Austria’s historic night in perspective
by Andrew PODNIEKS|15 MAY 2024
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Andrea Cardin
If you add up all the games played at top-level IIHF competition since 1920—at the Olympics, World Championships, and junior events—you get a figure north of 7,000. And in all that time no team has ever done what Austria did just last night in Prague—come back from a five-goal deficit. In the third period.

Trailing 6-1 early in the third, Austria scored goals at 3:14, 4:08, 10:41, 15:56, and, with the goalie on the bench for an extra skater, 19:11. Against Canada, no less!

Was it a comeback…or a collapse? Yes. Perspective is all. 

Historic isn’t a strong enough word to describe the monumental events that unfolded. Unprecedented. Miraculous. Stunning. Let’s try to put it in context. 

For starters, Canada has played more than 1,600 periods of hockey at the World Championships since 1930. They have surrendered five goals in a period exactly four times, most recently 43 years ago!

The first time came on March 11, 1965, an 8-0 loss to Czechoslovakia. Then, on March 18, 1969, they did same against the Soviets in a 7-1 loss. Fast forward to April 24, 1977, an 11-1 loss to CCCP. And, most recently, to the Soviets again on April 15, 1981.

From the other end, Austria has scored five goals in a period only three times in their WM history. First, on February 15, 1947, in a 10-2 win over Poland. Then against Denmark, in their biggest Worlds win ever, 25-1 on February 14, 1949. And, most recently, against Great Britain, on May 23, 2022, a third period explosion to erase a 1-0 GB lead.

Other comebacks? Yes, there have been a few of the four-goal variety in Men’s Worlds competition. Four, to be exact. On March 9, 1963, Canada fell behind early to East Germany, 4-0, but they righted the ship and cruised to an 11-5 victory.

On April 19, 1990, Canada again fell behind to Finland, 4-0, by the midway point of the game but chipped away and won, 6-5.

Many will remember the Sweden-Finland game of May 7, 2003. The Finns built an impressive 5-1 lead early in the second, but again in the last half of the game they stumbled while Tre Kronor poured it on, winning 6-5 as well.

And then on May 6, 2017, Slovenia fell predictably behind to the Swiss, 4-0, by the late stages of the first period. By the end of the third, they had tied it, 4-4, although the Swiss regained their composure to win in overtime. 

There is one other comeback that doesn’t quite qualify but that was incredible all the same. 

On September 18, 1984, Sweden gave Canada an enormous scare. It was the best-of-three Canada Cup finals. Canada had won the first game and bulldozed out to a 5-0 lead towards the end of the first period of game two. But Sweden never gave up, scoring once before intermission to make it, 5-1. In the second, Canada got one but Sweden pushed and made it 6-4. They added one more in the third but fell just short, losing 6-5 after trailing 5-0. 

All of these comebacks took place over at least two periods. Austria’s was achieved entirely in the third period, making it all the more unique, all the more unbelievable.

In the end, Canada’s captain John Tavares scored the second fastest overtime goal in WM history, 15 seconds in, to give Canada the win, but not before Austria made history. And if they avoid relegation by one point in the standings, they will look to this miracle as the reason why.