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Pavelec, Czechs blank Austria

by Staff / Winnipeg Jets

Author: Lucas Aykroyd

Pavelec previously posted two shutouts at the 2011 IIHF World Championship. His country's last medal (bronze) came in 2012. The Czechs have responded well since a 6-3 loss to Canada, beating France in their last game and spurring hopes of a return to the podium.

Friday's victory vaulted the host nation into third place in Group A with 10 points, one up on Switzerland.

Ondrej Nemec set the tone with a goal and an assist, and Martin Zatovic, Vladimir Sobotka, and captain Jakub Voracek also tallied.

Austria lost its third straight outing since starting the tournament with a 4-3 shootout win versus Switzerland.

It took more than half the game for the host nation to start putting pucks in the net, but they would prove irresistible when they broke through.

Midway through the first period, Voracek came down on a 2-on-1 with Tomas Hertl, but his pass across sailed wide. When a Czech drive bounced off Starkbaum’s left post and sat temptingly behind the goalie in the crease, Michael Raffl was there to sweep it out of harm’s way.

The teams traded glorious chances at the end of the first. After a Czech 3-on-1 rush fell short, Austria came right back the other way and Pavelec stretched to get his left skate on Brian Lebler’s attempted backhand deke.

The second period was all Czechs, as shots favored them 22-2. The only blemish was failing to cash in with an early two-man advantage.

At 11:09, as the Czechs buzzed around the Austrian zone, Nemec’s wrister from the top of the right faceoff circle beat Starkbaum high to the blocker side for a 1-0 lead. The veteran KHL defenceman exuberantly whirled his arms in celebration as the sell-out O2 Arena crowd of 17,383 exploded with relief.

Starkbaum did all he could to keep it a one-goal game, stoning Petr Koukal on a clean break with about six minutes left in the middle frame, among other great saves.

Zatovic extended the lead to 2-0 with 1:56 left in the middle frame. He accepted a great stretch pass from Jan Hejda in the neutral zone, burst in on a 2-on-1 with Koukal, and looked over as if preparing to dish it off before roofing it over Starkbaum’s glove.

Sobotka made it 3-0 just 1:04 later, coolly zinging a wrister inside the far post from the top of the right faceoff circle.

Austria decided to give Starkbaum the third period off after those two psychologically crushing late goals. But his backup, Rene Swette, couldn't break the Czech momentum.

Squelching even the faintest hope of an Austrian comeback, defenceman Michal Jordan sprang Voracek on a breakaway off the opening faceoff in the third period, and he zipped a low shot home to give the Czechs a 4-0 lead just seven seconds in.

The legendary Jaromir Jagr provided another highlight for the crowd during a dazzling solo jaunt where he nearly fooled Swette with a spin-around backhander. Final shots on goal were 42-12 for the Czechs.

On Saturday, Austria will try to get back into the win column when it faces Latvia. The Czechs have Germany next on Sunday.

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