Norway NOR
11 MAY 2019
Czechia CZE
Preliminary Round
20:15Ondrej Nepela Arena
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Czechs unstoppable versus Norway
By Lucas Aykroyd | 11 MAY 2019
Michael Frolik (right) celebrates after Filip Hronek draws first blood for the Czechs in their victory over the Norwegians at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.
photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images

Similar to the Swedes in Copenhagen last year, the Czechs are loving the “almost home ice” vibe in Bratislava this year. Two first-period goals by Filip Hronek sparked coach Milos Riha's team to a 7-2 thumping of Norway and a perfect record through two games.

Hronek, a 21-year-old Detroit Red Wings defenceman playing in his second Worlds, added an assist for a three-point night. Michael Frolik had two goals and an assist, and Dominik Kubalik notched a goal and two assists. Michal Repik and Filip Chytil chipped in singles.

"We started like we want to: put pucks deep, just go to the net, and hopefully score some goals early in the game," said Kubalik. "That's what happened. After that, we just cooled down a little bit, because the game yesterday [a 5-2 win over Sweden] was really tough. So we just tried to be good on the defensive side of the game and hopefully get some breaks."

Tobias Lindstrom and Sondre Olden replied for Norway, which has lost two straight games. The Czechs played inspired hockey again, riding the enthusiasm from the partisan Ondrej Nepela Arena crowd of 9,033.

"They have a great team, a lot of great players with speed and skill," said Olden. "So you know it was a tough game for us today, but we have more important games coming. We can't think too much about this game."

On Monday, both teams face huge challenges. The Czechs take on Russia, while the Norwegians will battle Sweden.

Speaking of Alexander Ovechkin, Nikita Kucherov, Yevgeni Malkin, and Andrei Vasilevski respectively, Czech captain Jakub Voracek said: "They’ve got a guy who scored 650 goals, maybe even more, they've got a guy that had a 128-point season, they've got a guy that hit 1,000 points in his career last year. One of the best goaltenders in the net, you can’t choose the biggest threat."

Czech goalie Simon Hrubec made his IIHF World Championship debut at age 27 after backstopping HC Ocelari Trinec to the Extraliga championship and being named playoff MVP this year. Patrik Bartosak, who served as the back-up after beating Sweden in the opener, waved and gave a wink to the camera when he was introduced on the big screen.

Henrik Haukeland, appearing between the Norwegian pipes for the second straight time, had another busy night. Shots favored the Czechs 42-24.

Norway vs. Czech Republic - 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship
Hronek and Frolik both score twice as the Czechs get their second straight win of the tournament against Norway.
NOR CZE 11 MAY 2019

Thunderous chants of “Cesi!” set the tone. At 2:33, the Czechs grabbed the early lead, and it was a case of captains steering their ships in opposite directions. Czech captain Jakub Voracek fed the right point and Hronek’s shot deflected off Norwegian captain Jonas Holos’s skate, slipping between a surprised Haukeland’s pads.

At 6:34, Hronek made it 2-0 from the centre point, snapping Kubalik’s nice pass over the Norwegian goalie’s glove.

Kubalik praised Hronek: "Obviously he's our best defenceman. He's great. Two goals. I think he has a great shot. I'm really happy for him that he showed up today. His confidence is going to go even higher."

Norway cut the deficit to 2-1 with its first power play. Holos found Lindstrom for a one-timer from the left faceoff circle that got past Hrubec at 10:14.

The goal ended Norway’s four-game World Championship drought against the Czechs. They’d been blanked 7-0 (2013), 1-0 (2014), 7-0 (2016), and 1-0 in overtime (7-0). The last time the Norwegians scored against the Czechs was on 7 May, 2012. Illustrating how little has changed in Norwegian hockey, Holos got that goal with the assists to Patrick Thoresen and Aleksander Bonsaksen in a 4-3 shootout loss. (Petr Nedved was named the best Czech player of the game.)

"Even if we lose, it's important to get some goals, to get a little bit of confidence," said Olden.

Radko Gudas, the ever-physical Philadelphia Flyers defenceman, took a kneeing penalty after he threw an aggressive hit on Mats Rosselli Olsen in the Czech end. Rosselli Olsen had to be helped off to the dressing room by his teammates. Czech fans first chanted “Radko Gudas!” and then clapped sympathetically for the Norwegian attacker from Frolunda Gothenburg, a six-time World Championship participant and two-time Olympian. 

Shorthanded, Frolik restored the two-goal Czech edge at 15:32. He cruised down left wing into the faceoff circle and used defenceman Stefan Espeland as a decoy as he beat Haukeland with a stick-side wrister.

"After we took the score to 3-1, we kinda controlled the game," said Voracek.

At 3:17 of the second period, after the Norwegians got dinged for too many men on the ice, Frolik got position on Johannes Johannesen in front of the net and deflected Voracek’s centering pass in to put the Czechs up 4-1 with his third goal of these Worlds.

The Czechs just kept coming. At 13:36, Repik pounded a one-timer that tipped in off the skate of Espeland, who was having a tough night. On the other hand, the fans were having fun. They roared when Jaromir Jagr showed up smiling on the big screen. Clearly, the 47-year-old legend's team did not require his assistance here.

"The atmosphere is amazing," said Kubalik. "It's lots of people in the house, always cheering for us. It's like a sixth player on the ice. It's lots of energy."

Just 0:52 into the third period, the Norwegians got a smidgen of life when Olden tipped in Mathis Olimb's floater from the blue line. But that hope was crushed 38 seconds later. Vrana danced around Espeland, ducked behind the net, and centred the puck to Rutta, whose one-timer was deflected in by Chytil to make it 6-2.

At 4:52, Jan Kovar, looping in the Norwegian zone, found Kubalik, who coolly beat Haukeland with a quick release along the ice. Tempers, predictably, were flaring now, and Gudas and Erlend Lesund were sent off after grappling along the side boards. But the crowd joyfully did the wave as the clock counted down, and hailed Jagr again when he presented the post-game awards to Holos and Frolik.

Asked where the Czechs need to improve against the Russians, Kubalik said: "I think penalty-killing for sure, because we got scored on today and in the last game too. So we've got to watch some video and talk about it a little bit."

Norway vs. Czech Republic - 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship