Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Czech Republic to the Medal Round


A pair of power-play goals gave the Czechs a 2-0 lead in the first period. David Stich and Zdenek Okal scored 2:04 apart midway through the period to give the Czechs the early advantage. Germany had a rough period, getting out-shot 17-5 and taking four minor penalties.

Germany was without forward Maximilian Forster and defenseman Florian Muller after they were injured in yesterday’s game against Canada. The quick turnaround from last night’s game also didn’t help the German squad, which looked fatigued.

The Germans improved in the second period, but still could not get on the board. Their best chance came with about four minutes left in the period, when they had at least five consecutive scoring chances at point blank range, but couldn’t convert.

The Czechs shifted the momentum back to their favor on the next shift in what proved to be the deal-breaker for Germany. Ondrej Roman skated the puck around the crease and slid it past goaltender Timo Pielmeier for a 3-0 lead, just as Germany was showing its first signs of hope.

The goal knocked the wind out of the German sails as they ceded a quick three goals to open the third period, including a second goal from Roman, who finished the game with three points.

For the Czechs, it was a huge moral victory to secure a quarterfinal berth after a slow start to the championship with two straight losses. The Czech opponent in the quarterfinals will be known after tomorrow’s last Group B game. The Czechs, which locked up third place in Group A with today’s win, will take on the second-place finisher from Group B on January 2.

Despite the loss, German assistant coach Uwe Krupp still sees the positive side of today’s result. “Our goal coming into the championship was to stay in the top division,” Krupp said. “We have three points going into the relegation round, which is an important step in reaching that goal.”

Kazakhstan is the other relegation round entry from Group A and will begin the four-team round robin with zero points.

The loss gives Germany a final preliminary round record of 1-3 and fourth place in the group. The Germans have the next two days off to prepare for the relegation round.

The Czechs will take on Kazakhstan tomorrow in a game with no bearing on the standings. The quarterfinals will be played on January 2 after a day off for the entire tournament on New Year’s Day.

(Nathan also is a writer for Maineiacs Post to Post and the Maine Hockey Journal. He can be reached at fourniern@students.nescom.edu)

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