WEIDEN – A dream comes true for the German women’s national team. After the 3-1 victory over the Czech Republic the Germans will make it to the third Olympic women’s ice hockey tournament after 2002 and 2006.
"We have practised all-season for this goal, to qualify for the Olympics. You don't believe it is true, but slowly you start to feel it has become true," said Germany's Manuela Anwander, who with a goal and an assist was one of the main contributors in a 3-1 victory over Czech Republic in Women’s Group D in Weiden, Germany.
It was a high-octane battle between two Central European neighbours who both are making significant strides in the women's game. Monika Bittner put the hosts in front after 5:46, but the Czechs replied a couple of minutes later thanks to an Aneta Ledlova power-play goal, assisted by Lucie Manhartova, which tied the game at 7:51.
In a fast-paced first period, Germany appeared to have a slight upper hand and squandered a number of goalscoring opportunities as the period went on, including Anwander breaking through one-on-one with Radka Lhotska and Lisa Schuster hitting the crossbar with less than two minutes left of the first frame.
While Germany played mostly with all four lines, Czech Republic relied heavily on its first two lines, and as the hosts stepped up a gear during a physical second period the difference in ranking Germany (8th) and Czech Republic (12th) started to become more apparent.
An Pavlina Horalkova interference call at 7:08 saw Germany piling up the offensive pressure. With Susanne Fellner dictating the play from the blueline, it was her shot that hit a deflection leaving team captain Susann Gotz with an easy finish to make it 2-1 at 7:52 of the second period. Just over a minute later, once again on a power play, Anwander’s close-range one-timer set up by Bittner gave Germany a two-goal lead.
The 1,040 spectators inside the Weiden Arena witnessed a final frame with the Czechs chasing a goal to get back into the game. As time started to run out for the Czechs, a golden opportunity to play five against three arose with 4:13 left in the game. Despite sustained pressure and with goalie Lhotska pulled out of the net with over three minutes remaining of the game, the German fighting spirit and determination kept the Czechs at bay as the vocal crowd rose to their feet to carry the women in black to victory and to Sochi 2014.
"Germany scored three goals, and that is sport. We are all very disappointing right now," said a dejected Czech Republic head coach Karel Manhart during the post-match interview. "The girls are crying in the dressing room, but it is a experience for us and hopefully next time we will be stronger. We thank all the players for their performance and I am proud of the team," he said.
The German women's ice hockey team have previously appeared at the Olympics twice, in 2002 and 2006. In Sochi they will play in Group B with Sweden, Russia and the other qualifier (Denmark or Japan) that will be determined on Sunday in the other group in Poprad.
Kazakhstan with two successive losses will play Germany in the last round on Sunday. For the Czech Republic, China awaits in their final game of the tournament on Sunday afternoon.
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