Russia and Czech Republic played in the tournament’s opening game that was entertaining, even if slightly tentative. The teams split the points after a regulation time 1-1 tie. Maxim Lazarev shot the game-winning goal in a shootout and goaltender Alexander Georgiev stopped all three Czech shots.
Last year, the Czechs beat Russia in the last game of the preliminary round, in a game that they had to win to get to the quarter-finals. An inspired Czech team steamrolled Russia 4-1, and grabbed the second place finish in the group ahead of Russia.
"We were confident before the game because we have played well against them in the under-18 tournament and last year at the World Juniors," said Czech forward Michael Spacek.
This year, the meet was the tournament’s opening game, and it showed in the first period in which both teams were both feeling each other out and trying to show the other team who’s boss.
"We were a little nervous in the beginning, but it got better afte rthe first period," Czech goaltender Vitek Vamecek said.
The shots were tied at six, and scoring chances were also equal, but Russia had a great opportunity halfway through the period when Jakub Zboril received a game misconduct for his hit on a Russian player.
However, during the power play, when Sergei Boikov took a slapshot from the point, his stick broke and as he chased a Czech forward without his stick, he pushed him with both hand and got a two-minute penalty for holding, ending the one-man advantage.
The Czechs were the more active team, the one that held on to the puck and made offensive plays, and therefore controlled the flow of the game until Russia got another power-play opportunity. The Czechs, led by goaltender Vitek Vanecek, managed to keep the pucks out, though.
A couple of minutes later, the Czechs got their first power play, which resulted in a goal when Michael Spacek shot a hard shot from three metres and beat Alexander Georgiev to give his team the lead. Unfortunately for him, and the Czechs, David Kase was on the crease before the puck and the goal was disallowed.
Just 71 seconds later, Spacek had a breakaway against Georgiev again but missed the net when a Russian defenceman slashed him enough to earn him a penalty shot. And this time Spacek waited until Georgiev was down and lifted the puck to the roof of the net.
The Czechs held on to their lead through the rest of the period, even if Russia had a couple of scoring chances.
The Czech Republic outshot Russia 17-12 through two periods.
"We knew they'd try to push us to our heels in the third, but we probably also got a little too passive," Spacek said.
Most of the crowd expected Russia to pick up steam in the third period, and as is often the case, the team nursing the lead got a little too cautious. With 10:51 remaining in the third period, Russia got the puck in the Czech zone, and managed to create a scoring chance and even keep the puck in the zone when the initial shot missed the net. Radel Fazleyev carried the puck towards Vanecek’s net, and passed it to the front of the net where Artur Lauta slammed it in to tie the game.
Both teams had their chances during overtime, but Georgiev and Vanecek couldn’t be beat. And Georgiev not even in the shootout.
The Czechs were a little disappointed, but also happy with the way their start of the tournament. The point against Russia can turn out to be an important one.