Switzerland 9-0 Italy
Switzerland are considered a lock for the quarterfinals, and would be rightfully feared by any of the traditional favorites for the gold. They shocked the world last year, when they defeated Canada in the semifinals and only succumbed to Sweden after a shootout, coming away with the silver medal. The Swiss can challenge for the medals again this year, led by the likes of Roman Josi, Kevin Fiala, and Nico Hischier.
Italy are the main favorites for relegation out of Group B as is the custom with teams promoted from last year after gaining promotion last year. They do not have the most impressive roster, so Italy will have to rely on their energy and physicality to disrupt their more talented opponents.
Switzerland set the tone early on with Kevin Fiala opening the scoring just a minute and 17 seconds in. The Swiss would add three more goals before the first period was out, Gregory Hoffman, Lino Martschini, and Vincent Praplan all getting on the board.
Italian goalie Andreas Bernard would let in two more in the second period, allowing Simon Moser to get the fifth goal for Switzerland and letting the Minnesota Wild winger Fiala get his second of the game. Italy looked completely outplayed, unable to keep up with the pace of the game, missing passes in 2-on-2 situations, and struggling to keep the puck out of their zone. Switzerland started to get complacent towards the end of the period, letting Italy get a 2-on-1 and threaten Berra multiple times, but unsuccessfully
Fiala completed his hattrick as Swiss take advantage of the powerplay, with the winger tucking in the rebound behind the left skate of Bernard. Romain Loeffel’s one-timer after a pass from behind the net by Noah Rod made it eight on Switzerland’s 50th shot of the match. Nico Hischier also got a goal after two assists, leading with the puck on a two-on-one, taking a shot and scored above the Bernard’s left shoulder.
Swiss veteran Andres Ambuhl played his 100th match at the IIHF World Championships, these being his 15th. He celebrated this feat with two assists, helping lead his nation to an emphatic 9-0 victory.
Latvia 5-2 Austria
Latvia are among the teams hoping to upset some of the top four favorites and steal a quarterfinal spot. They did it successfully last year, finishing ahead of Denmark and Germany, before losing to eventual winners, Sweden, 2-3. Latvia’s biggest strength is their Canadian coach, Bob Hartley, who has made them a dangerous team.
Austria are second favorites for relegation out of Group B after Italy, and they have to hope that the Raffl brothers, Michael and Thomas, can lead them to safety and Austria will live to fight another year at the World Championships.
It was side-to-side action in the first five minutes without any real chances, as each team squandered a two-on-one. The Latvian goalie Gudlevskis gives away the puck behind his net and Austria almost get their first goal after 10 minutes
Roberts Bukarts stayed down after an off-puck, shoulder-to-head hit from Patrick Peter, who gets a game misconduct penalty and a five-minute major for interference, getting thrown out of the game. Austria’s First-line center Michael Raffl opened the scoring shorthanded during this major penalty. He skated in after a brilliant pass from Alexander Pallestrang and his backhand shot beat Gudlevskis glove side. Latvia tied it up during the same five-minute powerplay, Rudolfs Balcers putting in a rebound after a pad save by Austria goalie by David Kickert.
Second period was one of disappointment from both teams as neither manage to get on the board. The frustration was best summarized by the final minute of the period, where Latvia’s powerplay launched a fruitless onslaught of shots at Kickert.
Latvia got the lead with a powerplay goal after 23 seconds of the third period, captain Lauris Darzins beating Kickert with a slap shot one-timer. Less than four minutes later, Rodrigo Abols’ wrist shot from between the circles beat Kickert glove side to make it 3-1.
Shortly after their powerplay expired, Latvia scored again, Gints Meija beat the goalie stickside at his near post with a wrist shot. Austria got it down to 4-2 with a powerplay goal with just a little more than four minutes to go. Raphael Herburger dove in to put in the rebound after Hofer’s shot. Just 16 seconds later, Ronalds Kenins likely kills off the game with slap shot beating the Austria goalie stick side, the game finishing 5-2 for Latvia.
Norway 2-7 Czech Republic
Norway got off to a rough start in the IIHF Worlds, losing 5-2 to Russia in their opener. However, there was a flicker of hope, as they scored twice on Andrei Vasilevskiy in the final five minutes of the match.
Czech Republic had a huge opening game against Sweden, which would set the tone of the group stages for the two teams. They came away with a 5-2 win, showing that the Czech Republic must be considered a favorite for the medal positions this year.
Filip Hronek takes a slap shot from the blue line after two and a half minutes and finds Henrik Haukeland’s five-hole, giving Czechs an early lead. Hronek got the second after Kubalik centered a pass to him and Hronek’s one-timer slapshot beat Haukleand glove side.
Norway get one back for 10 minutes, Andreas Martinsen setting up Tobias Lindstrom, whose beautiful slap shot one-timer beats Hrubec and energizes Norway. However, three minutes later came a knee injury after a hit knee-to-knee to Mats Rosseli Olsen, whose match was over. Radko Gudas got a two-minute kneeing penalty for the foul. The shorthanded Czechs got a 3-on-2 and Michael Frolik’s wrist shot in the final second of Gudas’ penalty beat Haukeland.
Norway took a too many men penalty early in the second period and Czech Republic took advantage of the powerplay, Michael Frolik deflected a centering pass from captain Jakub Voracek into the exposed part of Haukeland’s net. Michal Repik hit a slap shot first time that deflects off of a Norway player and behind Haukeland, giving the Czechs a 5-1 lead after two periods.
Henrik Holm comes into the Norway goal after Haukeland let in five in the first two periods. 52 seconds in to the third period, Norway cut the Czech lead down to three, Sondre Olden deflecting the slapshot of Mathis Olimb. Just 38 seconds later, Czechs restored a four-goal lead, Filip Chytil one-timed a pass from behind the goal from Jan Rutta. Henrik Holm kept his clean sheet these championships for only 90 seconds. Dominik Kubalik makes the score 7-2 for the Czechs, receiving the puck on his off wing and beating Holm over his right pad.
Denmark 5-4 France (SO)
Denmark are a team looking to stay safe for another year at the World Championships level. While they do have some players of quality such as Lars Eller or Mikkel Boedker, they are not expected to mount a serious challenge. They could still be due to pull off an upset, even without the Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen.
France find themselves in a similar situation, essentially destined to be safe as their roster should hold enough quality to collect more points than the newcomers from Great Britain. Their main star should be young Alexandre Texier who helped the Columbus Blue Jackets sweep the Tampa Bay Lightning in the NHL Playoffs.
France surprisingly went ahead after a powerplay go by Charles Bertrand after a high-sticking penalty by Nicklas Jensen. However, Frederik Storm and Markus Lauridsen both scored in the final minute of the first period, Denmark ended the first period with a 2-1 lead.
France then went on to launch an onslaught and score three in a row, with Olivier Dame-Malka, Damien Fleury, and Valentin Claireaux scoring the goals. Before the period was over, the two Danish NHL stars Mikkel Boedker and Lars Eller combined to make it 3-4, with the latter scoring.
Jesper Jensen tied it up after 46 minutes and Denmark ultimately prevailed, winning 5-4 after the shootout, dropping a point to France.
Germany 3-1 Great Britain
Germany are going to seem like quite the one-man team this year, led by Leon Draisaitl, who scored 50 goals for Edmonton Oilers in the NHL. They will be strengthened by Philipp Grubauer, who will join the team after their first couple of matches. They are predicted to advance to the quarterfinals, but the hosts from Slovakia might challenge them.
Great Britain are making their debut in the World Championships and are predicted to go back down to Division I. Despite not being a traditional ice hockey nation, Team Great Britain are reportedly going to enjoy quite a strong fan support in Kosice, which could energize them to pull off some upsets.
Quite surprisingly, Great Britain kept it tight and managed to keep the first period scoreless. The first goal came from the young German talent Moritz Seider, just 39 seconds before the end of the second period.
Team GB got back into the game with a goal by Mike Hammond, who scored Great Britain’s first goal at the IIHF World Championships since 1994. However, Germany scored two more goals through Yasin Ehliz and Leon Draisaitl, winning 3-1.
Slovakia 2-4 Finland
Slovakia got off to a dream start at their home World Championships, upsetting Team USA 4-1 in their opener, getting some of their main stars such as Erik Cernak and Tomas Tatar scoring right away.
Finland may lack NHL stars, but they have a strong team made up of mostly KHL and the Finnish Liiga players, including the young superstar Kaapo Kakko. This team also managed to pull off an upset, beating Canada 3-1.
Slovakia shocked Finland as they took a lead through an Erik Cernak goal in the 11th minute. However, Finland tied it up on the powerplay less than four minutes later, Petteri Lindbohm getting the goal. The Finnish super talent Kaapo Kakko sent his team into the lead, ending the first period 2-1 in Finland’s favor.
Slovakia got the score to 2-2, 40 seconds before the end of the second period through a Martin Marincin wraparound. It was followed by video review for goalie interference as well as a coach’s challenge, but the goal ultimately stood and it was all tied at the end of the second period.
Kaapo Kakko was the one who made the difference again, giving Finland a 3-2 lead. The 18-year-old completed his hattrick with an empty net goal, the match ending 4-2. Kakko has scored five goals in his first two matches, and he might be making a case to be picked ahead of Jack Hughes at No. 1 at this year’s NHL Entry Draft.