UFA – 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.
Tomas 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 Jaskin 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 Sidlik’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 Sidlik, 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 Bartosak a fairly easy time of it in goal.
The Finns drew within one early in the second, though. Teuvo Teravainen took a pass in front and was well covered, but he managed to get a weak shot off that slipped through Bartosak’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 Matej 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 Svihalek 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."