STOCKHOLM – The Czech Republic defeated Belarus 2-0 today at the Globe Arena in the opening game of the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. Timely scoring, tight defence and goaltending propelled the Czech Republic to an opening afternoon victory in this first Preliminary Round game.
Jakub Voracek’s first period goal proved the game winner and Alexander Salak, making his national team debut, stopped all 21 shots he faced.
From beginning to end, this game was completely dictated by the Czechs in terms of pace, flow and action.
“It’s tough playing Belarus because they just play four or five guys back all the time and play defensive hockey,” said Jiri Novotny. “It will be different tomorrow when we play Sweden.”
Almost immediately after the puck drop the Czechs controlled play, keeping the action in the Belarus zone for the first five minutes of the game. They would work the puck deep and cycle quickly. As they were controlling the tempo and puck for the majority of that time there would not be a whistle for a break in play for nearly seven minutes.
The Czechs would get on the scoreboard first when Voracek put home a neat one-timer. For the Kladno native it was his first goal of the tournament in his first game. Voracek represented the Czech Republic at the 2011 World Championship where he scored one goal in nine games.
Belarus was whistled for two penalties – one to Alexander Kitarov for slashing and another to Andrei Filichkin for delay of game. With the early two-man advantage, the Czechs moved the puck freely but Belarus netminder Vitali Belinski provided a few key stops.
It was a tic-tac-toe scoring opportunity that yielded the goal. Radim Vrbata accepted a pass from Zbynek Michalek and then tried to thread the needle to Voracek who was waiting to strike.
Instead of waiting to receive the puck and settle it down, Voracek teed up a one-timer that Belinski had little chance of stopping.
The goal came at 11:03 of the first period with 38 seconds remaining on Kitarov’s penalty.
Voracek, performing in his third World Championship tournament, enjoyed spirited game. He showed a lot of energy in moving the puck and creating space for himself in the offensive zone.
In the middle frame the Czechs sat on the lead and shut things down. Belarus had a few chances, including an opportunity on the doorstep by Alexei Ugarov in the first two minutes but could not sustain any serious pressure throughout the period with most shots coming from the perimeter.
What shots that did penetrate the defence, Salak was there to stop them.
For Salak it was an auspicious debut at the World Championship. Salak, who plays for Färjestad Karlstad in the Swedish Elitserien, was poised and stayed focused despite the limited action at times. In front of him, the Czech defence rose to the occasion to choke off any opportunities by Belarus.
Belarus would get its best chance to tie the game with 10:17 remaining in the third. Artyom Demkov bore in alone towards the net and wound up for a shot that was padded by Salak.
The Czechs responded quickly by bringing the puck back up the ice allowing Radim Vrbata to add an insurance goal to make it 2-0. Belinski saved Ladislav Smid’s slapshot but a rebound in front was put in by Vrbata at 9:57.
“It has been difficult for us because we’ve only been together three days and we are waiting for a few more players, possibly from the NHL,” said Novotny. “But still we won the game and that’s what counts.”