The Czechs didn’t meet the Americans on the ice for the first time at the IPH CUP. They were training together and drew inspiration from each other before the start of the tournament. This time, however, both teams faced each other in the last match of the preliminary round. After an enormously fast scoring start of the first period and three goals in the Czech net, the pace of the game calmed down and the Czechs finally played the most even match against the Americans of all the teams at the Ostrava IPH CUP tournament.
The match between the USA and the Czech Republic started with an honourable puck drop of the little Tomáš Boháč, a boy with cerebral palsy, for whom this experience was priceless. He received the puck from the captain of the Czech national team, and then it was time for the match to begin. The second formation of the USA team didn’t let anyone wait for long for the first goal of the match. After two minutes, Roybal came through with a precise cannonball shot under the crossbar. Not even three more minutes had passed and the score of the match changed for the second time. This time, Declan Farmer made it 2-0 from a close range in front of the goalkeeper Kudela. In addition, Miroslav Novotný’s expulsion immediately followed, which gave the Americans the advantage of the first power play. This time, just after twenty seconds, Jack Wallace blew the net behind Kudela, and the USA para hockey players were leading 3-0 after six minutes of the first period. It was at this moment that the Czech team began to be more attentive and consistent. Nevertheless, imprecise passes into the attacking zone of the Americans did not allow the Czechs to have a significant chance. At 12:13, the Czechs also played a power play, but they did not use Wallace’s foul for a more significant action, so the first period ended with the score of 3-0.
The Czechs entered the second period with a much more focused performance. But at 18:37, their performance was jeopardized by Václav Hečko’s foul and the best forward trio of the United States – Wallace, Farmer and Roybal took the ice again. Although they worked very well in the match against Canada, the Czechs managed to effectively defend this machine-gun trio from the short-handed play. However, the subsequent imprecise passes did not allow the Czechs to quickly move through the middle zone and exert more pressure, so the game mostly took place in front of goalkeeper Kudela. On the contrary, the Americans again increased the tempo of the game, however, at 26:14, Kudela was ready against another possible score change, even against Zych’s try for a goal. With two minutes left in the second period, the Czechs got the power play advantage after Wallace was sent to the penalty bench for hooking, but it was the USA players again who settled in the Czechs’ attacking zone. Neither side scored a goal, and for the extremely fast-shooting first period, the second period ended with no change in the score, 3-0.
At the beginning of the third period, the Czechs were still in a power play, but it was Brody Roybal, who was the first to pass the goalkeeper Kudela at 31:03. Then it was as if the Americans couldn’t find a loophole or a recipe to break into the Czech defensive zone, and the game suddenly spilled over from one side to another for five minutes without any major chances on either side. Liam Cunningham, a young man wearing the USA jersey, threatened again with a shot from the blue at 36:48. Soon, however, the score truly changed when Daid Eustace made no mistake with a shot under the top bar of Kudela’s goal, thus scoring his first goal at the IPH CUP 2023 tournament. If the Czechs wanted to correct this score, they had a chance in the game five against three after the expulsion of Musselman and soon also Wallace. Who else but the forward Geier, cheered up the Ostravar Arena’s largest audience for this tournament. Just in front of the goalkeeper Lee at 41:34, Geier passed the puck from his left to the right, and also found a gap in the right part of the American goal, reducing the score to 1-4. A minute before the end of the match, the USA para hockey players increased the tempo of the game again and wanted to confirm their clear superiority on the ice, but they did not surprise the Czech goalkeeper. The USA vs. the Czech Republic match finished 4:1, making the Czechs the most balanced opponent for the Americans so far in the championship. Even so, the Czechs finished last in the preliminary round and will meet the USA team again in the semifinals on Saturday, the 7th of October at 18:00.
The International Para Hockey Cup 2023 takes place with the support of the National Sports Agency, the Moravian-Silesian Region, the Statutory City of Ostrava and partners Kaufland and Komerční banka.
Text: Zuzana Martinčík Glacová Translation: Adela Katy Dawson Photos: Lukáš Kaboň/ Radim Horák