A goal by Jakub Voracek, his team-leading 16th point, broke a tense 1-1 tie at 4:39 of the third period with a great individual effort following a neutral-zone turnover and turned the game in favour of the Czech Republic. When the smoke had cleared, the Czechs had beaten Germany 5-1 and will now face Canada in the semi-finals on Saturday at 19:15 local time.
“I’ve known him for a while now, more than a decade, and it's been fun to follow him throughout the years,” Czech defenceman Radko Gudas said about his Philadelphia Flyers teammate. “He's a great player. I'm really happy that he's confident and he's showing what he's capable of. He's dragging us through this tournament. It's fun to watch it and help him lead this group.”
“I think we played hard,” said Frank Mauer, who scored Germany’s lone goal of the game. “We competed, as usual, as we Germans do. We created some chances. In the end, it was a tough loss because we failed on some details. We missed some pucks at the blue line and turned the puck over. And the Czechs, they're a good team and they score on those at this international level. So we've got to be smarter on these plays in the future.”
Jan Kovar scored the first and last goals of the game and also had one assist.
“It’s good that we were able to score some goals, and in the end we were able to put some space between us, but it wasn’t a one-sided win and we all know that,” Kovar said. “We’re glad that we won, but we’re not really all that excited about the way we played for the most part. We can play better and we’ll need to play better.”
The Czechs outshot Germany in the game 34-22 but, unsurprisingly, Philipp Grubauer was tough to beat in the German goal, and stymied the Czechs for the first half of the game. Filip Bartosak was also steady in the Czech net.
“It’s great that we won and we’re so happy about that,” said defenceman Filip Hronek. “That was a pretty hard game for us. They were well organized and we’re just happy to go through to the semi-finals.”
The Czechs had scored a lot of goals in the group stage against some weak teams, whereas the Germans had gone 5-2 and were coming off a win against Finland on Tuesday which put them in third place in the group. They knew they’d have to play a solid defensive game to keep the dangerous Czechs at bay and that’s what they did, for the most part.
On the Czechs’ first foray into the German zone in the second minute, Milan Gulas and Dominik Kubalik each slid the puck through the German goal crease behind Grubauer. Shortly thereafter, they went to the power play, where they kept the play in the German zone. By the midway point of the period, the shots were 9-1 for the Czechs.
The Germans started getting chances in the second period, starting with a Leon Draisaitl breakaway around the 12-minute mark, but he rushed his shot into the pads of Bartosak.
The first half of the second period was a bit more defensive but the Czechs started pressing again in the second half. With 8:24 remaining in the period, a rebound came to Ondrej Palat in the slot, who tried to go just inside the post but Grubauer got his arm on it and knocked it out of play, as Palat looked skyward.
“If I’d just shot it straight at him, I wouldn't have had much of a chance,” Kovar described. “I don’t have an especially hard shot, so I tried to move a little bit and get the goalie to move a little bit, and it worked.”
The Germans evened it up with 2:14 to go in the middle frame when Bartosak made his only mistake of the night, giving the puck away behind the net to Frederik Tiffels. Bartosak quickly scrambled back into the crease as Tiffels fed Frank Mauer in the high slot, and he beat the Czech goalie with a wrister to the blocker side.
“I just saw one of our guys forechecking. I came right off the bench and I think he just put it right in the slot,” Mauer described. “I got it and I looked at the goalie. I saw that the left corner was open, so I tried to snipe as fast as I could. That's what I did.”
“I think we did pretty good,” said Czech forward Dmitrij Jaskin. “The first two periods were pretty even. Then we turned it up a little bit in the third and got four goals.
“We're excited. These are huge games. We look forward to the semi-finals.”
The Czechs had a glorious chance to regain the lead in the dying seconds of the second period on a 2-on-1, as Michal Frolik fed Voracek, who one-timed a shot just wide.
However, Voracek would make up for that early in the third period. Again coming down the right side, Grubauer stopped the initial shot with his right pad, but Voracek got to his own rebound and slid it along the ice inside the far post with 15:41 to play.
“The best thing is that we stuck with it,” said Gudas. “After the second period, we had a tough time going through the neutral zone. I think in the third, we just started playing direct hockey again. That's what helped us. We had legs. We started skating more. We got a little more confidence since we started scoring. I thought we did a great job sticking with it, and they broke, so it was a good thing to see for us.”
Seven minutes later, Dominik Simon made it 3-1 when he took a cross-ice pass from Jan Kolar in the neutral zone, skated in on Grubauer and absolutely wired a slapper over his glove into the top corner. When Palat made it 4-1 with less than seven minutes to play when Grubauer had been caught out of position following a bad bounce off the end boards, the game was essentially over.
Kovar rounded out the scoring with an empty-net goal with nine seconds left, but by that time the outcome was no longer in doubt, and just gave the partisan Czech crowd another chance to celebrate.
“The crowd has been amazing all tournament,” said Hronek. “Our fans have helped us so much. It’s a bit like playing at home.”