Oddly, the Czechs were the superior team five-on-five, but when they got a power play, it was the Russians who stepped up.
"We were the better team five-on-five," said Jachym Kondelik, one of the goalscorers for the Czechs. "We had a lot of chances. We just couldn't get the puck in. We just tried too hard on the power play. It should be our advantage, but it didn't work out that way today. They were ready for us. As soon as we made a mistake they went on the attack, and it won them the game."
"Each game we're getting better and better; each day we're getting better, so it's so far, so good," said defenceman Alexander Alexeyev of the Russians. "We're getting used to the ice and the atmosphere. Our discipline needs to get better, though."
With the win, Russia stays a perfect 2-0-0-0, tied with Canada atop Group A, while the Czechs fall to 0-1-0-1 and remain in third place. The win ensures a spot in the quarter-finals for Russia.
The Czechs had won two of the three previous meetings between the teams and deserved a better fate today, but goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov made several big saves for the victors.
The second was much the same until another late Czech man advantage. This time, Pavel Shen got a puck inside his line and Nikolai Kovalenko immediately jumped into the play to create a two-on-one. Shen made a nice pass and Kovalenko converted, falling heavily into the boards after scoring.
"We watched video before this game and knew they'd play in the middle of the ice on the power play and focus on that guy. We knew when we got the puck, we could jump up ice," Alexeyev noted.
“I’m happy for the team. I wasn’t hurt. Everything is okay,” Kovalenko said of his goal.
Kovalenko was slow to get up after his goal, but his pain was nothing compared to Kondelik’s. On the same power play, he was in front of the Russian goal when defenceman David Kvasnicka drilled a high shot towards the goal. Kondelik, tied up in front, couldn’t get out of the way. The puck hit him in the face and trickled over the goal line, making it a 2-1 game at 15:50 in the most painful way imaginable.
"If you're standing in front of the net, sometimes the puck hits you," Kondelik said. "You don't even know where. Somehow it hit me in my shoulder and then my face and went in. I didn't even see it. I'm okay."
The Russians had a great chance to increase their lead off a terrible giveaway by Dalimil Mikyska in the high slot midway through the third, but Dostal stoned captain Klim Kostin from in close to keep the score 2-1. Then, late in the game with Dostal on the bench, the Russians came down on an odd-man rush, but Filip Zadina made a great blocking save to give the Czechs a final chance. The Russian defence was too good, though, and they hung on for the win.
The Czechs play Canada tomorrow while Russia has a day off before taking on Switzerland on Saturday afternoon.