Following 60 minutes of good goaltending, a lack of scoring and some strange weather conditions, Cristobal Huet was able to record his first ever World Championship shutout thanks to a 2-0 victory over Austria on Tuesday.
Similar to the Germany vs Switzerland game this morning, there was a lot of safe action between Austria and France today. Neither team wanted to be the first to allow the opening goal, but neither team wanted to take any risks early on. This meant that there were a lack of quality scoring chances in the period, and for goaltenders Bernhard Starkbaum of Austria and Cristobal Huet in France, it doesn’t make the game any easier.
There was a lot on the line for this game, as the threat of relegation was very real for both nations. Austria had the upper hand coming into the game, having beat Switzerland in the shootout last Friday. Austria, however, had yet to record a win coming in, and with Sweden, Canada and the Czech Republic still to play, it was only going to get harder from here. Austria also has to battle Canada and the Czech Republic, but they’ve already paid their dues in a big loss to the Swedes this past weekend.
With the warm weather in Prague on Tuesday, the ice surface proved to have less than desirable. There was an intense amount of fog on ice level, making it hard for the players to take quality shifts and the goalies to see shots. It created a unique situation for both teams, but really hurt the overall quality of play as the second wore down.
Finally, with seven minutes off the clock in the third, France would be able to end the deadlock. With Michael Raffl in the box, the French power-play, which has been almost non-existent all tournament, would find a way to beat Bernhard Starkbaum. First, Yohann Auvitu made a slick pass to Stéphane Da Costa after forcing the Austrians to move out of position on a fake shot. Da Costa would make quick work of the shot, instantly sending it towards the net to allow Damien Fleury to get a beautiful tip in front for the 1-0 goal.
Starkbaum may have been the busier goaltender today, but Huet was easily one of the biggest stars for either team. His 23 saves kept the goal-deprived Austrians off the scoreboard throughout the entire game, taking the shutout once it was all over. The 39-year-old former NHL All-Star has a tendency to be spectacular at these events, putting on a goaltending clinic in a victory against Canada last year to win the first game of the World’s. At 39, Huet is one of the oldest players in this tournament, but after winning the top goaltender award in the Swiss league this year, he isn’t ready to slow down just yet. He’d hold on for the full 60 minutes, while Laurent Meunier would score an empty netter for his 12th goal in 50 top division games to help the French take a 2-0 victory in a must-win game over Austria.
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