After a long wait and loads of uncertainty – the 2021 IIHF World Championships in Riga are now underway. The Russian side kicked things off vs the Czech Republic and won it in an impressive passion.
The game in Olympic Center in Riga between the Czech side and Russians began with some careful scouting, however, the Czech side screwed up early. Filip Hronek was sent to the box for high-sticking and Russians found a way to capitalize on a man advantage. Passing play between Mikhail Grigorenko, Ivan Morozov and Anton Burdasov lead to a 1:0 lead for the ”home” side. At the mid-point of the period, the Czech Republic pulled back to reach the equalizer on a 2-on-1. The goal was scored by 28-year-old debutant Jakub Flex. The second half of the period was much more actionless. A few chances on either side but overall nothing spectacular. So it ended with a tie after the first 20 minutes.
The first two moments in the second belong to Russia – two very close calls, one blocked, the other was stopped by the goalie. The pressure led to another man advantage to Russia – but they weren’t able to make any use of it. Russia remained in control and managed to get another lead after a crucial mistake in the neutral zone by the Czech’s who were up a player on a man advantage – 2:1 Russia. Just a little over two minutes later Jakub Vrana equalized the game again and that was it in the 2nd period.
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Russia kept showing that if an opponent makes a bad decision – they will be punished, Alexander Barabanov took no exception to give the Russian side their third lead of the game. The guest side picked up the pace trying to survive to stay in the game and try to tie the game – a chance came after their opponent was penalized and that was perfectly executed. Shot by Kubalik hit the skate of Artyom Zub and the puck went into the net. The story of the game? Another mistake by the Czech side gave Mikhail Grigorenko a perfect chance to end the game and he used it – a goal in the top corner was enough to grant his team a late victory in the opening game of the tournament.
Meanwhile, the Arena Riga hosted a group B game between Italy and Germany – a rain of pucks in the game gave Germans a 9:4 victory.