The top Czech line was deadly. HC Olomouc's David Krejci stepped up with a goal and a pair of assists, and his long-time Boston Bruins teammate David Pastrnak got a goal and an assist. Captain Roman Cervenka, their linemate, had a goal and an assist as well, and is bidding for the 2022 scoring crown (4+9=13). Jiri Smejkal added a single.
"Our coaches prepared us very well for this game, and I think we deserved to win today," said Czech defenceman David Sklenicka. "We had a really good power play today and scored three goals, so that was key, especially in the beginning. And we kept them to one goal, which was also good. We kept pushing the whole game."
Czechia last won the gold medal at the 2010 Worlds in Cologne. They added bronze medals in 2011 in Bratislava and 2012 in Helsinki. They have not medalled since.
Coach Kari Jalonen's Czech team controlled the tempo with confident puck movement. After a strong preliminary round, Germany was left chasing and playing catch-up at the worst possible time.
Moritz Seider had the lone goal for Germany.
"We can be proud of the way we played," said German assistant captain Marcel Noebels. "The first 20 minutes are the reason why we lost the game. We sat too much back, gave too much respect, didn’t go into the battles. The last 40 minutes we didn’t play a bad game, we just couldn’t find a way to beat the goalie."
"We knew they were a talented team," added Maximilian Kastner. "But I think we also had a quality team that could have won this game as well."
In goal, Czechia's Karel Vejmelka earned his fourth tournament win, while Germany's Philipp Grubauer had a tough time with his opportunistic foes. Czechia outshot Germany 24-22.
This was a coaching showdown between two Finns in Jalonen and Germany’s Toni Soderholm. Finnish hockey is a small world. In fact, Soderholm, a former defenceman, was the Finnish playoff MVP when Jalonen coached HIFK to the Helsinki club’s last title in 2011. Jalonen's biggest IIHF moment was guiding Finland to silver at the 2016 Worlds in Moscow.
"Our style of play is like Finland, I think," Sklenicka said. "We have a Finnish coach and we try to play that way because they have had such a successful system. I hope it will continue to be successful for us as well for the semi-finals."
In 2018, Germany embarked on a Cinderella run to capture the Olympic silver medal in PyeongChang. Under Soderholm, the Germans finished sixth at the 2019 Worlds in Bratislava and fourth at the 2021 Worlds in Riga. Still, Germany has not medalled at the Worlds since 1953’s silver. Despite positive progress, the search continues.
The Germans came in with the tournament’s second-ranked power play, clicking at 34.7 percent (8-for-23), whereas the Czechs’ fifth-ranked power play was at 27.7 percent (5-for-18). But Czechia was on fire on Monday.
Just 25 seconds in, Germany’s Yasin Ehliz was called for tripping Pastrnak. Grubauer made a fine glove stop on Tomas Hertl early in the Czech man advantage, but when Krejci pivoted in the slot to feed Pastrnak in the left faceoff circle, the sniper fired it into the gaping cage for a 1-0 lead at 2:17.
For the Czechs, the goal ended a scoring drought that lasted 112:24. They were blanked 3-0 by host Finland in their last Group B game and had not put a puck in the net since Matej Blumel’s 1-0 winner against the U.S. on Monday.
At 10:04, the Czechs stretched their lead to 2-0 with some precision puck movement on their second power play. Pastrnak, playing the point, fed the puck to Krejci, who located Cervenka in the right faceoff circle for a one-timer that Grubauer had no chance on. Pastrnak has put up seven points in five games since joining Czechia in Finland.
"The guys played [with the puck] on the other side," Cervenka said. "I was waiting for David's pass. I knew it was coming. I was ready for a quick shot, and I tried to hit the net, which I did."
With Krejci and Germany's Matthias Plachta off for hacking each other in the neutral zone, Chicago Blackhawks prospect Lukas Reichel had the best chance at 4-on-4. Reichel accelerated around Filip Hronek and lifted a shot off Vejmelka's left post. But there was no puck luck for Soderholm's men.
Cervenka atoned for taking a mid-second period roughing minor by drawing a penalty when he got out of the box. The 36-year-old Czech star was tripped up behind Grubauer's net by Korbinian Holzer, a 2021 tournament all-star defenceman. It took just 12 seconds for Krejci to capitalize with a left faceoff circle one-timer, similar to Pastrnak's opening goal.
"Today, it was their power play that cost us the game," Kastner said. "They scored three times. On the other hand, I think we had enough chances to beat them."
Grubauer kept his team in it when he beat Blumel, who had broken into the clear, in a foot race for the puck inside the German blue line. At the other end, Loibl couldn't jam a rebound past the resolute Vejmelka.
"It was a big battle and we came back into the game after the 3-0 deficit," Noebel said. "It’s difficult to make up for a three-goal deficit against a good team like Czechia."
Germany's tough puck luck persisted. Before the middle frame ended, Noebels put one off the cross bar in tight on an odd-man rush.
In the third period, the Germans tried to mount a push, but in classic Czech fashion, red sweaters clogged the neutral zone as the clock counted down.
Germany finally got on the board with 6:12 left. Soderholm pulled Grubauer for the extra attacker with Tomas Kundratek off for tripping. The Germans hemmed the Czechs in their own end for nearly three minutes, far beyond the end of the power play. Seider cashed in with a centre point shot for his seventh point of these Worlds.
Grubauer continued to do his part with a stellar blocker save when Krejci set up Pastrnak on a 2-on-0 rush about a minute later. After pulling their goalie again, the Germans came close to making it a one-goal game when Reichel bounced the puck off the cross bar. It was a classic "game of inches" moment.
"At 5-on-5, I think we were equal," Kastner said. " And we hit a crossbar that might have made a difference. It was there for us, so we can be proud of our effort."
"We were proud of our first seven games but that doesn’t matter if you lose this one," Noebels said. "We wanted to have more than seven games but today was not the best game we played in this tournament."
Smejkal sealed the deal with an empty-netter with 1:50 left.
The result extends Czechia’s World Championship winning streak versus Germany to five games.
Kastner took a positive view despite the loss: "We had a special group here and got closer and closer every day. It was fun to be a part of it. We have a helluva coaching staff. We were perfectly prepared for every game. It was a fun two weeks."
Germany’s last win over Czechia at the Worlds was 2-0 on 3 May 2007 in Moscow. Michael Hackert scored the winner on a late first-period power play and goalie Dmitrij Kotschnew had a 21-save shutout.
Both teams had noteworthy scratches on defence. David Jiricek, who averaged 10:28 in ice time in five group stage games, sat out for Czechia. The 18-year-old Klatovy native is a prospective top-10 pick in the upcoming NHL Draft. Dominik Bittner, who had four assists in six games, was scratched for Germany.