David Pastrnak had two goals and one assist, leading Czechia to a 4-1 victory over Norway in Group B action at the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.
After two games, Pastrnak now has five points. Linemates David Krejci and Roman Cervenka had two points each, with Cervenka once again leap-frogging Switzerland’s Denis Malgin to take the tournament scoring lead with 11 points.
“It was an important victory,” said Cervenka, the Czech captain. “Maybe today we started the game pretty good but in the second period we started to do lots of turnovers. That gave Norway the momentum and we couldn’t stop them. We got the three points but we have to prepare for the next game. I always think I can do better. I don’t worry about myself too much, I’m trying to help the team to win the hockey game.”
Ludvig Hoff scored Norway’s goal on a third-period power play. Norway went 1-for-3 on the power play and Czechia went 2-for-4.
“I think we gave it a good try,” said Norwegian forward Mathias Trettenes, who assisted on his team’s goal. “Obviously the Czechs are a really good team. We try to keep our games low-scoring as long as possible so we can have a chance at the end. Today if we were lucky maybe we’d have a bounce in. All in all, the Czechs are a really good team so we have to respect them but I think we managed well.”In a match-up of two right-hand catching goalies, Karel Vejmelka stopped 21 of 22 Norwegian shots in his fourth straight start and Jonas Arntzen stopped 28 of 31 Czech shots in his first start of this tournament.
“It was my first game so it’s obviously fun to start a game here at the tournament,” said Arntzen. “It was an okay game for me, a lot of shots, a lot of things to do.”The Czechs went to the power play for the first time when Emil Lilleberg went off for tripping at 5:43. And 43 seconds later they were on the board courtesy the first power-play unit, with Krejci setting up Pastrnak for the right-handed one-timer from the left circle that beat the right-catching Arntzen over the glove on the short side.
“It’s always good to score the first goal against a team that’s weaker on paper,” said Pastrnak. “On the other hand, it was an important game. We knew we had to win. There was some nervousness and we were squeezing the sticks a bit. We’re not completely satisfied with the game, but fortunately the result was on our side.”
“David Pastrnak has brought a lot of energy to the team,” said Jakub Vrana. “He’s a great guy, obviously a great player, you can see that. He’s a big player for us, he and David Krejci work really well together. But all around, everybody on the team, we know we can’t win with two players. We've gotta play as a team to achieve what we want to achieve.”
The Czechs went to the power play for the second time when Mathis Olimb went off for tripping at 21:13. This time it took over a minute and it was the second unit that cashed in. Tomas Kundratek took advantage of the long second-period change for the Norwegian penalty-killing unit and dumped the puck in from centre. On what seemed to be a planned play, Jiri Cernoch was first to the puck behind the Norway net and backhanded it out front to Vrana, who one-timed it from just outside the crease.
“I have to say (Cernoch) made a good play there behind the net,” Vrana said about his first goal of the tournament.
“Obviously the second goal is something I’d like back, I misunderstood the situation,” Arntzen admitted. “We knew we were up against a good team. We had to play our best to match them and in 5-on-5 situations I think we did that but they got too many power plays.”
Whereas the Norwegians were totally back on their heels in the first period, they were able to get a bit offensive traction in the second period and generate some decent chances. Mathis Olimb, Norway’s captain and all-time scoring leader at the World Championships, twice hit iron in the middle frame.
The first came in the 27th minute, with Ken-Andre Olimb setting up his brother for a backdoor one-timer, but he hit the crossbar with Vejmelka diving across. Ten minutes later, Olimb held the puck for what seemed like an eternity near the right circle, eluding a diving Czech defender and then trying to beat a screened Vejmelka but hitting the near-side post.
In the first minute of the third period, Pastrnak was hooked from behind by Lilleberg on a breakaway and awarded a penalty shot. On the ensuing shot, the Boston Bruins sniper made it look easy, getting Arntzen to bite on the fake to the backhand and then scoring on the forehand.
“I’ve seen goalies look worse on it,” Pastrnak smiled. “It’s a move I often make and it always works (in international hockey). In a league, it’s pretty hard to do. When you have shootouts, the goalies know you and you have to change it. It’s one of my favourite moves and it was early in the period, so the ice was still good.”
Norway got its first power play at 44:16 when David Sklenicka was called for cross-checking Mathis Olimb. It took just 11 seconds for Hoff to convert Trettenes’ pass from behind the net.
While the game had been a tame affair for the first 50 minutes, it got a bit rougher in the late going with several post-whistle scrums. Despite getting a couple more power-play chances, Norway came no closer.
Cervenka hit the empty net with 1:26 to play to seal the victory.
With the win, Czechia pulls even with the USA tied for third in Group B with 10 points. The two teams meet on Monday. With the loss, Norway’s quarter-final chances are very remote, needing to make up a five-point gap with games remaining against Sweden and the USA.
“We got the win and now we’re looking forward to some harder games,” said Cervenka. “We’ll see where that takes us but now we’re focused on the USA. There are many things to improve.”