Worlds: A Day Voracek Will Never Forget
FLYERS UPDATES FROM 2019 IIHF WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: MAY 17, 2019
1) May 16, 2019, was a day that Flyers right winger Jakub Voracek will never forget. It started with him at a maternity hospital in Uherske Hradiste as girlfriend Marketa Buresova delivered their newborn son, Matej. It the couple's first child. Voracek has a son, Jakub, from a previous relationship. Voracek announced Matej's birth on his official Facebook page:
In the afternoon hours, Voracek rejoined the Czech national team in Bratislava, Slovakia, before their early evening preliminary round game against Latvia. The favored Czechs got off to a rough start against the spirited Latvian team, falling into a 2-0 deficit that they took to the first intermission.
Thereafter, Voracek took over the game and dominated the final 40 minutes. He created several scoring chances for his team before the floodgates finally opened. On a power play, Voracek set up Filip Hronek to cut the gap to 2-1 at 5:41 of the second period. After Jan Kovar tied the game, Voracek put the Czechs ahead with 2:22 remaining in the period on his first goal of the tournament. Jakub Vrana extended the lead to 4-2 before the end of the middle stanza.
In the third period, Voracek had a nifty assist on a Dominik Simon goal to open a commanding 5-2 lead. Voracek later scored his second goal and fourth point of the game as the Czechs prevailed, 6-3. He now has eight points (2G, 6A) through four games to rank fourth in scoring in the tourney to date.
2) Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas earned his first point of the tournament, a secondary assist on Vrana's goal late in the second period. He told both the Czech and English-speaking media after the game that his team's effort in the first period, especially in the first 15 minutes, was unacceptable as they got outworked significantly. Therein, the Czech team settled in and turned the game in their own favor.
The Czech-Latvia game was a rather chippy match at times. A big turning point that truly woke up the Czech team was a checking to the head major and game misconduct assessed to Latvia's Maris Bicevskis at 1:29 of the second period. That set the stage for Voracek to take over the game.
Late in the third period, after Voracek scored his second goal to seal the 6-3 win, Latvia's Ralfs Freibergs was tossed from the game for leaving his feet on a check aimed at Gudas' head as the defender went to play the puck. The Flyers defenseman was OK afterwards. He said after the game that it was an emotional game on both sides and that his opponent likely acted out of frustration.
Gudas told the Czech media that he and Voracek would not have a chance to celebrate the birth of his longtime teammate's new son, except perhaps with a beer back at the team hotel. The Czech team (3-1-0) plays Italy on Friday.
2) Three Flyers players were in the lineup for Alain Vigneault's Team Canada squad on Thursday as they defeated France, 5-2. Sean Couturier, who won Player of the Game honors for his team, played an excellent all-around game that included an assist. Carter Hart earned the win in goal. Young defenseman Philippe Myers made his World Championship debut.
Couturier was outstanding on both sides of the puck, dominant on the walls and the faceoff circle and created some havoc around the French net. He was not credited with an assist on the first of two goals by Anthony Mantha because it was ruled that Couturier's offensive left circle faceoff win first went off a teammate's stick out to the left point before the puck was rotated over to an open Mantha in the right circle for a scorcher of a goal. Later, Couturier earned a primary assist on a nice centering feed from behind the net that set up a point-blank tap-in for Anthony Cirelli.
Apart from Mantha's two goals and Cirelli's one, Team Canada also got tallies from Darnell Nurse and Mark Stone. The Canadians held a 3-0 lead before France scored the next two goals. Closely spaced mid-third period goals by Mantha and Stone restored the three-goal margin.
Rookie pro goaltender Hart was strong in goal for Canada. Coming off a 12-save shutout of Great Britain in which he was not tested, Hart only saw two first period shots from France. Over the final 40 minutes, however, he was tested quite a few times including by two tricky deflections off skates near the net, a couple of open looks from the mid-slot and several shots where he had to battle partial screens. He finished with 21 saves on 23 shots and has stopped 33 of 35 shots overall in two starts. Neither France goal could be blamed on Hart.
The first, scored by hard-shooting veteran Euro league pro Damien Fleury was a scorching power play one-timer from the circle that partially deflected off Phil Myers' stick and into the top corner of net over Hart's right shoulder. Fleury is one of Team France's few higher-end finishers. Years ago during the 2012-13 NHL lockout, Fleury was one-third of a formidable line in Sweden for Södertälje SK with then-Flyers forward Matt Read and then-Rangers forward Carl Hagelin as his linemates.
The second goal, while not impossible to stop, was also far from easy. Defenseman Damon Severson was badly beaten behind the net by France's Anthony Rech, who then circled out to the opposite low slot and beat Hart off the top of his glove and into the net. Hart had a read on it, but Rech's shot had a lot of movement on it from prime range.
Myers was recruited by Team Canada on Wednesday due to attrition on the blueline that left them with only six defensemen -- and only five truly healthy enough to play -- on the roster. Leading into the game, there were dual question marks -- logistical and hockey-related -- over whether Myers would be available to play against France.
First, Myers had to make it over from North America to Slovakia in time for the game . He got to the arena with a bit of time to spare before had to suit up. Secondly, with neither the Flyers nor Lehigh Valley Phantoms having made the playoffs this season, Myers had neither played nor practiced with a team in a full month.
Myers understandably kept things simple in his World Championship debut but showed off his stellar mobility in a foot race for a puck retrieval that he won easily. Myers later told NHL Network that his legs felt OK despite the lack of recent game action and full-scale skating. He said that he went to the arena with an open mind about playing, and was glad for the opportunity to do so.
Vigneault told NHL Network before the game that Couturier had volunteered to take shifts on defense if the team found itself short a body on the blueline. Couturier explained to the network during warmups that he'd played some defense in minor hockey and that, while it was far from ideal, he'd do it for the national team if they needed him to.
Team Canada (3-1-0) plays Germany (4-0-0) on Saturday. The Germans have the three toughest games of their preliminary round schedule left to play. After taking on Canada, they play Team USA on Sunday and then Team Finland on Tuesday. Canada plays Denmark on Sunday and USA on Monday. Hart figures to get at least one more start.
3) Three additional Flyers players suited up in Thursday's lopsided game between defending two-time gold medalist Sweden (now 3-1-0) and Austria (0-4-0). Tre Kronor scored early and often in a 9-1 blowout.
Flyers left winger Oskar Lindblom notched an assist to continue his streak of registering a point for the Swedes in every game of the tourney to date (three goals, one assist). With the arrival of Gabriel Landeskog to the team, Lindblom's ice time may go down a bit. He played 10:47 against Austria. Philadelphia defenseman Robert Hägg played sparingly (six shifts, 4:57 TOI) on Thursday.
Flyers winger Michael Raffl scored a top-shelf goal for Austria to end Henrik Lundqvist's shutout bid. The Austrians have only scored a combined three goals over their four games. Raffl has notched two of them.
Sweden plays Switzerland (4-0-0) on Saturday, Latvia on Monday and Russia (currently 4-0-0) on Tuesday. Austria's real battle is to avoid relegation. Thus, their games against fellow winless teams Norway on Friday and Italy on Monday take on greater importance than their game on Sunday against the Czechs.
4) Team USA (3-1-0) was idle on Thursday after a less-than-inspiring 6-3 win over Great Britain the previous day. On Friday, the team will hold a practice. The Americans play Denmark on Saturday, Germany on Sunday and then a marquee preliminary round closer against Team Canada on Tuesday. Flyers left winger James van Riemsdyk has one goal and one assist in four games played to date.