Perfect start for gritty Bermuda
Bermuda pulled off an historic 3-2 victory over Czech Republic on the opening day of the Masters World Ball Hockey Championships last evening at the Pembroke Community Centre.
It was the first time that Bermuda have beaten the Czechs in ball hockey and the loss was felt by their more renowned opponents, who looked headed to a comfortable victory after coming from a goal down to lead 2-1 in the second period.
However, Bermuda still had plenty of fight left in them and pulled off a thrilling victory with two goals in the final period after Cory Caouette set up Shannon Gosse in the 31st minute and then netted the winner himself three minutes later.
Despite being two men short through penalties, Bermuda hung on in the closing minutes after Czech Republic tried desperately to level the match for a second time. The final whistle brought cheers from the local supporters as the Bermuda team, made up mostly of Canadians and Americans, celebrated the victory.
“That was a good one,” a delighted Pete Brodsky, the Bermuda coach, said afterwards. “I'm pretty sure people enjoyed it.
“I said to the guys after the game that you didn't give up, you could have folded your tents and gone home after giving up the lead, but you held strong. The boys pulled it off and I give them all the credit.”
John Rankin, the Governor, officially got the match under way and Bermuda were soon showing some early determination as Jean-Michael Tremblay went close to breaking the deadlock but lost his footing in front of goal. A minute later Bermuda were in front when Tom Worthington-White scored to bring the crowd alive, although Czech Republic had their own small group of vocal supporters.
Czech Republic finally got back on level terms four minutes into the second period when Radek Komanec converted a cross from Martin Böhm. At the other end, a long-range shot from Worthington-White was blocked by the goaltender as Bermuda went close to regaining the lead.
However, it was Czech Republic who did score again in the 21:33 mark when Jan Prihoda converted after a period of pressure finally paid off.
Czech Republic held that lead after that second, 12-minute period and looked in control early in the third period as the match got more physical. However, Bermuda dug deeper and their pressure paid off with Gosse converting a cross from Caouette in the 31st minute to tie it up at 2-2.
Both teams were a man down because of penalties, but it was Bermuda who capitalised in the 34th minute when Caouette raced down the right and placed his shot past the goaltender. Czech Republic tried desperately to equalise in the final seconds as the clock ticked down, but Bermuda hung on for a memorable victory.
“That's a good lesson because a team like Czech Republic are never out of the game,” Brodsky said. “We've been playing them for ever and I think this is the first time we've ever beaten them. They are that good a team, and we feel real fortunate today.
“Cory had a great game. He's always been one of our top players and whenever he is on the rink, there is always a chance of a goal. We were down to four men and then we got another penalty and were two men down at one point.
“That was tough because of the way the Czech Republic team moves the ball. You put them out there with two extra guys and you can take that to the bank with those guys most of the time. We know we can't take penalties like that. Hopefully, we will learn from that.
“I thought I was watching a calendar rather than the clock; it seemed like days were going by rather than seconds!”
Chad Cundliffe was voted the man of the match for Bermuda. Brodsky hopes the Bermuda upset can set the tone for an exciting week of action, which continues today with the first women's match between USA 1 and Canada at 9.15am, followed by two more women's matches — Ladies Slovakia v USA 2 at 1pm and Canada NY Extreme v USA 1 at 2.15pm — all at the PCC rink.
Men's matches will start at Dockyard at 10am and 11.15am and continue throughout the day at both venues before Bermuda play their second match at 8.30pm against Italy at PCC.
“I would like to think that was one of the best games of ball hockey on this rink, and I know there will be more coming this week,” Brodsky said. “I hope they go and tell a friend, and we can get some good crowds. I love the fact there were some Czech supports here, too.”
In the tournament opener, Old Glory USA beat Austria 4-0. Goals in each of the first two periods from man of the match Mark Dearbor and Sal Fiore put Old Glory up 2-0 before two more in the third period from Brian Pollinger and Kevin Cuocco sealed the win.
“We struggled a little bit because we took a lot of penalties, but we were able to overcome and score four goals,” coach Rock Stefan said after the win. “They are a tough team — we've played them before — and will keep coming at you.
“I've got 25 guys. We've been doing this for 13 months now and they are ready. What a country, I'm enamoured by all the sights — just breathtaking. We're having a wonderful time, loving Bermuda.”