2023 WJC 3 Up, 3 Down: Czechia vs. Austria

In the second game for both Czechia and Austria at the 2023 World Junior Championship (WJC), the teams met each other after having opposite results in their first game. Austria was coming off an 11-0 shellacking at the hands of Sweden, whereas Czechia just defeated Team Canada for the first time at the WJC. For one team, it was all systems go. For the other, all systems were turned off as Austria once again was dominated by its opponent. Here are the three up and down for the Czechia/Austria game.

1 Up: Austria Has Their Star Player in the Lineup

Austria played their first game of the WJC without their top player, Vinzenz Rohrer, in the lineup. He was out with an illness and wasn’t available for the game. As a result, Sweden lambasted Austria in an 11-0 blowout where Austria only mustered 13 total shots, none of them difficult for Swedish goaltender Carl Lindbom. Rohrer’s absence was remarkably noticeable because his talent could have given Austria a little spark against Sweden.

Rhorer was in the lineup for the contest against Czechia and did show some good skill but was overmatched by the Czech defence, who double-teamed him or ensured they had a man close to him at all times while he was in the offensive zone. Although Rhorer couldn’t score, he did manage one of the eight shots the Austrians had in the game and was 50 percent on faceoffs.

1 Down: Austria’s Offense

Even with their star player in the lineup and winning most of his faceoffs, Austria couldn’t rally any offence against the high-flying Czechia team. The game against Czechia wasn’t any better than the one against Sweden as they only had ten shots against the Czech goalie.

Related: Sweden’s Experience Helps Dominate Austria

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Czechia’s defence was just too strong for the offensively challenged Austrians, as they kept their scoring chances to close to none, with most of the shots coming from the outer perimeter. It’s hard for a team to generate anything when they only have one player that can do much of anything against the opposing team, but you can’t blame the entire thing on their lack of talent; Czechia played an excellent defensive game and was dominant with puck possession in all three zones.

2 Up: Czechia Offence

The Czechs were coming off one of their most significant victories in WJC history after defeating Team Canada in their opening game. They scored five goals against a team predicted to win gold before the WJC; however, their offence kicked it into another gear against Team Austria. The Czechs controlled the play from the opening whistle and seemed to be able to keep the puck in the Austrian zone for minutes at a time.

David Moravec Team Czechia
David Moravec, Team Czechia (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Czechia scored nine goals and generated 46 shots, giving them 14 goals in two games. Against Austria, they made it look easy with crisp passing that helped them produce multiple two-on-ones and odd-man rushes into the Austrian zone. Jiri Kulich had a hat trick, Matyas Sapovaliv finished with four helpers, and Stanislav Svozil pitched in three assists of his own. Four other Czechia players, including goaltender Tomas Suchanek, had two points.

3 Down: Austria’s Discipline

Austria was facing an uphill battle the minute the game started, as Czechia scored early and dominated the play throughout. It didn’t help that Austria was having issues staying out of the penalty box and taking untimely penalties that Czechia pounced on. Czechia went three for four on the power play (PP), and the one they didn’t score on, they scored seconds after it expired.

Vinzenz Rohrer Ottawa 67's
Vinzenz Rohrer, Ottawa 67’s (Frankie Benvenuti / The Hockey Writers)

With nine goals against and three on the PP, a more disciplined team could have made the game closer and maybe gained more momentum from not being in the penalty box. Not that Austria had much momentum to begin with, but taking unnecessary penalties did not help them generate anything if they wanted to try and start a comeback or even something positive they could bring into the next game.

3 Up: Austria’s Play in the Third

Austria went into the third period down 7-0 and only managed six shots through two periods. They were badly outplayed and once again were dominated in their own zone. It wouldn’t have been a surprise if they had come out in the third, rolled over and let the Czechia team steamroll them for the next 20 minutes. Austria instead came out and played even harder in the third than they did all game.

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Even though Austria only got three more shots on the net, they put their heart into blocking shots and playing strong defence. They played so well and put so much energy in that the crowd at Scotiabank Center started chanting for them and cheering almost as loud as they did when Canada played. It showed that Austria is taking this tournament seriously, and wanted to show they belong.

3 Down: Austria’s Defence

Austria’s defence wasn’t necessarily bad, but it wasn’t good either. It had its moments in the third period, but for the first two, it seemed almost nonexistent and allowed the Czechia team to have sustained time in the Austrian zone and control the play. They gave up multiple two-on-ones and odd-man rushes while being sluggish in clearing attempts. Czechia skated circles around them and at times looked like they were playing with the puck until they could find a highlight reel-type goal. Austria’s defence woke up in the third period, but it was too late by then.

Austria has a huge hill to climb, with their next game being against Canada, but they do have a day off where they can work on their play and take positives away from the solid third period they had. At 2-0, Czechia can relax a bit but has another tough contest for their next game as they play Sweden. If they win, it almost guarantees them first place; a loss, and they will need to defeat Germany to finish in the top two of Pool A.