Germany pulled off the first upset of the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games Qualification Tournament on its home ice in Berlin on Saturday (27 November), defeating Norway for its first win at the event, while Italy and Slovakia picked up their second victories to remain undefeated.
After two days of action, Slovakia and Italy lead the standings with six points, followed by Norway and Germany each with three points. Sweden and Japan are still looking for their first points in Berlin.
The top two finishers at the six-team, round-robin style tournament will earn their spots at the Beijing 2022 Games.
Germany 6, Norway 2
Hannover native Felix Schrader propelled Germany to a 6-2 victory over Norway with four goals. He helped give the host nation its first win in Berlin as it looks to end its 15-year Paralympic drought in the sport.
Both Schrader and Jorg Wedde, one of the few holdovers from Germany’s 2006 Paralympic team, found the net in the opening period to give Germany an early two-goal advantage.
Two-time Paralympic medalist Loyd Remi Solberg and rising star forward Ola Oiseth led a Norwegian rally in the second stanza, each scoring within nearly a minute of each other to tie the game. However, 19 seconds later, Dresden native Bernhard Hering shoveled the puck into the net off a pass from Bas Disveld to put Germany back on top.
It was a Schrader bonanza in the third period, with the 24-year-old forward scoring three more times in a span of just over six minutes to pad his team’s lead for good.
“We saved our chance to get a ticket to the Paralympic Games with this win after losing yesterday,” said German forward Ingo Kuhli-Lauenstein, who had two assists in the game. “The best way to recover is to win a match, and that’s what we did. Felix Schrader was incredible again — he’s really unstoppable, and his ability in the sledge is incredible.”
Germany’s Simon Kunst was the winning goaltender with 10 saves, and Norway’s Johan Groenlie batted off the puck four times.
Italy 5, Sweden 4
Italy held off what nearly became a four-goal comeback from Sweden to pick up its second win at the tournament by the thinest of margins, winning 5-4.
Four different players scored in the Italian victory — Gianluigi Rosa scored once in the first period and once in the second, and 24-year-olds Nils Larch and Alessandro Andreoni, and Stephan Kafmann, a father of two, all found the net in the second. That gave the Italians a comfortable 5-1 lead with five minutes left until the final frame. Sweden’s single score at that point had come from Niklas Ingvarsson at the 13:19 mark in the opening period.
But before the buzzer could sound in the second period, 16-time national team member Rasmus Lundgren tallied a score to shift the momentum to the Swedish side before the final period. In the third, former able-bodied hockey player Maximillian Dickson Gyllsten scored on the power play and then assisted Lundgren for another score, moving Sweden to within one with five minutes remaining in the contest.
With a defensive front anchored by assistant captain Andrea Macri, Italy held off several Swedish shots in the remaining minutes to close out its second victory in Berlin.
“It was a good result, but it was absolutely not easy,” Macri said. “Now we have to recover and tomorrow is another match that will be tougher. Every day here is different from the previous one, as every team here has a different style of play.”
Both Italy’s Julian Kasslatter and Sweden’s Ulf Nilsson finished the day with nine saves between the pipes.
“I have a lot of feelings after that match,” Lundgren said. “Overall, I’m happy for the team as we played a much better game than any of us could have guessed.”
Slovakia 3, Japan 0
Slovakia remained undefeated in Berlin with its second victory in as many days with a 3-0 shutout over Japan. Star forward Martin Joppa scored twice for Slovakia - once with 39 seconds remaining in the first period and once with 39 seconds remaining in the third period - and Milos Vecerek, who lost both of his legs in a train accident, found the net on the power play in the final frame.
“Right now we’re really tired, as Japan was a really tough match,” Joppa said. “We played as a team and everyone was a standout in that game. We will try to win every game here, but will make sure to stick to our own game plan and do the same thing we did today again and again.”
Slovakia’s starting goaltender kept his shutout streak alive at the tournament, recording five saves on the day, while Japan’s Kazuya Mochizuki stopped the puck 15 times. Slovakia has now outscored its opponents in Berlin by a margin of 7-0.
The third day of the Berlin 2021 Qualification Tournament continues on Sunday (28 November) with Italy vs. Slovakia, Norway vs. Sweden and Japan vs. Germany. All games are being streamed live on WorldParaIceHockey.org.