Kulich hatter paces Czechs
by Andrew Podnieks|28 DEC 2022
Petr Hauser scores Czechia’s 3-0 goal against Austria.
photo: Matt Zambonin / IIHF
Jiri Kulich scored three goals en route to a one-sided 9-0 Czechia win over Austria tonight in Halifax. The win moves Czechia to 2-0 and keeps them tied for first place in the Group A standings with Sweden. Austria, now without a win in all 29 U20 games in the nation's history, is now 0-2 this year and in danger of having to play in the Relegation Round in the new year.

Shots favoured the Czechs 47-8, but more important than shots was the offensive numbers Czechia goalie Tomas Suchanek is putting up. He had two assists in the game tonight and has three assists in two games so far, that total a new IIHF record in U20 play. 

In addition, Matyas Sapovaliv had four assists and Gabriel Szturc had two goals for the winners.

"We won and got three points, which is great, but we have to stay grounded and be ready for our next game," said captain Stanislav Svozil of the winners. "We played the same way the whole game, which is important. We knew Austria isn't Canada, but they're still a good team and we had to be ready, and we were. Looking ahead, I think we took too many penalties tonight. That's something we'll have to improve on."

Both teams now have a day off before playing again on Thursday. Czechia takes on Sweden in the matinee followed by an evening tilt between the Austrians and Canadians.

"Austria was a good team, but we stayed humble and played our game," Kulich noted. "That was the key. But we know we can be better. We'll have a meeting tomorrow and see what are mistakes are and work on a few things."

"We always talk about focusing on the positives, but obviously to lose 11-0 and 9-0 is tough, but maybe the third period tonight is something we can build on, with the crowd behind us. We were blocking shots and playing with emotion," Vinzenz Rohrer of Austria noted. "They could see we didn't want to give up. To be honest, it's our mindset that's the problem more than tactics or strategy. It's mental, trying not to be scared and not focus on our opponents."

Czechia got just the start it had hoped for, opening the scoring less than four minutes after puck drop. Jakub Brabanec took a pass in centre and flew by Austrian Tim Geifes on the right side, using his left shot to create a favourable angle and beating Michael Sicher cleanly with a shot between the pads at 3:50.

Two late goals put the Czechs in control. Kulich tried the lacrosse move behind the Austrian goal on the power play, and although he couldn’t get the puck onto his stick quickly enough, he wired a shot high to the short side moments later to make it 2-0 at 16:26.

"I was sad it didn't work," Kulich lamented afte. "That was my first try! I don't practise it a lot. It's a tough move to make."

Just two minutes later, they added to their tally when Petr Hauser knocked in a loose puck in the crease after Sicher, making his Team Austria debut, had made a nice glove save on a Sapovaliv breakaway.

The Czechs blew the game open in the second, though, and they got their first only 1:05 into the period. Sicher made a fine save on a Eduard Sale breakaway, but no one took the trailer and Szturc knocked in the rebound to make it 4-0. Less than two minutes later, Ales Cech added to the tally, and midway through they got two more.

Kulich got his second of the game with a blast on the power play at 8:16 and Szturc finished a two-on-one to up the count to 7-0. Shots favoured the Czechs, 29-5, as Austria struggled to get the puck out of their end. Suchanek was hardly tested and the third progressed with the result never in doubt.

Kulcih completed his hat trick just eight seconds into the final period, deking Sicher out of position on a breakaway and sliding the puck in the open side. Defender David Spacek closed out the scoring at 14:13 when his long blast beat Sicher over the glove eliciting a few boos from the crowd that had been animated in trying to get the Austrians to score.
Austria vs Czechia - 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship
AUT CZE 28 DEC 2022
Austria vs Czechia - 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship