Goalies under siege
by Derek O'Brien|20 MAY 2019
Finland's Joel Kiviranta (#41) scores on Great Britain's Ben Bowns (#33), who has been the busiest goaltender by far at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.
photo: Matt Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images

It’s not uncommon at the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships to see certain teams give up a high volume of shots. Sometimes, two goalies share the load but occasionally, one goalie bears the brunt.

In 2019, Great Britain’s Ben Bowns is that goalie. Bowns has started all six of his team's games minutes. He was busiest on Wednesday when he stopped 59 of 65 shots against the USA, and after Saturday's action, Bowns is far and away the tournament leader with 197 saves. Click here for the full goalie stats.

“I prefer it that way,” Bowns said during this tournament about a heavy workload. “That might seem a bit strange, but don’t have to think about things. You read, react, anticipate, and I’ve felt pretty good so far. This has been a lot of fun.”

As a team, Italy has faced the most shots of all teams in the tournament. Andreas Bernard, who has started four of Italy's six games, is second in saves with 156. French goaltender Florian Hardy completes the podium with 122 saves in four starts.

Last year, we saw Korea goaltender Matt Dalton face 258 shots and make 219 saves. If Bowns makes 23 saves on Monday against France, he will eclipse that total. 

“I think whatever team you look at, they rely on their goalie quite a bit,” Dalton said last season. “We’re always an underdog, right? When you’re an underdog, they rely on you to make a few more extra saves, but that’s part of the fun of the job.”

However, 218 saves is not a record. Since the 2012 format change, which eliminated the relegation round and guarantees every team seven group-stage games, we’ve seen several goaltenders make more than 200 saves in a tournament.  

Here are the top five single-tournament saves totals in the 21st century:

232 – Ondrej Pavelec (2011) and Stebastian Dahm (2016)

Sebastian Dahm, who played every minute in goal for Denmark’s first four games this year in Kosice and currently ranks seventh in saves with 101, is no stranger to a heavy workload. Back in 2016 in Russia, he faced a massive amount of shots but held down the fort well enough to make 232 saves and get his team into the quarter-finals, where it fell to Finland 5-1 – a game where Dahm made 23 saves.

Back in 2011 in Slovakia, the Czech Republic rode the goaltending of Ondrej Pavelec to a bronze medal, as he stopped 232 in nine games. His most impressive outing that year might have been a 4-0 quarter-final shutout win over the USA, in which he made 29 saves. Pavelec’s performance came just a year after Tomas Vokoun backstopped the Czechs to a gold medal in Germany, with Vokoun making 221 total saves.

233 – Edgars Masalskis (2009)

In between Arturs Irbe and Elvis Merzlikins, there was Edgars Masalskis in the Latvian net. Largely on the strength of Masalskis’s 233 saves over eight games, in 2009 in Switzerland, Latvia made the quarter-finals before falling to Canada by a respectable 4-2 score. Masalskis stopped 44 of 48.

238 – Lars Haugen (2011)

The same year Pavelec made 232 saves, he was outdone by Norway’s Lars Haugen, who stopped 238 shots in just six games. Finishing 11th that year, Norway’s only win was a 5-4 overtime victory over their Scandinavian rivals from Denmark in which Haugen made 32 saves. That was his lightest outing that year. He made more than 30 saves in every game and recorded 40-plus saves in losses to Finland and Canada.

256 – Milan Hnilicka (2001)

Significantly more than any of those, however, was what Czech goaltender Milan Hlinicka had to endure in 2001. That year, the Czechs won the gold medal despite allowing the second-highest shots total of any team in the tournament. Hnilicka played all but 20 minutes for the Czechs that year. In terms of the number of saves and what the team accomplished because of it, this really has to be considered one of the biggest single-tournament performances ever at a World Championship in newer history.

Not surprisingly, Hnilicka was named the tournament’s Best Goalkeeper by the IIHF Directorate and voted to the Media All-Star Team. Surprisingly, he wasn’t named MVP, taking a back seat to teammate David Moravec, who scored the tournament-winning goal in overtime against Finland.

Single games

In terms of single games, the 65 shots Bowns faced against the USA is tied for fourth all-time. Back in 2008, playing on home ice in Halifax, Canada fired 65 shots on Slovenia and won 5-1, meaning that goaltender Robert Kristian made 60 saves, one more than Bowns. Dany Heatley fired eight shots on goal and scored three times.

At the 1976 World Championship in Poland, Sweden also had 65 shots in an 8-2 win against West Germany, meaning the West German goaltender in that game, either Erich Weishaupt or Anton Kehle, stopped 57 shots.

If we go back to 1971, the year the Soviet Union won its ninth straight World Championship, they beat USA 10-2 in a game in Geneva, Switzerland. The Soviets fired 78 shots on net of Carl Wetzel that night.

But according to the IIHF Guide & Record Book, the all-time record for shots on goal by one team in one game is 114 – almost two shots per minute – by Canada against Belgium on 15 March 1950 in London, Great Britain. Of those 114 shots, 33 were goals.

As bad as that sounds, back in those days, Canada often beat opponents that badly and even worse. Just a year earlier, Canada beat Denmark by a record score of 47-0. No shots on goal totals were kept but the goaltender of course wasn’t Sebastian Dahm. It was Flemming Jensen.