International Ice Hockey Federation

Hosts stunned in opener

Hosts stunned in opener

Steely Czech defence propels 3-0 win

Published 12.04.2023 16:34 GMT+3 | Author Andrew Podnieks
Hosts stunned in opener
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MAY 6: The Czech Republic players celebrate after a third period goal by Michal Birner #16 while Russia's Vadim Shipachyov #87 looks on during preliminary round action at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey Championship. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images)
The sold-out crowd was fully behind the Russians. The players were nervous but came to life. The stage was set, but the Czechs persevered would not break.

Everything was there for a victory to kick off the 80th World Championship, but the timely scoring of the Czechs, and their impenetrable play inside their own blue line carried them to a wild and impressive 3-0 win in opening-night action in Moscow.

Tomas Kundratek and Roman Cervenka provided the goals to build a 2-0 lead, and Michal Birner added an empty-netter. Dominik Furch was sensational when he had to be in goal for the Czechs to record the shutout, making 25 saves in his debut with the senior team.

"I don't want to give away any secrets about our strengths," Kundratek said, "but you saw tonight that we're a fast team, and we play physcially. Our goalie stopped a lot of pucks and made some big saves."

"Bobrovski played really well," said Russian coach Oleg Znarok. "The goals were a deflection and a rebound, and the third was into an empty net, so there are no complaints about his game."

Kundratek’s goal came just as a power play expired. He fired a shot between the pads of Sergei Bobrovski at 14:48 of the opening period. The Russians took three of the four penalties in the first, which didn’t help the team’s efforts to gain some traction in the offensive end.

"The first goal we really important for us," Cervenka acknowledged. "We knew that Russia has a strong team, it's a big favourite in this group, but we've already played a lot of good games against them and we won several times so we were confident that we could do it again."

Cervenka connected on a power play 48 seconds into the second. A quick Jakub Jerabek point shot was stopped weakly by Bobrovski and Cervenka was at the top of the crease to poke the puck in.

The Russians dominated the second half of the period. Sergei Mozyakin was alone in front with time to spare, but his wicked wrist shot snapped off the crossbar and out of play.

Later in the period the Russians controlled the puck in the opposition end for nearly three minutes as the crowd worked itself into a frenzy, but the Czechs played incredible defence despite the fatigue. The best chance on this sequence went to Artemi Panarin, but his quick shot was kicked out by an even quicker right pad of Furch.

The Russians went 0-for-5 with the man advantage, no more importantly than in the final period when they had a 5-on-3 for 18 seconds. The Czechs blocked many more shots than Furch such was their expertise at geting a body part or stick in the lane from the Russians to the goal. They were full measure for the victory, but Russia also must take some of the blame in defeat.

"We might have won," Cervenka concluded, "but that doesn't make us the favourites. Russia is still the favourite. We've got a good start to the tournament and that's really important for us."

The Czechs are back at it tomorrow night, playing Latvia in the late game. The Russians have a day off before playing recently-promoted Kazakhstan on Sunday.

"Our play in the first period wasn't too bad," offered Znarok, "but the penalties were something we didn't expect. It's clear our power play was not a big success for us today."


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