The Czechs got two first-period goals and then played stifling defence the rest of the way, beating Finland 3-1 and throwing Group A wide open.
Tomáš Hyka and Marek Hrbas were the marskmen as the Czechs pulled into a tie for first place with three teams, including Finland, atop the standings. Russian-born Dmitrij Jaškin added an empty netter with 4.1 seconds remaining.
The Czechs played a controlled opening period and took advantage of their only two really good scoring chances. Hyka collected a loose puck at centre ice and drove down the left wing, his off wing. He cut in on goal and ripped a hard shot over the glove of Joonas Korpisalo at 14:16 to stake the Czechs to a 1-0 lead.
“I didn’t really want to shoot,” Hyka admitted. “The puck was bouncing, but I scored, so I was really happy.”
“Our first game was really hard,” Hyka added. “We had a lot of penalties, but before the game today we said we have to play smart and wait for our opportunities. That’s what happened today.”
Two and a half minutes later, they doubled the lead on a power play when Petr Šidlík’s point show was deflected in front by Hrbas.
“I was playing in front of the net trying to screen the goalie,” Hrbas described. “There was a shot from Šidlík, and I tried to tip it. It went over the goalie’s shoulder and in.”
At the other end, the Finns weren’t able to mount much sustained pressure, and the Czechs kept them to the outside, giving Patrik Bartošák a fairly easy time of it in goal.
The Finns drew within one early in the second, though. Teuvo Teräväinen took a pass in front and was well covered, but he managed to get a weak shot off that slipped through Bartošák’s legs at 2:29.
The Czechs remained composed, though, and had the slight edge of play in a defensive-minded period. Early in the third they were on their heels after Matěj Beran was whistled off for a double minor. They did a masterful job of killing that off and then played stifling defence, not allowing the Finns any speed coming in over the blue line.
Finland had a final chance with a late power play when Michal Švihálek was called for holding, but the Czechs killed that off with equal mastery.
“We had a great first period, and we were good on the penalty kill in the third,” Hrbas noted.
If the Czechs had lost, first place would have been impossible for them, but now they can dream big. “We want to win the rest of our games,” Hyka said, “and finish at least second, maybe first. You never know what’s going to happen.”
IHLC: With the win, Czechia captures their 18th International Hockey Lineal Championship, their first since August’s Four Nations Cup tournament on home ice in Kravaře. This marked the 22nd IHLC meeting between these hockey powers in history, their last meeting being at the aforementioned Four Nations Cup, where the Czechs dispatched Finland 2-1 to start their last title reign; today’s win improves their all-time record against Finland to 9-12-1. The Czechs will now face Latvia, who has already played for the IHLC at these Worlds, and will now get a second opportunity to win the IHLC here in Ufa.
02:47 – PEN – Leino, interference
14:17 – GOAL – Hyka (Pavelka)
16:20 – PEN – Riikola, hooking
16:34 – PP GOAL – Hrbas (Šidlík, Frk)
17:17 – PEN – Vrána, interference
22:29 – GOAL – Teräväinen (Pokka, Lindbohm)
27:57 – PEN – Lehkonen, roughing
27:57 – PEN – Hertl, roughing
27:57 – PEN – Jaškin, clipping
38:26 – PEN – Ristolainen, roughing
41:25 – PEN – Beran, high sticking double minor
53:44 – PEN – Švihálek, cross checking
59:56 – EN GOAL – Jaškin (Hertl)
W: Bartošák (29-30)
L: Korpisalo (18-20)
SHOTS ON GOAL
5+12+4 = 21
12+8+10 = 30
Goaltenders: Patrik Bartošák, Matěj Machovský. Defence: Marek Hrbas, Štěpán Jeník, David Musil (A), Tomáš Pavelka, Petr Šidlík, Jan Štencel, Patrik Urbanec. Forwards: Matěj Beran, Petr Beránek, Radek Faksa, Martin Frk, Tomáš Hertl (A), Tomáš Hyka, Dmitrij Jaškin, Petr Koblasa, Erik Němec, Lukáš Sedlák (C), Michal Švihálek, Jakub Vrána.
Goaltenders: Joonas Korpisalo, Eetu Laurikainen. Defence: Henri Auvinen, Petteri Lindbohm (C), Olli Määttä (A), Ville Pokka, Juuso Riikola, Rasmus Ristolainen, Juuso Vainio. Forwards: Joel Armia, Aleksander Barkov, Markus Granlund, Markus Hännikäinen (A), Ville Järveläinen, Matti Lamberg, Artturi Lehkonen, Robert Leino, Thomas Nykopp, Saku Salminen, Miikka Salomäki, Teuvo Teräväinen.