OTTAWA, ON – Thanks to a phenomenal performance by Czechia’s strong, physical defence and another admirable showing from Czech goaltender Katerina Zechovska, who stood on her head all game and made 35 saves on 36 shots faced, the Czechia women’s hockey team defeated Slovakia 3-1 to secure the bronze medal and end the tournament on a positive note.
Slovakia outshot the Czechia 36-27. Slovakia spent more time in the offensive zone throughout the entirety of the game and as a result of their speed, strong puck movement, and hockey IQ were able to more consistently generate scoring chances and get pucks to the net.
Despite being outshot, the Czechia was able to capitalize on the chances they created in the offensive zone more frequently than their opponents, and that combined with a near-perfect defensive game from all four lines contributed heavily to the Czechia’s win.
Czechia’s defence gave up a lot of shots on goal, however, many of those shots were low-threat scoring chances. The Czechs used their strength and physicality to push opposing forwards to the outside, minimized Slovakia’s presence in the slot and on the doorstep, prevented Slovakia from creating a lot of scoring chances from dangerous areas close to the net like in the slot or from the faceoff circles, and Zechovska did a great job tracking the puck and minimizing rebounds that Slovakia could potentially capitalize on. Zechovska made several huge saves at many key moments of the game to preserve her team’s lead and was a big factor in helping the defence in front of her stay calm.
Another huge factor in the Czechia s win was their perfect penalty kill. The Czechs recorded 39 penalty minutes – 20 of which were given right at the end of the game – so they had to play perfect defence down one player for 19 minutes and they did exactly that. The Czech’s successful penalty kill provided a lot of momentum for the team on various occasions. Slovakia’s only goal came at equal strength in the second period.
Near the end of a very defensive-focused first period, where both defences were sharp and both goaltenders made some huge saves to keep the game 0-0, forward Sandra Halounova controlled a cross-ice stretch pass from her sister Alexandra before firing a powerful one-timer past Slovak goaltender Andrea Risianova.
Slovakia turned on the offensive intensity late in the first period and generated several quality scoring chances thanks to their speed, creativity, great puck movement, and aggressive forecheck. That continued early into the second period and just over a minute into the second frame, forward Lucia Haluskova created a turnover in the offensive zone, and dangled around a pair of defenders before finding some open space to fire home a wrist shot to equalize.
Slovakia’s momentum didn’t last long; exactly 50 seconds later, Czech defenseman Karolina Kosinova scored the eventual game-winner with a fantastic individual effort before firing a quick release wrister in the back of the net to help Czechia regain their one-goal lead.
Slovakia’s offence was firing from all cylinders in the second period looking for the equalizer. They spent the majority of the frame in the offensive end moving the puck well to create scoring chances and outshot Czechia 15-8 after they had taken a 2-1 lead.
However, the Czech defence stayed strong, clearing the zone, winning puck battles in neutral ice, and preventing their opponents from creating high-quality scoring chances. Their penalty kill was effective killing two penalties and Zechovska made a big save when she needed to.
Czechia’s strong defence and efficient penalty continued well into the third period as Slovakia’s offence continued to push looking for an equalizer. Slovakia came close to finding an equalizer on multiple occasions thanks to their ability to find the open shooting lane with their strong puck movement and playmaking abilities but Zechovska was there to shut the door.
Midway through the third period Sandra Halounova recorded her second point of the game after her long stretch pass found Kristyna Patkova who switched from forehand to backhand before putting it past Risianova for the 3-1 lead.
Czech Republic’s five gold medals, ranks tied for third most and their 12 total medals ranks seventh of all nations.