Italy, Norway and Slovakia moved a bit closer to the dream of qualifying to the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games with important triumphs on Friday (26 November), the opening day of the Berlin 2021 Qualification Tournament.
The top two finishers of the six-team competition will earn their spots at the Beijing Games.
Italy 4, Germany 1
Hoping for their first trip to the Winter Paralympics since Torino 2006, hosts Germany started strong in the most highly anticipated game of the day. The home team opened the score when Hugo Raedler assisted Ingo Kuhli-Lauenstein with 12:35 into the first period. The local fans did not have much time to celebrate as Gianluigi Rosa pulled the equaliser with a great solo effort at 14:08.
PyeongChang 2018 fourth place, Italy took the lead early in the second period with Christoph Depaoli and from them on completely dominated the action. In the third period, Stephan Kafman assisted Nils Larch to 3-1 and 10 minutes later scored himself the 4-1 to seal the triumph in the power play.
Starting goaltender Gabriele Araudo played all 45 minutes for Italy with nine saves.
“It was important to start a tournament like this with a win. [There was] a lot of tension, pressure but the guys managed well. It was tough, they came strong and played really rough but fortunately we could bring it home,” said Rosa, who was name Best Player of the game and received his trophy from Germany’s two-time Olympic figure skating champion Katarina Witt.
Slovakia 4, Sweden 0
In pursuit of qualifying for its Paralympic debut in the sport, Slovakia came out firing with a demanding 4-0 victory over Sweden as forward Miroslav Stasak netted a hat trick. Stasak scored 5:25 into the game and then twice more late in the second stanza, and was named Best Player of the game. David Korman, a 23-year-old forward, added an unassisted insurance goal for Slovakia in the third period.
“It feels very good. It is much easier to be the one to get a hat trick when you have great support around you,” said Stasak, who lives primarily in Russia and plays in the Czech Para ice hockey league during the regular season. “We’ll now be sleeping a lot in preparation for the next game.”
Both starting goaltenders played all 45 minutes, as Slovakia’s Eduard Lepacek notched seven saves and Sweden’s Ulf Nilsson had 28 saves.
Norway 2, Japan 0
In the tournament’s first game, Norway — trying to keep its streak alive of qualifying for every Paralympics — shut out Japan, 2-0, behind two third-period goals from the hot hand of Ola Oiseth. The 22-year-old scored twice in the final 10 minutes of the contest, and had six of the team’s nine shots on goal.
“I’m really tired as I played a lot today, but it’s a great feeling as that was the first step toward earning our ticket to Beijing,” Oiseth said. “I had a lot of chances that didn’t go in the net in the second period, so it was a relief to see them go in during the third period.
Three-time Paralympian Audun Bakke and 18-year-old Alexander Lyngroth were both credited with assists in the game for Norway, while veteran defenseman Masaharu Kumagai led the Japanese effort with two shots on goal.
Norwegian goaltender Johan Groenlie recorded a shutout between the pipes with five saves, and Japanese netminder Kazauya Mochizuki stopped the puck seven times.
Berlin 2021 continues on Saturday (27 November) with three more round-robin games: Slovakia vs. Japan, Italy vs. Sweden and Norway vs. Germany. All games are being streamed live on WorldParaIceHockey.org.