Thursday, February 25, 2010

Kiprusoff, Team Defense Shutdown's the Czech Republic

With one of the most defensive showdowns of the enter tournament with the first goal not coming until Niklas Hagaman broke the deadlock in a game of chicken where despite the shot count being so high in this game, it was getting to the point where one goal could have been enough to win the game.

Thanks to Mikka Kiprusoff's great performance, that made the difference as the Finns were able to shut out the Czechs and the team will be back in the Semifinals and Medal Round for the 2nd straight Olympics after coming so close to winning their first ever Olympic Gold Medal in their team's history.

For the Czech Republic, this ends a streak where the Czechs will not for an Olympic Medal for the first time since 1994. Could be a major sign of the decline of Czech Hockey in recent years. Their Junior Team have struggled, they not producing more players to the NHL in recent years and the Czech Extraliga has been going downhill steadily over the last decade or so.

Also, they had one of the older rosters on the team that for some of these guys that this would most likely be their final International Tournament of their careers.

For Finland, it's a shot at redemption against the U.S.A. as the Finns are looking for the nations first ever Olympic Gold after winning Silver Medals in 1988 (Calgary) and 2006 (Turin, Italy) and winning Bronze Medals in 1994 (Lillehammer, Norway) and 1998 (Nagano, Japan). Finland's last senior international Gold Medal was back in 1995 when the IHWC was held in Stockholm.

Finland VS. Czech Republic Game Photos:

Finland VS. Czech Republic Game Summary:

Here's the Matches for the Semifinals on Friday. Both Games will be at the Hockey Canada Place.

U.S.A. VS. Finland 12:00 PM PST

Canada VS. Slovakia 6:30 PM PST

Risto Pakarinen of the International Ice Hockey Federation:

Thanks to Mikka Kiprusoff's shutout and Niklas Hagman's power play goal, Finland stayed in Vancouver to play a semi-final game against Team U.S.A., after 2-0 win over the Czech Republic late on Wednesday night.

"Just another day at the office for "Kipper"." said Teemu Selanne.

Finland managed to get a bye by being the best 2nd place team, while the Czechs had to go the full rounds with Latvia in the 2nd round game on Tuesday night. Maybe it was the Czechs' slight fatigue that caused penalty trouble they were in early in the game.

"Often it's better to play on back to back days, but I don't know, maybe they were tired. Although, they all play in the NHL and they should be used to it," Finland's Tuomo Ruutu said.

"This was a huge improvement over our game against Sweden. We wanted to be active, and take initiate. It's easier to be aggressive and play with our emotion if you know that somebody will cover for you. The defensemen can pinch when you can pinch they can trust the forwards," he added.

Just 3:38 into the game, Finland had a two-man advantage, a golden opportunity to score. The power play was turned into a 4-on-3 special when Finland captain Saku Koivu was sent to the penalty box for tripping. Finland-who had scored six power play goals in the first 3 games of the tournament-couldn't capitalize on its chance, nor did it score on any of the other four power play chances it had in this game.

Not only did the penalties give Finland the upper hand in the period, they also kept the Czech superstar Jaromir Jagr off the ice, as coach Ruzicka went with other players in the penalty kill. Jagr played only 2:08 in the first period.

In the 2nd period, the Czechs stayed out of the penalty box, a recipe for success, and they managed to create some good scoring chances. Team Captain Patrik Elias had an empty net in front of him halfway through the period, but the puck bounced over the blade. In fact, the only penalty of the period was on Olli Jokinen delaying of the game at 15:41 after he moved the net during a Czech attack. The ensued power play unit with Elias, Jagr, and Tomas Plekanec and defensemen Marek Zidlicky and Tomas Kaberle created a couple of good chances, but Kiprusoff was perfected in the Finnish goal.

"The most important thing is how the goalie makes his team feel, if he gives them the extra confidence. He doesn't even have to be the best in the world, if he makes his teammates more confident," said Jaromir Jagr."

The game was as round as the goalless score after two periods indicated. The Finns out shot the Czechs out shot Finland 11-10. And it came down the wire. Both teams were very careful in their own ends, with the first goal simply getting the puck over the blueline, and then went looking for that one mistake. Or a Power Play chance to take advantage.

Finland got its chance at 52:17 when Martin Erat was sent to the box for delaying the game. With 6:26 remaining, the puck was played to Janne Niskala whose slapshot Niklas Hagman deflected to the back of the net through Vokoun's five hole.

"It was tough luck for us, because the defensemen lost his helmet and he had to go and pick it up. But, it's a part of the game," Jagr commented on the play that left Hagman in front of the net.

Finland will play the U.S.A. in it's semifinal on Friday

"It'll be a tough game, they have a couple of skilled lines, but also players that are physical. A little bit like our team," said Defensemen Kimmo Timonen.

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