Germany pulled off an historic win over last year’s finalists Russia on Friday on the opening day of the ice hockey world championships running out 2-0 winners for their first win over their opponents and ending a 32 match winless streak.
Victory was also sweet revenge for their loss to the Russians in last year’s semi-finals.
In Kosice, where Group B is based, Olympic champions Canada got off to a winning start, easing to a 4-1 triumph over Belarus.
However, it was Germany’s performance that took the eye.
“Our players executed the game plan perfectly, and we had good goaltending,” manager Uwe Krupp said. “It was a day when just about everything worked in our favor.”
Forward Thomas Grelinger put Germany into the lead 4:19 into the second period, beating Russia’s goalie Yevgeny Nabokov with a precise unopposed wrist shot after a Russian mixup in defense. Russia poured into the attack trying to level, but made too many unforced errors, while Germany defended well, replying on the counter-attack to keep their lead throughout the second period.
In the third, Russia tried to take Germany’s goal by storm, but German goaltender Dennis Endras played at his best, producing 31 saves to win the Player of the Match title. Patrick Reimer made it 2-0, scoring on a breakaway with 2:07 remaining to secure his team’s well-deserved win.
“We played hard for 60 minutes,” Endras said. “I think we were the better team in the first 40 minutes. We tightened up our gaps and they didn’t have much room.”
Canada started confidently against Belarus, breaking the deadlock through Edmonton Oilers forward Jordan Eberle 1:52 into the match. Belarus leveled with just 34 seconds remaining before the first intermission through Andrei Stepanov, who swept the puck home from close range. The Carolina Hurricanes’ Jeff Skinner restored Canada’s lead 10:27 into the second, firing the puck in from just outside the crease, while New York Islanders John Tavares made it 3-1 for Canada 5:18 into the third. Eberle netted his second of the match at 48:39 on a powerplay to wrap up the scoring.
In the late Group A match, hosts Slovakia, who are keen to repeat their world title heroics of 2002, came back from a goal down to beat Slovenia 3-1.
Slovaks seized the initiative from the start to outshoot Slovenia 14-5 in the first period, but with no immediate reward. Instead, Slovenia grabbed the lead 2:37 into the second on a powerplay through Ales Kranjc, who beat the Slovakia defense on a breakaway to send the puck home between Jaroslav Halak’s pads.
Slovakia continued peppering Slovenia goalie Robert Kristan with shots under the watchful gaze of Slovakian President Ivan Gasparovic and Miroslav Satan leveled with 4:44 remaining before the second interval, wristing the puck under the crossbar. Defender Peter Podhradsky put the hosts into the lead with a powerful slap shot 7:03 into the third, while Lubos Bartecko rounded off the scoring with eight seconds remaining.