Slovakia silenced host Sweden after pulling a major upset in overtime on day three (11 October) of the Paralympic Winter Games Qualification Tournament in Ostersund.
Sweden entered seeking to rebound from their loss to Japan on Tuesday. But the pressure has now increased for the host nation, who need to win their last two games to keep their PyeongChang 2018 hopes alive, as only the top three in the round-robin tournament advance.
The Czech Republic however continued their dominant performance in Ostersund, raining pucks on Germany to maintain their 100 per cent record in the Qualifiers.
Slovakia 2-1 Sweden (overtime)
After suffering two defeats, Slovakia knew they needed a formula to wake up their offense. It would be a challenge against one of the tournament’s top goalkeepers in Sweden’s Ulf Nilsson, who stopped six shots on goal in the first period, including a one-on-one breakaway from Slovakia’s Martin Joppa.
It was not until the third period that the first goal was scored. Joppa passed to Marian Ligda, who knocked the puck in from an open corner to record Slovakia’s first score in Ostersund.
Niklas Ingvarsson quickly spoiled Slovakia’s celebration, scoring off a faceoff with 1:39 left to send the game into sudden-death overtime.
It was 22-year-old Slovakian Milos Vecerek who stunned the home crowd with a score in front of the Swedish net to secure his team’s first victory of the tournament.
“It was good luck but at the same time it was a good pass from Erik Fojtik,” Vecerek said.
“I could not help but believe [entering today’s game]. We slept good and we discussed what needs to be done, what was done wrong before.”
“It just means we still can mix cards a little bit and maybe there is still a chance to qualify for PyeongChang.”
The overtime loss still secured Sweden a point in the standings, keeping their slim Paralympic hopes alive.
Czech Republic 5-1 Germany
Michal Geier recorded a hat-trick as the Czech Republic overwhelmed Germany with a convincing victory.
“The key was to be tough on forechecking in the offensive zone … and we know the opposing teams struggle with that,” Geier said. “If we can keep the puck for a certain time in their zone, then they do mistakes and we find the gaps for scoring chances.”
After a first-period goal to give his team a 2-0 advantage, Geier added another in the second with a wide-open path toward the German net for a textbook score.
The 31-year-old completed his hat-trick with the fifth and final goal of the game as he snuck the puck in around the German goalpost.
“I don’t think it [the third] was a nice goal because there were times before where I should have scored,” Geier said. “I think the second goal was much nicer, when it was a break away and I put it on the top shelf against the goalie.”
It was Germany who beat the Czechs in the 2015 Worlds A-Pool to relegate them to the B-Pool, but Geier insisted it was not payback time.
“[Today’s game] was not revenge at all because we played against Germany at the European Championships and won and then we faced them at the Four Nations Tournament in the Czech Republic and beat them 4-1 there. So [Germany] probably does not suit to our play, so we wanted to show them that we are better than them,” Geier said.
The teams have a rest day on Thursday (12 October) before competition resumes on Friday (13 October) with Sweden facing the Czech Republic, followed by Japan versus Slovakia.
Standings after three days
1. Czech Republic - 6 points
2. Japan – 6 points
3. Germany - 3 points
4. Slovakia – 2 points
5. Sweden – 1 point
The Paralympic Winter Games Qualification Tournament is 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.