Ostrava 2021: Slovakia make history, Canada and RPC still undefeated

Canadian team and USA secure Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games qualification as preliminary round ends in Czech Republic 22 Jun 2021
A Slovakian Para ice hockey player followed closely by an Italian player
Martin Joppa (right) scored Slovakia's first goal in the 3-1 victory over Italy at the 2021 World Championships
By Stuart Lieberman and Filip Ozbolt | For World Para Ice Hockey

Slovakia won its first World Championship game ever at the A-Pool level on Tuesday (22 June), while Canada and the RPC finished the preliminary round undefeated at the 2021 World Para Ice Hockey Championships in Ostrava, Czech Republic.

Additionally, with guaranteed top-five finishes in Ostrava, both Canada and the USA have now secured their spots at the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games.

Slovakia, meanwhile, has shown this week it can contend with some of the world’s best 
with a 3-1 upset win over Italy following the team’s close loss to Norway in its game prior.

“It’s a really big day for us. We were happy we could sing our anthem after the game,” long-time forward Martin Joppa said. “I’ve been improving every day and am so happy we could be here playing against the best players in the world.”

It has been Joppa’s dream to compete on the world stage since he took up Para ice hockey in 2005 following a bike riding accident during which he was hit by a drunk driver, resulting in the amputation of both of his legs.

Joppa scored first against Italy with 2:20 remaining in the second period off a pass from Miroslav Stasak to give Slovakia the one-goal advantage heading into the last intermission.

Italy’s sharp-shooting Sandro Kalegaris responded on a power play with his first goal of the tournament to even the score 1:53 into the third period, but two goals from forward Milos Vecerek to close out the game put Slovakia back on top.

Goaltender Eduard Lepacek played all 45 minutes for Slovakia to rack up 20 saves, and Julian Kasslatter guarded the net the entire time for Italy with 13 saves.

Canada 10, Czech Republic 0

Captain Tyler McGregor and Zach Lavin both recorded hat tricks in a 10-0 win over the host nation to help Canada finish undefeated in preliminary play and win Group A.

“The stands were probably about 2,500 people full with a lot of energy. It was really exciting to play in front of the host nation’s crowd,” said Lavin, playing in his second World Championships. “We have two days’ rest now until the semi-finals, so we’re going to take full advantage of that first day to get our bodies back to normal and then work on our systems for the semis.”

McGregor scored twice in the opening period — both times assisted by three-time Paralympic medallist Billy Bridges — with Rod Crane and Lavin helping push Canada’s lead four at the first break.

In the second stanza, Lavin found the net twice, and Crane and Anton Jacobs-Webb notched scores, while McGregor had his third goal of the game and team-leading seventh of the tournament. Corbyn Smith added an insurance goal for Canada in the final frame.

Rookie goaltender Adam Kingsmill played for the second straight game, recording four saves for Canada, while veteran netminder Michal Vapenka had 17 saves for the Czech Republic.

USA 8, South Korea 0

The defending Paralympic and world champions USA defeated South Korea, 8-0, to finish second in Group A and book their spot in the semi-final round and a spot at the Beijing 2022 Paralympics.

Already competing in his third World Championships at just 23 years old, Brody Roybal led the USA with four goals in the game. Roybal now has 10 goals in his last seven World Championship games played, dating back to 2019.

“We had a lot of fun out there and we’re playing better as a team every time we get on the ice — that’s been our goal for this whole tournament,” Roybal said. “We’re going to keep our heads high and keep moving.”

Roybal scored twice in the first period, and forward Kevin McKee secured his first goal of the tournament to give the USA a quick 3-0 advantage heading into the break.

Roybal scored twice more in the second, and US Army veteran Rico Roman and US Marines veteran Josh Misiewicz added their first scores of the tournament to increase the USA lead to seven. Another retired US Marine, Travis Dodson, added a goal for the world’s No. 1-ranked team in the final period.

Steve Cash picked up his 15th career World Championships game shutout between the pipes for the USA, while Jae-Woong Lee made 24 saves in South Korea’s effort.

RPC 18, Norway 1

The RPC finished preliminary play undefeated atop Group B with an 18-1 victory over Norway, scoring eight times in the first period and 10 times in the third. Three players racked up hat tricks for the RPC — Evgenii Petrov and Konstantin Shikhov, and 21-year-old Vladimir Rychkov.

“We have a huge boost of confidence now, but tomorrow (Wedbesday) we will have a serious test of our teamwork and skill level in the playoffs,” Petrov said.

Shikhov scored the first two goals of the game, including one on a power play, before captain Dimitrii Lisov and Dmitrii Galkin found the net to give the RPC an early 4-0 lead.

Forwards Airat Khamzin and Nikolai Terentev, and defenseman Mikhail Miachin also scored in the first period before Lisov closed it out with another goal.

Following a scoreless second period, the RPC barraged the net again in the third with three goals from both Rychkov and Petrov, two from Terentev and one from both Shikhov and Miachin.

Andre Kasatkin and Evgenii Plotnikov split the goaltending duties for the RPC, while Emanuel Lunde maned the net for Norway.

The RPC won Group B outright with three victories in as many games, outscoring their opponents 34-1. Norway finished second in the Group B with a win, penalty shootout win and loss.

Canada and the USA now advance directly to the semi-finals, while on Wednesday (23 June) the RPC will challenge the Czech Republic and Norway will face South Korea in the quarterfinals. Slovakia and Italy face off again in the tournament’s seventh-place game.

The World Para Ice Hockey Championships run from 19-26 June, with the top eight-ranked teams competing for a world title and five Paralympic qualification spots for the Beijing 2022 Games.

All games are being streamed live on World Para Ice Hockey’s website and Facebook page with geo-block restrictions in Canada, Czech Republic, Slovakia and USA. 

The tournament will consist of three days of preliminary pool play followed by two days of playoff matchups and then the medal round. Full results and statistics are available at the Ostrava 2021 microsite.