Sweden, South Korea and Slovakia all put on strong shooting performances to dominate the opening day of the 2015 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships B-Pool on Monday (16 March) in Ostersund, Sweden.
The tournament's host nation came out ready to impress fans early, scoring three goals in the opening period of their 8-1 victory against Poland. Within a span of 4:35, Niklas Rakos, Rasmus Lundgren and Peter Ojala all found the net for Sweden.
Defenceman Sylwester Flis, who helped the USA win Paralympic gold at the Salt Lake City 2002 Games as a dual citizen, put Poland on the scoreboard at the 16:11 mark in the second period, cutting Sweden's lead to two. These Championships are Flis' first major international tournament since he underwent surgery on both of his legs in 2013 to reduce muscle contracture.
In the third period, Sweden racked up five more goals, with 21-year-old Per Kasperi scoring twice and assisting on Robin Meng's score. Five-time Paralympian Niklas Ingvarsson found the net in the third, too, while Lundgren tallied his second score of the day.
"We knew that they would not keep up with us if we played our high-tempo game," Kasperi said. "We came out strong in the first period. We played with a high tempo and let the puck do the work. In the second period, we were caught a little bit on our heels, but in the third we got the momentum back."
Ulf Nilsson recorded six saves and Sweden outshot Poland, 33-7, to start the Championships on a high after finishing in last place at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.
Andrzej Mlynarczyk made 25 saves for Poland.
In the day's second game, the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic host nation blanked Austria, 9-0, as Seung-Hwan Jung recorded a hat trick, with all three of his scores coming in the final period. Jung, already being touted as one of South Korea's top Paralympic faces in the lead-up to PyeongChang 2018, scored the final three goals of the game to add to a 6-0 lead built by a team effort.
Jong-Kyung Lee and Dong-Shin Jang both scored in the first period for South Korea, while Byeong-Seok Cho and Sang-Hyeon Park each found the net in the second. Ju-Seung Lee, also a national player in wheelchair rugby, then crashed the crease with two goals early in the third.
South Korea had no penalty minutes in the game and outshot Austria, 53-4, giving the B-Pool newcomers virtually no chances to even make it onto the scoreboard.
Austrian goaltender Michael Ossimitz, however, did make an astounding 44 saves in the game.
Slovakia defeated Great Britain, 6-0, to close out the first day of play in Ostersund, scoring more goals in the game than they did at the entire 2013 edition of Championships.
It marked the first time these two countries have faced each other in an official IPC Ice Sledge Hockey event.
Marian Ligda opened the scoring for Slovakia, finding the net just 3:03 into the contest, assisted by Martin Joppa and Erik Fojtik. Forty-nine seconds later, Joppa found the net himself, and then nearly five minutes after that teammate Peter Stit drove the puck into the goal to put Slovakia up 3-0 early on.
Fojtik then scored in the second, tallying his first goal at an IPC Ice Sledge Hockey tournament as a member of Slovakia's national team. Fotjik competed for the Czech Republic at the last two Paralympics, but he chose to change allegiances for this season because his mother is from Slovakia.
Joppa and Ligda both scored again in the third period, with Fojtik assisting on each score, flexing his leadership with his new team.
Great Britain's Bryan Hackworth recorded 20 saves on the day, while Slovakia's Miroslav Pastucha stopped all five pucks that came his way.
Next up, South Korea will face Poland at 12:00 CET on Tuesday (17 March), followed by Great Britain-Austria at 15:30 and Sweden-Slovakia at 19:00.
All games from this year's World Championships B-Pool, which runs through 21 March, are being streamed live at sports.livearena.com.
The top two finishers from the B-Pool tournament will be promoted to the A-Pool for 2017, while the last place team will be relegated to a new C-Pool tournament next season.
In 2017, the top five finishers from the World Championships A-Pool will directly qualify for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympics. The bottom three teams from the A-Pool event and the top three teams from the B-Pool event will compete in a Qualification Tournament for PyeongChang 2018 that same year.