The Czech Republic finished the preliminary round at PyeongChang 2018 with a tightly contested 3-0 victory over Japan on Tuesday (13 March) with a pair of goals from defenceman Pavel Kubes and one from forward Zdenek Safranek.
The game almost mirrored the 2017 World Para Ice Hockey Paralympic Winter Games Qualification Tournament, at which the Czech Republic defeated Japan in a shutout in the final and Kubes tallied an impressive five total goals at the event.
Kubes felt a lot of pressure come off his shoulders when the final buzzer sounded at the Gangneung Hockey Centre.
“I feel great now that we could prove we are a good, solid team and that we can make all our fans back home with a win finally, ” Kubes said. “It was a big relief when my first goal went in without hitting the goaltender or his glove first.”
The first score of the game came when Kubes, a father of two, bounced the puck into the net with 2:34 left in the second period to give the Czechs the lead, pumping his fist in the air to celebrate his first goal of the tournament. Forward Zdenek Habel was credited with the assist.
Kubes finished the day with seven shots on goal, looking like an entirely different player than in the Czech Republic’s losses to South Korea and the USA earlier at these Paralympics.
Safranek, a father of three, increased the lead for the Czechs 3:11 into the third period, batting the puck straight down the middle of the ice and into the goal before anyone could blink an eye. Kubes padded his team’s lead with 18 seconds left in the game, scoring unassisted on an empty net.
Michal Vapenka, the son of two Olympic volleyball players, was the winning goaltender with five saves. Japanese goaltender Shinbou Fukushima retired from competitive Para ice hockey in 2014 but returned to compete at these Paralympics; he started for Japan, recording eight saves.
The Czech Republic finish the preliminary round in third-place in Group B with four points, leaving Japan without any points in fourth place. Both teams will return to the ice on Wednesday (14 March) for placement matches.
Every competition as well as the Opening and Closing Ceremonies can be watched live right here on the International Paralympic Committee’s website. Highlights of each day’s action will also be made available.