With the World Para Ice Hockey Championships just days away, we have been taking a closer look at the eight teams contesting medals in Ostrava, Czech Republic. Up next in our series, the hosts.
Czech Republic are the reigning B-Pool world champions and will be playing in their first A-Pool event since 2015. The tournament is being held in Ostrava for the second time, following the 2009 edition of the event, where the home team finished fifth.
After also finishing fifth at last year’s Winter Paralympics, the Czechs started 2019 off on the right foot with victories at the Ostersund Open in January and the Slovakia Cup in March. Zdenek Habl was the competition’s top scorer with six goals in the former.
World Ranking: 9th
World Championships History:
2017: Did not qualify
2015: 7th place
2013: 4th place
2012: 4th place
2009: 5th place
2008: 8th place
One to Watch: Forward Michal Geier was sidelined part of last year with a fractured bone but returned to the ice in 2019 raring to go. With three Paralympic Winter Games and four World Championships under his belt, and four goals at the last B-Pool Worlds, he will look to be the team’s leading scorer.
Don’t Count Out: At 1.96 meters (6 feet, 4 inches), goaltender Michal Vapenka cannot be missed. The former sitting volleyball player had a 1.86 goals against average mark heading into his final game at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Games and has been named Best Goaltender at international tournaments on multiple occasions.
Matchup to Watch: Czech Republic vs. Japan on Saturday, April 27. The Czechs beat the Japanese in style, 6-0, in the gold-medal game of the B-Pool World Championships in 2016, as Geier bagged five of the goals. Expect Japan to be out for revenge.
Worth Mentioning: Czech Republic have upset one of the North American favourites on the World Championship stage before. At the 2012 edition in Hamar, Norway, they pulled off a shock 2-1 over USA in the preliminary round.