Hosts Czech Republic won the fifth-place game at the 2021 World Para Ice Hockey Championships and qualified for the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games in China.
The Czechs outperformed Norway, 2-1, in front of 2,000 people at the Ostravar Arena on Friday (25 June) – the fans serving as the Czech Republic's seventh player throughout the game.
Following a scoreless first period, the Czech Republic’s Radek Zelinka finally broke the deadlock in the seventh minute of the second period to score his team’s first goal of the tournament. Norway's goalie Johan Groenlie almost captured the puck in his glove, but it slipped away in his own net for the Czech Republic's lead.
It was Zelinka's first goal for the Czech national team in a World Para Ice Hockey sanctioned game, and it could not have come at a better moment.
“It was a very tough game, very physical opponent and we had to skate a lot up and down,” said Zelinka. “It's a dream come true to play in the Paralympic Games. There wasn't much pressure before the game because we didn't want it to affect us.”
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Just two minutes after the Czechs took the lead, Norway's top scorer of the tournament, three-time Paralympian Audun Bakke, evened the score. But Norway's happiness did not last long, as two minutes before the end of the second period David Palat pushed his way in front of a crowded Norwegian goal and put the Czech Republic back into the lead.
Norway pulled its goalie at the end of the third period, but it failed to convert with an extra skater against Czech goaltender Michal Vapenka.
The Czech Republic will now be traveling to next year's Paralympic Games together with the USA, Canada, South Korea and RPC. Norway will have another chance at the qualification tournament later in the year.
Saturday in Ostrava is reserved for the gold medal and bronze medal game. Canada and the USA are playing a re-run of the 2019 World Championships final, while South Korea and RPC will fight for the bronze.
The final and the bronze medal game will be streamed live on World Para Ice Hockey’s website and Facebook page with geo-block restrictions in Canada, Czech Republic, Slovakia and USA.
Complete results and statistics are available at the Ostrava 2021 microsite.