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Czechs trail twice, but rally to win, earn quarterfinal berth

by IIHF.com Staff / Winnipeg Jets

Author: Lucas Aykroyd



The host Czech Republic earned a quarter-final berth on Sunday, beating scrappy Germany 4-2. Captain Jakub Voracek notched the second-period winner.

"I think we're getting better every game," said Voracek. "We didn't have the start we wanted, but we worked hard for the full game and deserved to win."

The result also ends Germany's hopes of making it to the final eight, but improves Switzerland's chances of advancing.

In front of a sell-out O2 Arena crowd of 17,383, Jaromir Jagr led the way with a goal and an assist, and Michal Vondrka and Petr Koukal added singles for the Czechs.

Starting goalie Ondrej Pavelec earned his fourth win as the Czechs outshot Germany 38-14. Germany’s Timo Pielmeier made his third start in a losing cause.

"We're winning," said Pavelec. "That's all that matters. It's not always pretty, but we'll take it. Every team is good, and every game is tough now."

Daniel Pietta and Michael Wolf replied for Germany.

"I think overall we played well," said Pietta. "We battled hard. We just made two more mistakes than they did, and they have the quality players to score."

Both the Czech Republic and Sweden now have 13 points in Group A, although the Swedes retain second place due to their 6-5 overtime win versus the host nation.

Germany closes out its round-robin on Monday versus Austria, while the Czechs do the same on Tuesday against Switzerland.

"We started the tournament not very well," said Pietta. "After the game against Canada, we had a couple of beers together and talked about what we had to do. Since then, I think we've had four good games now."

The German strategy of trying to deny the more skilled Czechs time and space and score on the counterattack paid off at times. But the host team always fought back.

Coach Pat Cortina's underdogs drew first blood at 7:13. Pietta took a Moritz Muller pass with speed in the neutral zone, knifed through the Czech defence, and stuffed a backhand deke past the goalie’s left pad.

The Czechs tied it up at 13:39. Vondrka was the beneficiary of a fortunate bounce, as Jakub Nakladal’s release from the blue line first went off him and then into the net off German blueliner Patrick Koppchen. The goal was video-reviewed and ruled good.

In the second period, the Germans regained the lead at 3:50, seconds after Pielmeier had stymied a good chance for Voracek. The Czech captain then gave the puck away in the German zone to Rieder, who zipped off on a 2-on-1. He fed the puck cross-ice past the stick of defender Petr Caslava and Wolf sniped it high to the glove side.

Koukal made it 2-2 just 2:08 later, cruising in off the left side boards with plenty of time and snapping one from the faceoff dot past Pielmeier’s glove.

At 7:36, Voracek atoned for his earlier gaffe, taking a fantastic spin-around backhand pass from Jagr, busting in on a 3-on-1 during a Czech power play, and whipping the puck through Pielmeier’s legs. Now the building was rocking.

"I made eye contact with [Jagr], so I knew he was going to get the puck to me eventually," said Voracek. "I just went to the net and managed to beat him five-hole."

Jagr, who was a factor every time he hit the ice, wound up taking minors for roughing and slashing during a scrum behind the opposing net halfway through, while German defenceman Justin Krueger got a roughing minor. But Germany couldn’t capitalize with the 5-on-4, despite bottling the Czechs up in their own end.

Pielmeier did his best to keep Germany in it. He shone during a late-period Czech power play. When Martin Zatovic picked off an errant cross-ice pass, the German netminder made a stellar glove save.

After some extended third-period pressure, Jagr potted his fourth goal of the tournament, beating Pielmeier five-hole off a faceoff and rounding out the scoring at 4-2 with 4:02 left. It was the 43-year-old legend's fourth of the tournament, and extends his record as the oldest player ever to score at an IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.

"We had a really good second period and played well defensively in the third," said Pavelec. "We were disciplined, which is how we've played the whole tournament."

The fans ecstatically chanted, clapped, and did the wave as the clock counted down to victory. Germany pulled Pielmeier for the extra attacker with just over two minutes left, but it was futile.

In recognition of Mother's Day, the mother of German forward Tobias Rieder made a second-intermission appearance, while Czech players like Ondrej Nemec and Jiri Novotny gave shout-outs to their moms in video messages on the big screen.

With this tournament taking place in Prague and Ostrava for the first time since 2004, the Czech moms probably appreciated the three points even more than the prospect of gifts and flowers.

The last time Germany beat the Czechs at this tournament was a 2-0 decision on 3rd May 2007 in Moscow. Germany’s all-time record against the Czechs now stands at one win, one tie, and 11 losses.

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