PARDUBICE – The Czech Republic began its 2014 IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship campaign on home ice with a 5-2 win over rivals Slovakia. Team USA kicked off its title defence in fine form, routing top division newcomers Great Britain 10-3. Canada edged Germany 3-1, and Finland outlasted Sweden 7-4. Austria, Croatia, Hungary, and Slovenia chalked up big wins in their Division I openers.
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Slovakia – Czech Republic 2-5 (0-2, 2-1, 0-1, 0-1)
The Czechs broke open the scoring when Martin Vozdecky found Michal Simo sitting in the right circle area, who slotted it home under the pad of Slovak goaltender Jozef Ondrejka five and a half minutes into the game.
Then less than three minutes later Simo returned the favour, passing the puck from centre ice down low to Vozdecky, who slipped past the Slovak defender and beat Ondrejka short side for the 2-0 lead.
The Slovaks replied early in the second period with a goal by Lukas Ruzicka, who following a rush found himself alone in front of the Czech net with nobody within ten metres of him. His linemate Roman Simunek fought for the puck down low, eventually winning it and making the centering pass to Ruzicka, who had plenty of time to cock back and fire a wrist shot past Czech goalie Dusan Salficky.
"This team is still quite fresh, the tournament is earlier than usual this year so we've had a short time to get adjusted but I hope we will catch on soon," said Slovak head coach Imrich Antal.
But the Czechs answered back less than a minute later as Zdenek Cap was allowed to come free into the Czech zone and fire a low shot beating Ondrejka's five-hole for the 3-1 lead.
Slovakia cut the lead back down to one when Jakub Ruckay took the puck down the middle, shook off the defender and fired a shot at Salficky, who gave up the rebound allowing Ruckay to fire it into the roof of the net going into halftime.
Down 3-2 going into the second half, Slovakia fell behind by two goals when Pavel Strycek set up Patrik Sebek on the power play to go up 4-2. The team wasn’t able to capitalize on a late power play, and the Czechs potted and empty netter and skated away with a win in front of the home crowd.
"I feel like I need to go to the hospital and get a fresh set of legs," said Sebek, who after finishing with his club team in Rethel, France drove over 1,000 kilometres to get to Pardubice for the inline worlds. "But the important thing is that we got off to a good start."
The Czechs will move on to face defending inline world champions the United States in the Monday evening game. Slovakia will play Great Britain, which lost its opening game 10-3 to the Americans.
"This will be our most important game this week," said Sebek. "The U.S. is a very strong team, maybe the best in the tournament, and we will need all our strength to win."
Great Britain – USA 3-10 (1-1, 0-5, 1-3, 1-1)
Forward Travis Noe had six points, and Matt White recorded and assist as the Americans started right where they left off in 2013.
“I wouldn’t call it an easy game but it was a good matchup for our team,” said Noe. “Of course it’s the first game and guys are still trying to figure things out, but it’s a short tournament and we need to figure things out quickly, but I think the guys are starting to gel.”
An early USA scoring attempt by Rafael Rodriguez was denied by goaltender James Tanner midway through opening quarter. But the American offence, built with a number of players that train year-long in inline hockey, was in near-complete control of the puck throughout the opening frame.
Still, the Brits caught the Americans napping in their own end with just over three minutes left, on a two-on-one that saw Alex Pearman take the puck down low then make a backhand centering pass to Rob Shelton, who fired it past USA goaltender Jerry Kuhn III for his team’s first goal.
But a penalty to Great Britain allowed the Americans to equalize, with a power play wristshot from the top of the circle courtesy of Noe, whose hat trick in the final game last year propelled the Americans to a gold medal.
Then early in the second quarter defenceman Coby Kettler got open on the side of the net and rifled the puck home. Then seconds later Junior Kent took the puck in front of the British net and roofed it to give the Americans a 3-1 lead.
“I’m happy with how we played at the beginning,” said British head coach Simon Hehir. “We started quite strong but in the seconds began to make mistakes and that’s when the goals came.”
Matt White scored his team’s fourth goal, coming on a one-timer short side assisted by Rafael Rodriguez. The second half saw more of the same, as Patrick Lee, Matt White, and Noe found the back of the net for the Americans to close out the 10-3 victory. Britain got two more scores from Rob Shelton who finished with a hat trick.
USA will play hosts Czech Republic on Monday evening, while Great Britain takes on Slovakia in the afternoon.
Canada – Germany 3-1 (1-1, 0-0, 1-0, 1-0)
Germany struck first five minutes into the game, courtesy of a power play goal from Marco Pfleger. Canada’s Thomas Woods replied a minute later with a score, assisted by Brendan Baumgartner and Kyle Sheen.
Neither team was able to solve the other’s goaltender going into halftime, the best chance coming on a breakaway by a Canadian player who mishandled the puck and wasn’t able to get a shot off.
"They are a very well-structured team," said Canada head coach Jason Stephens. "They played a really disciplined style tonight and it took us a little while to get going."
Canada appeared to go ahead in the third quarter when defenceman Shayne Calrson batted in the loose puck in front of the German net. But the goal was disallowed as the net was off its moorings.
But the Canadians were able to get a good one in minutes later, when Thomas Woods forced Tim Brazda into committing a turnover in front of his own net, giving the puck up to Josh Foote for the go-ahead goal going into the final frame.
A potential insurance goal for Canada was again waved off, this time due to a player in the crease. But a late breakaway score from Chris Terry sealed the game for the Canadians with 37 seconds left to go.
"We've got a good core of players," said team captain Chris Terry. "This core has been playing together for four-five years and at this point we come together quickly, this year it feels like we only played last year's bronze medal game last week."
Canada will next face Finland in the first game on Monday, while Germany, which had a fairly positive start dampened by the news that two of its players now are out indefinitely with lower body injuries, will play 2013 runners-up Sweden.
Finland – Sweden 7-4 (0-0, 2-1, 2-3, 3-0)
Finland came out the winner in a wild 7-4 win against Nordic rivals Sweden. Kari Lohtander scored three goals, including two in the fourth period to put away a tough Swedish team.
"We played very well but we can do better," said Lohtander, who earned the Best Player nomination for Finland.
Down 2-1 after two periods, Sweden tied things up early in the third period when Emil Bejmo came streaking down the Finnish zone along the boards, cutting into the net and slipping the puck past Finland's goalie.
But the confident Finns kept coming, and shortly after a great save by Swedish goaltender Andreas Ollikainen on a one-time effort, Finnish defenceman Sami Markkanen blasted a shot from near the high slot area past Ollikainen. Then minutes later with his teammate in the box Marko Virtala scored short-handed putting his team up by two.
Sweden cut the lead down to one thanks to a crisp passing sequence that finished with Mikael Eriksson scoring in front of the goal on the power play. Then just before the end of the period Johan Erkgards took the puck into the Finnish zone and wristed it in off the post and past the goal line to knot the game up 4-4.
The Finns went back up by a goal on a three-on-one rush that ended with Lohtander deflecting the puck into the net from a saucer pass from Markkanen. Then the boys in blue caught Sweden again on an odd-man rush, Lohtander scoring off of a two-on-one to get the insurance goal and the 6-4 lead with six minutes left in the game. An empty-net goal sealed the win.
"We have to work on our defence going forward," said Swedish head coach Bjorn Ostlund. "We gave up too many two-on-ones and we have to improve this."
"I want to playe them again, we lost this time but there's nothing we can do about that now," said forward Carl Berglund.
Finland opened the scoring early in the second period thanks to a solid effort from Lohtander skating into the slot area and firing a quick wristshot beating Swedish goalie Andreas Ollikainen glove side.
The Swedes replied three minutes later with a goal from Robert Wall, who snuck the puck in from the side of the net as Finnish goaltender Sasu Hovi was not able to get into position to seal off the corner.
But the Finns jumped back ahead 2-1 when on the power play forward Kim Stromberg blasted a slapshot through the legs of Ollikainen with just under a minute left before halftime.
Finland will next play against Canada, winners of their opener versus Germany, while the Swedes play the Germans.
Brazil – Austria 0-8 (0-2, 0-1, 0-1, 0-4)
Austria gave a rough welcome to Brazil in its return to inline hockey, shutting out the South Americans 8-0.
Daniel Oberkofler scored four goals and added two assists, and his linemates recorded 12 points in total as the Austrians jumped to a 2-0 lead in the opening period and closed out the Brazilians in the fourth with four more unanswered goals. Defencemen Harry Lange and Kristof Reinthaler added three goals for the Austrians, and Oberkofler’s linemate Patrick Spannring notched a goal and four assists.
Brazil won’t have long to lick its wounds before facing another contender for the top division crown in Hungary. The teams play Monday afternoon at 16:00. Austria will face Japan.
Latvia – Slovenia 4-9 (1-1, 0-2, 2-3, 1-3)
Playing in its first ever IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship game, Latvia fell to Slovenia 9-4.
The Slovenes proved too much for Latvia, which after equalizing an early goal from Mateuz Erman couldn’t keep pace on the scoreboard. Slovenian forward Jure Sotlar had a hat trick, and ten Slovene players recorded at least one point.
Slovenia’s next game will be against Croatia, while Latvia will face Australia.Australia – Croatia 2-4 (0-0, 0-4, 1-0, 1-0)
Croatia scored all four of its goals in the second period and held off a comeback attempt by the Australians to win its opening game 4-2.
Forward Jan Novotny scored a pair of goals, and Ivan Jankovic had two assists. The two Matjas, Milicic and Kopajtic, each had a goal as well and goaltender Mate Tomljenovic held the Aussies off the scoreboard until late in the third period.
Australia will play the first Division I game of the day tomorrow at 13:00 against Latvia. Croatia will face neighbour Slovenia, who also won their opening game, 9-4 over the Latvians.
Hungary – Japan 4-3 (0-2, 0-0, 1-0, 2-1, 0-0, 1-0)
It wasn’t easy, but the Hungarians battled back from a 3-1 deficit in the final period of their opening game against Japan, tying the score at 3-3 with two power-play goals and winning in the shootout.
Attila Rafaj had the game winner for Hungary, which moves to 1W-0L at the 2014 IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship.
After an early power-play goal in the fourth quarter by Daisuke Ohto, Japan looked to have the game sewn up. But two consecutive slashing calls against Ohto and Seiji Kohda opened the door for the Hungarians’ comeback.
Ohto opened the scoring in the game and finished with three points. Gentaro Tsuchimoto added his team’s second goal of the game before Hungary’s Tamas Lencses cut the lead to 2-1 in the second period.
The loss was a tough one to swallow for the Japanese, who will now have to face Austria, winners of their opening game against Brazil 8-0. Hungary will get their shot at the Brazilians tomorrow with a good chance to open the tournament with two wins in two games.