Ostrava 2019: Playoff matchups set

Czech Republic remain undefeated in front of capacity crowd 01 May 2019
By Stuart Lieberman | For World Para Ice Hockey

The playoff matchups are now set at the 2019 World Para Ice Hockey Championships, as a capacity crowd of 8,462 — a new record for the most fans ever for a single game at a World Championships — made sure the final day of the preliminary round ended on a high note in Ostrava, Czech Republic on Tuesday.

The USA and Canada have advanced directly to the semi-finals with their top-two finishes in Group A, which includes the top-four ranked teams in the world. The Czech Republic won Group B and will move on to the quarter finals to face Norway on Wednesday, while Italy will challenge South Korea in the other quarter final.

Full standings and results from the preliminary round can be found on Ostrava 2019's website.

Czech Republic 4-0 Italy

In front of a capacity crowd of 8,462 who were at full volume, host nation Czech Republic finished the preliminary round undefeated and atop Group B with a 4-0 victory against Italy.

“It was just awesome. Nobody expected this many fans,” Czech captain Michal Geier said, still shaking with excitement in the media mixed zone after the game. “We are happy to have finished in first place in our group, but we know that the quarter final will be tough.”

Pavel Kubes’ short-handed goal just 4:51 into the contest that electrified the crowd from the very beginning of the evening would go on to stand as the game-winner for the Czech Republic. Less than two minutes later, Geier provided insurance with a short-handed goal of his own to double the Czech lead. Geier found the net again late in the first frame on a power-play to punch in his tournament-leading fifth goal of the tournament.

Forward Jiri Raul padded the Czech lead with a score in the second stanza, assisted by Zdenek Safranek, as Michal Vapenka was perfect between the pipes by stopping all 11 saves that came his way. Gabriele Araudo and Julian Kasslatter split the Italian goaltending duties with a combined 11 stops.

Sweden 2-1 Japan

Sweden picked up their first two points in Group B with a thrilling 2-1 victory over Japan that went to a penalty shootout.

Japan’s Mamoru Yoshikawa, who started his international career at the 1996 Winter Paralympics, struck first in the game at the 6:04 mark in the second period off a pass from captain Nao Kodama.

Sweden’s Niklas Rakos, nicknamed “Moose” by his teammates for the way he skates, evened up the score 7:22 in the third period when shoveling a pass from Christan Hedberg into the goal, and he was quickly mobbed by his teammates. Neither team would score after that in regulation nor overtime, forcing the first shootout of the tournament.

Former able-bodied ice hockey start Maximilian Gyllsten, along with Rakos, were the only two players from either team to convert on their penalty shots to secure the Swedish victory.

“That was just a great feeling to score at the World Championships,” Rakos said. “Although I’ve been playing for a while, the shootout was a pretty new experience for me. I knew what I needed to do, though, and I did it.”

Sweden’s Andrea Nejman had a stellar performance in the net with 30 saves, as Japan’s Shinobu Fukushima batted the puck away five times. The two teams will face each other again on Wednesday in the seventh-place game.

Canada 4-0 South Korea

Reigning world champions Canada won their second straight game with a 4-0 victory over South Korea to finish with six points in Group A and book a spot in Friday’s semi-finals.

Canadian captain Tyler McGregor came out striking early to score his tournament-leading fourth goal 5:50 into the contest. Seven minutes later, Zach Lavin doubled Canada’s lead with his second goal in as many days. It has been a big tournament already for 22-year-old Lavin in his World Championship debut. Just three years ago, both of his legs were amputated below the knee due to frost bite damage after he got lost in the Canadian Rocky Mountains for three days and a search party had to find him.

“It’s been amazing here with a lot of fast-paced games,” said Lavin who had four shots on goal on Tuesday. “Laying in that hospital bed, I didn’t quite see as high, but after keeping a positive mindset and a lot of hard work with the organisation I’ve been able to be a part of, it’s been pretty awesome.”

Dual-sport star Liam Hickey found the net for the third time in Ostrava at the 6:43 mark in the second period and veteran forward Greg Westlake converted for a score 4:16 into the third to pad Canada’s lead at four.

Dominic Larocque was the winning goaltender with the shoutout, while Jae-Woong Lee had 11 saves for South Korea.

USA 10-0 Norway

The USA finished the preliminary round undefeated with nine points in Group A with a 10-0 victory over Norway as nine different players scored.

“It was our goal to make sure we won every game or at least show our best effort,” said US captain Josh Pauls. “While we won every game, everything hasn’t gone exactly as planned. But it’s about overcoming that little adversity with every game that happens and we just wanted to make sure we had a strong finish heading into the semi-final round.”

The Paralympic champions came out with a barrage of goals in the opening period, with Christopher Douglas, Josh Pauls, Jack Wallace, Rico Roman and Declan Farmer all scoring. The second period was no different, as Noah Grove, Brody Royal, Luke McDermott and Roman all scored to increase the Americans’ lead to nine. Kyle Zych, playing in his first season on the US national team, scored the final goal in the third period.

The USA’s Steve Cash and Jen Lee combined for four saves in the net, as Norway’s Erik Haugen stopped the puck 11 times.

Canada and the USA will have Wednesday off, having already advanced directly to Friday’s semi-finals.

You can catch live coverage and results on the Ostrava 2019 website.