The Czech Republic and Japan took a step towards PyeongChang 2018 after securing opening day victories at the World Para Ice Hockey Paralympic Winter Games Qualification Tournament, which began Monday (9 October) in Ostersund, Sweden.
Both teams had no trouble finding the net in Monday’s high-scoring action, as they comfortably secured three points each for their wins to sit top of the standings in the round-robin tournament, where the top three finishers advance to next year’s Paralympic Winter Games.
Czech Republic 5-0 Slovakia
The Czech Republic were too fast, too skilled and simply too much for Slovakia. Winners of the 2016 World Championships B-Pool, the Czechs got off to a flying start thanks to early scoring from Zdenek Safranek and Pavel Kubes.
Safranek found the net less than two minutes into the game thanks to a feed from David Palat. It was not long until Kubes recorded one of his own, and later in the period found himself alone for an easy score to give his team a 3-0 cushion to close the first period; he finished the game with a hat-trick.
“I’m really happy to score three goals but for me it doesn’t matter because more important it was teamwork and a team win,” Kubes said. “For my three goals, I got three really good passes to score, so it was not difficult to put them in.”
The Czechs overwhelmed the Slovak defense with 30 shots on goal compared to 20 in the first period alone, and the Slovakian side struggled to get any offense going. They missed an opportunity in the early minutes of the second period with a scramble in front of the Czech net, but Michal Vapenka bodied the puck to stop the play.
Although the game was already in the bag for the Czech Republic up 4-0 in the third period, Slovakia blew their best opportunity to avoid a shutout with a two-on-one play. But again, Vapenka helped keep the Slovakian side scoreless.
“We are very glad that our performance was like how we had trained in the off-season,” Kubes said. “We showed that on the ice today.
“We just want to focus on ourselves and just show the same performance as we did today. It’s going to be a harder game [against Germany on Wednesday].”
Japan 6-2 Germany
The second game of the day was a feisty showing, with the Japanese side called twice for interference in the first period alone. Their aggression paid off though as they secured the opening day victory before a tough match-up against host Sweden on Tuesday.
Four different Japanese players scored, with Masaharu Kumagai being the offensive power for his side with a pair of goals.
Germany suffered a demoralising moment when Ingo Kuhli-Lauenstein deflected the puck into his own net, giving the Japanese the 3-0 advantage in the second period. There was a glimmer of hope for the Germans when Bas Disveld scored in the ninth minute of the second period to wake up his team.
But Japan put the game away with back-to-back scores only a minute apart in the same period and never looked back.
“By winning this game, we could send a message to Sweden,” said Japanese head coach Kojin Nakakita. “The Germans and us, we usually play really close games. But today was a blowout, so that was good.”
The competition continues on Tuesday (10 October) with Sweden facing Japan, followed by Germany versus Slovakia.
The Paralympic Winter Games Qualification Tournament are taking place from 9-14 October in Ostersund, Sweden. The Tournament is the last opportunity for teams to qualify for the PyeongChang 2018 Games, in which the top three finishers will advance.
All games from Ostersund 2017 are being streamed live at www.paralympic.org/ostersund-2017 and live statistics and results are available at www.paralympic.org/ostersund-2017/results.
Photos will be made available for media to download throughout the tournament on the IPC’s Flickr account at www.flickr.com/photos/paralympic/.