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France Edges Austria in Overtime

Captain Sacha Treille scored the overtime winner on the power play as France edged Austria 2-1 to kick off Saturday’s action at Tampere’s Nokia Arena.

Veteran defenceman Florian Chakiachvili fired a point shot and Treille, providing the screen in front, tipped the puck into the top corner at 0:39.

“It’s a perfect way to start the tournament,” Treille said. “We said in the locker room that the first game is always important and we’ve seen that from the past. I think we started the game the right way and even though they came pretty hard from the second onward, we always tried to fight hard. At the end, we got the winning goal, so it’s great.”

It was a hard-fought, tense affair, and special teams played a key role, as the teams also traded power play goals in regulation. The Austrians shot themselves in the foot with a late parade to the penalty box.

Final shots were dead even at 28 apiece.

For Les Bleus, their first three Group A games are crucial in terms of the fight to stay in the top division. After Austria, they take on Denmark on Sunday and Hungary on Tuesday. After that, their preliminary round is a steady stream of medal contenders.

Of facing the Danes, Treille said: “It’s probably going to be harder. We’re going to have to rest the right way because the games are coming really fast. It’s another day and another game, so we’ll try to build on what we did today.”

French head coach Philippe Bozon is behind the bench again for his third top-level Worlds. Under the former NHL pioneer, France finished 15th in 2019 and 12th in 2022. His sons Tim, 29, and Kevin, 27, both play for the French national team, and in the Swiss NL for Geneve-Servette and HC Ajoie respectively as well.

In net, fourth-time Worlds participant Sebastian Ylonen got the start for France. The 31-year-old Cergy Pontoise netminder is the son of Finnish-born Petri Ylonen, who backstopped France at the 1992 and 1994 Olympics. Austrian veteran David Kickert, EC Salzburg’s starter, got the nod from coach Roger Bader.

“This one hurts,” Kickert said. “It would have been nice to get three points, or at least the two points. It would have helped us a lot and took some pressure off the upcoming games. But that’s just the way it is. Tomorrow we have another chance [against Sweden] and then the games after that.”

France opened the scoring on a 5-on-3 power play at the end of the first period. Austrian goalie David Kickert was ready with the glove when Alexandre Texier fired a rising slap shot. But moments later, he couldn’t stop a hard cross-crease pass from Valentin Claireaux that Tim Bozon banged into the open side at 19:29.

Nearing the midway mark, Ylonen made a pair of sharp saves on David Reinbacher, the 18-year-old EHC Kloten defenceman touted as a 2023 NHL first-round pick, to preserve France’s lead.

The Austrians also had a good chance on a 2-on-1 with under five minutes left in the middle frame, but assistant captain Manuel Ganahl misfired on the set-up from Ali Wukovits.

“in the second, we started to turn pucks over, we were not as sharp defensively, we didn’t manage the puck well and that cost us,” Tim Bozon said.

Approaching the four-minute mark of the third period, Texier was kicked out with a five-minute major for a hit on Austrian assistant captain Dominique Heinrich in a vulnerable position by the boards. On the ensuing man advantage, the top Austrian attackers clicked.

Peter Schneider carried the puck into the French zone and flipped a perfect pass to captain Thomas Raffl, who powered to the net and beat Ylonen with a high backhander at 6:56.

France had a huge chance to win it in regulation when Marco Rossi was sent off with under two minutes left for a slash on Claireaux, and Philippe Bozon called his timeout to strategize. Seconds later, Ganahl went off for a hit from behind on Florian Chakiachvili to make it a two-man advantage.

The French power play carried over into overtime, and Tim Bozon nearly ended it with a shot off the post, just before Treille’s winner at 5-on-4.

“We are only looking at the first three games,” Tim Bozon said. “That’s been our talk, our goal since the start of the tournament. Those three games are going to dictate our tournament. If we do well, then we can aim for higher but if we don’t it’s going to be complicated.”

The French dream of securing their first quarter-final berth since 2014, when they finished eighth. The Austrians have only made the quarter-finals once (1994). Last year, Austria finished 11th and France 12th. Much work lies ahead for both nations in Tampere.

The result extended France’s Worlds winning streak against Austria to four games dating back to 2013.

Source : IIHF

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