The first day of the 2016 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey European Championships got off to a great start in Ostersund, Sweden, on Tuesday (5 April) with wins for defending champions Italy, Russia and Norway.
In the opening game of the day, Italy ran out 3-1 winners, despite opponents Germany taking the lead midway through the first period. Bernhard Hering, assisted by Robert Pabst, fired the puck past Italian net-minder Gabriele Araudo with 6:29 on the clock. Just over five minutes later, Italy equalised with Florian Planker getting an unassisted goal.
A German penalty in the second period led to a second Italian goal, this time from Gianluigi Rosa. Despite some great saves, Germany were unable to find the equaliser and trailed Italy 2-1 going into the final period.
With time against them, Germany fought hard to level the scores, but when Planker got his second of the game, Italy made certain of the opening game win.
"We're happy about the result but the first game is always just the first step in a tournament," said Planker, who stayed on after his game to watch Italy’s next opponents the Czech Republic in action.
Despite a reasonable start, the Czechs were unfortunately on the end of a big loss to Paralympic silver medallists Russia in their opening game.
Less than two minutes into the match, Russian captain Dmitrii Lisov opened the scoring, however heroics from Czech net-minder Michal Vapenka ensured the first period ended 1-0.
In the second period, Konstantin Shikhov, assisted by Nikolai Terentev, doubled Russia’s lead with 1:43 on the clock.
It was not until the third period that Russia took absolute control, peppering the Czech net with 20 shots. Russia’s dominance led to three more goals. Ilia Volkoa, assisted by Lisov, made it 3-0 early on, before Shikhov found the net for a second time. With 10:55 on the clock, Alexey Amosov completed Russia’s 5-0 rout. Russian net-minder Mikhail Ivanov registered the shutout.
"We won, but it was not very easy," Lisov said. "It was hard because Czech Republic are a very experienced team. They have a lot of players who played in two or three Paralympics, and they play hard.
“All games in this tournament will not be easy. Every team wants to win this tournament. We must work and work every game, every period."
The final game of the opening day saw hosts Sweden fall 2-0 to rivals Norway.
Despite a fast and feisty start to the game, which saw both teams concede a number of penalties, the first period ended goalless.
With just 0:59 on the clock in the second period, veteran Rolf Einar Pedersen gave Norway the lead, thanks to assists from Audun Bakke and Knut Andre Nordstoga.
Despite more penalties coming at almost regular intervals, Sweden were unable to capitalise, and Pedersen grabbed his second in the final minute of the period to give Norway a 2-0 lead.
Sweden fought back in the final period, but the score line did not change.
Afterwards Pedersen said he is looking forward to facing the other teams this week.
"We always have good games against Italy, and also the Czech Republic. And I've seen from the last Championships that Russia have a pretty good squad, so I hold them as a favourite. But we'll see," he said.
On Wednesday, Italy face Czech Republic, Norway meet Germany, and Russia will face off against Sweden.
For all the latest results, please click here.