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World Para Hockey Championship: Germany holds off Norway for crucial win

Norway rally in third period falls short as Germany takes 5-3 victory at Moose Jaw Events Centre

Heading into the third period of Sunday night’s World Para Hockey Championship game between Germany and Norway, it looked as if things might have been all but decided.

Germany had scored a pair of goals in the second period to take a 3-1 lead when they tacked on an insurance marker in the early moments of the third, they looked to have essentially put the game away.

But Norway wouldn’t go quietly.

A pair of goals less than two minutes apart off the stick of forward Ola Oiseth suddenly made it a one-goal game, and the two teams would settle into a back-and-forth battle the rest of the way before Germany would score an empty-netter and take a 5-3 victory.

Bend but don’t break is just fine when you’re playing for a world title.

“Norway was maybe the better team, but we had passion and a very, very good goalkeeper,” said Germany defenceman Lucas Sklorz. “We deserved to win, we fought, we practiced and worked a lot to be here. Everybody thought Germany would lose every match, but we’re not here to be present, we want to do what we love. Today was a very huge step and we’re going to take the second step tomorrow.”

Sklorz touched on it, but if not for goaltender Simon Kuntz, odds are Norway would have had things in hand by the time the five-minute mark of the second period came around. Kuntz made a handful of tremendous saves throughout the first two frames and finished with 19 stops total, more than one of them of the almost impossible variety.

“His family name is ‘Kuntz’, which means ‘art’ in Germany and I think that was perfectly art today,” Sklorz said. “It was an outstanding performance, huge, and thanks Simon, it was your victory today.”

Germany’s Bernhard Hering opened scoring 1:41 into the game before Norway’s Audun Bakke tied things up midway through the period. Jan Malte Brelage and Felix Schrader then scored in the second to give Germany their 3-1 lead, with Hering picking up his second of the game and fourth point early in the third.

Ingo Kuhli-Luaenstein scored an empty-netter in the final minute to wrap things up.

Oiseth ddn’t mince words when it came to describing the defeat, which will make it that much more difficult for Norway to reach the playoff round.

“It’s a devastating loss,” he said. “I think we gave away the game early on, which made us have to come back, which is always difficult, trying to come back from a three goal deficit. It was a good effort and we almost came back, but it wasn’t good enough. The guys will be down for a little while now.”

The key now will be to build off what worked late in the game and put it to use in the tough games ahead, said Norway head coach Ken Babey.

“I’m proud of the guys for a valiant effort in the third period,” he said. “They could have just stopped and said ‘here, win the game 10-1’ but they fought hard and it just wasn’t good enough in the end. Now we have to refocus ourselves and get ready to play a really strong Chinese team tomorrow.”

That contest is set for 3 p.m. at the Moose Jaw Events Centre, while Germany has the day off and will take on Italy in the 11 a.m. game on Tuesday.

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