but after falling behind the Polar Bears contributed to their own downfall with a combination of errors and misfortune as the Czechs opened up a 3-0 lead in the first intermission.
First the error: Mattias Norstebo lost control of the puck as he tried to take it over the blue line and Tomas Zohorna snuck in to make the steal before scoring on Volden.
Next the misfortune: Robert Kousal saw his angled shot saved, but when Ole-Kristian Tollefsen and Jonas Holos collided with each other on the slot they contrived to deflect the puck into the bottom corner.
Cervenka, the scorer of the opening Czech goal, credited his team's first-period display as the key to the win. "I wouldn't like to say it was an easy game, despite winning 7-0," he said. "We just got off to a really good start and we were up 3-0, 4-0 very quickly."
Not for the first time in this competition, Norway was hamstrung by profligate offence and sunk by a clinical opponent in the middle session. Much like the opening defeat to Denmark, the Norwegians created opportunities - the Olimb brothers again looking lively - without converting them. At the other end, the Czechs offered a masterclass in finishing, scoring four unanswered goals from just nine shots on target.
Lukas Kaspar, who is set to play his club hockey in this arena next season after agreeing a move from Slovan Bratislava to Dynamo Moscow, got a sighter of his new home when he thumped home number four off a Kundratek pass. And Norway's starting goalie Lars Volden left the game before the midway point after Radim Simek's wrister made it 5-0 in the 29th minute.
The atmosphere on the ice turned sour late in the second period. First Michal Jordan was handed a 10-minute misconduct penalty after taking exception to Tollefsen's hit that left Kousal crumpled on the ice. Moments later another skirmish kicked off with two players from each side taking minors for roughing.
That didn't do much to disrupt the Czech scoring, though. Michal Repik made it 6-0 with a wrister from the left-hand face off spot that ripped over Lars Haugen's glove and zinged into the top corner.
And in the final minute of the stanza Kaspar got his second of the night with a fine individual effort. The much-travelled forward came in from the boards and, realising that no defenceman was coming to close him down in the circle, advanced into a shooting position before squeezing a wrister inside the near post.
Pastrnak admitted there was some relief after the Czechs had slipped up in previous meetings with Norway, and was pleased with the growing confidence of the team.
"We knew it wouldn't be easy - we've lost a couple of times to Norway in the past, so we're happy with this result," said the Boston forward. "We played with more confidence once we got ahead but we're still young and still make mistakes. We have to learn, especially on the power play. We've had chances and not scored enough. We can be much better."
The final stanza lacked the intensity of what had gone before, with Furch's progress towards his second shut-out of the competition. He achieved that fairly comfortably as his team calmly controlled much of the play, allowing only a couple of anxious moments around the net.
"When you get a shut-out everyone on the team makes a contribution to that, but of course our goalie has been great here and against Russia," Cervenka added. "Norway had some chances tonight but he had the answers."
At the other end Kaspar had one good chance to complete his hat-trick only to be denied by Haugen's pads in the 50th minute.
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