If the Czech national team has any ambition at the IPH CUP tournament, it is to finally beat Canada at a major world tournament. And they were close to it right from the first period. The Czechs held a slim 1:0 lead until the last minute of the final period, where the Canadians took their first possible victory.
For the first time in one of their matches, the score could change in the first minute. Auren Halbert worked out a good position, nonetheless goalkeeper Kudela was ready for his fast shot and in the end the Czech goal was saved by the post. In the following minutes, the Canadians continued their pressure, which was interrupted by a foul by Bioly, and thus the Czechs had the advantage of the first power play of the match. Only Geier had a chance in the numerical advantage, but at 4:29 his shot from the blue line was blocked by Kingsmill. After an unnecessary foul by Hečko behind the goal of the Canadian goalie, he was quickly sent off, and the Canadians played the power play instead. However, the game spilled over to both sides and the next two minutes did not bring a change in the score. At 11:54 the only woman at the IPH CUP 2023 tournament, the Canadian – Tousignant got to the puck and drove it to the offensive zone. However, her team did not use her offer for a significant action either. The first joy for the Czechs came in the 13th minute. Four players immediately crowded into the Kingsmill goal area and Filip Veselý took advantage of the confusion around him, and delivered the puck behind his back. The time was 13:54 with the score being 1:0 and then followed the end of the first period.
Right at the beginning of the second period, the Czechs could rejoice again. Captain Zelinka drove the puck into the offensive zone, but Ohar’s shot just went over the entire length of Canada’s goal line. Both teams then continued playing strong offense and both having a lot of chances. At 18:52, Veselý – the scorer of the first goal, drove at Kingsmill all alone, but the Canadian goalie covered his sharp shot. A minute later, another power play by the guests of the match followed, but it did not bring significant pressure. However, the Canadians wanted to equal the score and gradually Culmon and McGregor intimidated Kudela. At 26:33, the Canadians came closest to scoring. Today’s 26-year-old birthday boy Micah Kovacevich took the whistled penalty shot, but he didn’t give himself or the Canadian team the gift of a scored goal. His shot was covered by the great Martin Kudela. On the contrary, the Czechs were the ones who increased the pressure and wanted to add another goal. The second period ended in the defensive zone of the guest team with no change in the score.
The Canadians entered the third period with a clear determination to turn the game in their favour. They sent three dangerous shots at Kudela in the first few seconds and the Czech goalkeeper managed to keep a clean sheet for only two minutes. The pass from the corner of the rink was received by Mathieu Lelièvre, who had a simple finishing duty. The time was 32:58 and the match status became 1:1. Russ Herrington, the coach of Canada, changed the composition of the first formation in the third period, and it was this that most often caused problems for the Czechs. The home team got the advantage of the fourth power play, after Kovacevich went to the penalty bench once again for hooking. However, the Czech para hockey players did not use the numerical advantage, due to the consistent defending of their opponents. That is also why the game changed in the last third. The match went from para hockey with strong offense, to focusing more on defensive on both sides, until the last minute of the match. Three Canadians found themselves in front of Kudela and despite the fact that Václav Hečko tried to prevent Auren Halbert from finishing the game, he made no mistake and beat Kudela less than a minute before the end of the match. The Canadian para hockey team thus defeated the Czech Republic 2:1.
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: Vladimír Pryček