Slovakia’s Para ice hockey team claimed their first victory whilst the Czech Republic continued their unbeaten run on Friday (2 December), as the final preliminary games took place at the 2016 World Championships B-Pool in Tomakomai, Japan.
The contenders for gold at the four-team tournament had already been decided on Wednesday with Japan and Czech Republic chalked to play each other on Saturday (3 December). Slovakia and Great Britain are also scheduled to play for bronze.
Friday’s games therefore acted as the preview for the following day’s medal deciders.
Slovakia took a narrow 1-0 win over Great Britain, setting up a tantalising battle for bronze and the final place at the Qualification Tournament for the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.
The third place podium finishers from 2015, Slovakia piled on the pressure. They created many chances across the game, but it was Milos Vecerek’s first period goal that made the difference despite the fact his team were shorthanded.
Following a scramble in front of Great Britain’s net, Vecerek fired the puck home with the help of team captain Peter Stit at 14:04.
After the game, Slovakian forward Martin Joppa said his team were more relaxed during the match: “The fact that this game was not going to decide much meant the team did not play at full intensity, did not try hard enough, did not fight the battles until the end, did not crash the net like in other games.
“The whole team will have to improve on the effort for tomorrow, we need to work on full power. We need to crash the net more because today we had a lot of chances that we did not use up. We just had shots but no one was there for the rebound or to deflect them.”
Whilst Great Britain created less chances, they still proved troublesome for Slovakia. Bryan Hackworth, their back-up goaltender, made his Championships debut from the second period onwards and proved to be impenetrable in goal.
Forward Gary Farmer, Great Britain’s Best Player, thinks his team has improved over the week and has more to give on Saturday when it will matter most.
“We played very well. We have been progressing through the tournament, with the unity and knowing where we are on the ice, so everything is starting to come together now,” Farmer said.
“We just need to keep doing what we are doing. Everything we have been talking about during the whole week has been building up for tomorrow’s game. We tried a few new things today so we are really pushing for tomorrow.”
Czech Republic v Japan, 2-0
The Czech Republic came out fighting in their game against Japan, scoring their two goals in the opening period.
Double Paralympian Pavel Kubes scored for the first time at the tournament with a goal at 04:19 assisted by Michal Geier, who has been an integral part of his team’s attack in Tomakomai.
Exactly 10 minutes later, team captain Zdenek Safranek found the net, helped by Jiri Raul.
The Czech Republic turned up their offensive play in the second and third periods, peppering Japan with 15 attempts on goal. However, goaltender Kazuya Mochizuki fought off the attack for the hosts to take Japan’s Best Player award.
The Czech Republic showed their excellent puck control and had the majority of the possession, showing their opponents they will need to put on a strong showing on Saturday to claim gold.
All games are being shown live at the event website.
The top three finishers from the 2016 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships B-Pool will progress to the Qualification Tournament for the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.