There was no game for Russia on Saturday – but head coach Ilya Vorobyov was still busy. He officially brought CSKA center Ivan Telegin into the roster, making him available for Sunday’s game against Austria. He also hinted that Nikita Zadorov of Colorado has now completed his visa formalities and will fly in tomorrow. One more defenseman, either SKA’s Artyom Zub or CSKA’s Artyom Blazhiyevsky, will complete the roster for the tournament.
Vorobyov also cautioned against taking Austria too lightly, pointing to a recent exhibition game against Canada that ended 7-6 to the North Americans. “They weren’t bad at all,” he told FHR.ru. “They waited for their opportunities, they played on the counter-attack and they’re a quick team. For two periods they acquitted themselves well against Canada.”
Meanwhile, Austrian forward Thomas Hundertpfund said of the game against Russia: “Yeah, that's a superstar team they have. I think we have to enjoy that. We still want to play our best game, but I think it's really tough to get points out of that game. So, I think we should enjoy that game and try our best.”
Bob Hartley’s Latvia is aiming to reach a second successive quarter final for the first time ever and the team made a solid start with a 5-2 win over Austria. It took time to break down a stubborn opponent – goalie David Kickert came up big in the first two periods and the teams were tied at 1-1 after 40 minutes. Then the floodgates opened. Lauris Darzins grabbed the go-ahead goal seconds into the final frame, Rodrigo Abols extended the lead and Gints Meija, who was earlier denied by the bar, made it 4-1. The teams traded late goals as Latvia got off to a confident start.
Ronalds Kenins, another Latvian goalscorer, talked up the impact that Hartley is making in his third campaign as Latvia’s head coach.
“We have confidence,” he said. “2018 was a big year. The past two years were big. I think we barely made it the first year when Bob was here and the second year we made it into the quarter-finals. I think this time we're coming with confidence. We just have to keep going. We are a team who can't just slow down. We have to be 100 percent every day.”
Michal Repik, who finished last season with Vityaz, was part of the Czech team that eased to a 7-2 victory over Norway and maintained its perfect start to the tournament. Repik had a goal and an assist. The other scoring came from Filip Hronek and Michael Frolik (2 each), plus one apiece from Filip Chytil and Dominik Kubalik. Norway’s Jonas Holos had an assist on his country’s first goal against the Czechs since 2012: he also picked up a point on that play in Stockholm.
Amur defenseman Jan Kolar, meanwhile, was delighted that a hockey legend – and former Avangard star – had put in a surprise appearance in the Czech locker room. “It was good to see Jagr coming here,” he said. “It was a real surprise for everyone, we didn’t know anything about it until he arrived. But it gave the team a real lift.”
Jesper Jensen, who spent the last four seasons on the Jokerit blue line, saved Denmark from a loss against France. He had a goal and an assist as the teams tied 4-4 in regulation; crucially he potted the tying goal as the Danes recovered from 2-4 before winning in a shoot-out. Niklas Jensen, Peter Regin and Oliver Lauridsen also featured for Denmark.
Jokerit was also well represented as Finland made it two wins from two with a 4-2 success over host nation Slovakia in Kosice. However, once again it was teen star Kaapo Kakko who grabbed the headlines with a hat-trick to add to his two on the opening day. The teams were tied at 2-2 going into the third period before Kakko plundered two more goals in the final frame. Sakari Manninen had two assists for Finland, Veli-Matti Savinainen got one.
The two newly-promoted teams played their first games on Saturday. For Great Britain, which prepared extensively against KHL opposition from Dinamo Riga and Torpedo, the first test was a clash with Olympic silver medallist Germany. The Germans took the win, 3-1, but there were plaudits for the Brits – especially goalie Ben Bowns who produced a performance reminiscent of his display in the 3-1 win over Riga back in February.
Fellow newcomer Italy had a day to forget though. Up against Switzerland, which only missed out on gold in a shoot-out against Sweden last year, the Italians suffered a crushing 0-9 loss.