19. - 26. 6. 2021

PREVIEW DAY 1: A Czech game “with capital G”, American derbies and interesting European duels

/ Ostrava
/Zuzana Glacová

The time since the dreamy Ostrava championships flew by so quickly, and now, two years later, the Ostravar Arena brought together the eight best teams in the world to compete for, not only the medals from the tournament but also the possible placement in the Winter Paralympics. The tournament will be hosted in 2022 in Beijing, China, and five teams from the Ostrava championships will qualify.

This year’s World Championships will start with a bang. The Czech blades will be cutting through the ice right in the opening game, which is waging a crucial battle against Korea. Subsequent overseas derbies will complement the delicatessen menu on Saturday afternoon. The evening will be focused on interesting confrontations of four European group B units.

GAME 1: Korea – Czech Republic

Even Oscar-winning screenwriters could not have come up with a spicier opening of the Ostrava World Championships. The program includes a rerun of the game for third place from 2019, which the more relaxed team of Korea won in a tactical loss in the semifinals. Therefore, the Czechs crave revenge, and this time there is no room for tactics. The winner has a chance to go up against a more acceptable opponent from the B group in the quarterfinals or even advance directly to the semifinals. However, to do so, it would be necessary to beat some of the great power nations in the upcoming games in the preliminary round.

Korea – Czech Republic

From a historical point of view, Korea is a kind of companion to the Czech team. Both national teams played their first Championships back in 2008 in the B division. They both advanced, and a year later, they were both able to get a taste of the elite championships in Ostrava. The Czechs placed fifth, and the Koreans placed seventh. But then Korea began its intensive program. In 2012 in Hamar, the team shocked the world with their significant, visible progress and a silver-medal win when it defeated the Czech Republic in the semifinals.

The Koreans prepared another surprise by falling into the B Division at the 2013 home championships, but their bronze season commenced almost immediately after. Korea placed third in 2017, as at the 2018 Paralympics and most recently at the Ostrava Championships two years ago. On the other hand, the Czech Republic kept on placing fourth at championships- in 2012, 2013 and 2019. When it comes to the Paralympics, the Czechs have gotten to fifth place in the competition. Is this year the time of change? The Czechs have been training very hard, and the team underwent a rejuvenation and is ready to fight for their historical medal win.

Match No. 1 Korea – Czech Republic is on Saturday at 12:00.

Game 2: USA – Canada

Game no. 2 USA-Canada is played on Saturday at 15:00.

An absolute para ice hockey classic and the best you can expect on the ice. The overseas derby of the United States vs Canada. Only these two countries have taken turns on the golden podium – the Americans have won the championships four times, Canada managed to win thrice. No other national team has won the Paralympic Games since 2002. The Americans have collected all gold medals except for the 2006 tournament in Turin in which Canada had triumphed. Can you imagine a better invitation for a Saturday afternoon? Perhaps just a reminder of the last mutual American/Canadian games from Ostrava: both have been won by the United States in the preliminary round 3:1 and in the finals 3:2 in overtime.  

Game no. 2 USA-Canada is played on Saturday at 15:00.

Game no. 3 Norway – Italy 

Game no. 3 Norway – Italy is played on Saturday at 18:00.

Norwegians know what joy in Ostrava looks like as they managed to take home silver medals from here twelve years ago. Two years ago, however, they finished fifth when they defeated their initial rival from this year – Italy 1:0 in overtime. Thus, although the Norwegian era of five consecutive medal wins from the turn of the century is no more, the Northerners are still close behind the absolute top. Furthermore, did you know that before the invention of the Canadian sledge that is widely used today, almost every world para ice hockey player used a Norwegian sledge? This also proves what a strong position para ice hockey has in Norway.

The Italian team is in many ways similar to the Czech team. The certified line-up has been moving around fifth place at top events for a long time now; the closest the Italians ever got to medal positions was at the 2018 Paralympics in Korea, where they lost to the Home team thanks to a single goal and finished fourth. The team that wears the colour cyan would like to improve their former sixth-place position. However, a formidable opponent is awaiting the Italian team right at the beginning of the tournament.

Game no. 3 Norway – Italy is played on Saturday at 18:00.

GAME 4: RPC – Slovakia

In other words, returnees against the debutants. After a doping affair, connected with a ban on International Paralympic Committee tournaments, the RPC is returning to the scene as the 2019 B Division World Championships winner. They quite literally rocketed through the tournament in Berlin with an unbelievable score of 74:1 from six games. The land of unlimited possibilities improved significantly before the domestic Paralympic Games in Sochi, where the team got to the finals against Team USA. The best result of the RPC from elite tournaments is two bronze medals from 2013 and 2015. And then it all came to a stop. The team will be presented under the auspices of the RPC due to the ongoing systemic defects in the state anti-doping program.

The national team of Slovakia is experiencing a big premiere at the championships. The team qualified for the Ostrava WCh at the Division B World Championships in second place right after the RPC. It is, therefore, worth mentioning the game from Berlin, which was dominated by the RPC 9:0. It is not without interest that ten of the twelve players on the Slovakian roster play for Czech para ice hockey clubs. It can be said, with slight exaggeration, that in cities such as Zlin, Olomouc and Havířov, fans will be cheering for two national teams at once.

Game No. 4 RPC – Slovakia is played on Saturday at 21:00.