Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sweden Dethroned, Slovakia to play for first ever Olympic Medal

The Defending Olympic Gold Medal Winners were looking to be the first team to repeat since the Soveit Union Domination in the 60s and the 70s. After a slow start to the game where it was a bit of a sleeper in the first period, but the game came to life in the 2nd period when Marian Gaborik and Andrej Sekera helped the Slovaks go up 2-0 in just over a minute prior to the midway point of the game.

For Sweden, Henrik Zetterberg and Patric Hornqvist came back quickly to make it 2-2 as the game began to come alive. With some great PP's chances and some fast action. The Slovaks used Tomas Kopecky goal to go up 4-2, but just 40 seconds later the Swedes fired right back with the Ottawa Senators Superstar Daniel Alfredsson used a goal to back within 1. And provided a great challenge to get back in the game when Sweden out shot Slovakia 10-3 in the 3rd period and 29-14 for the game.

The Slovak shot output got lower as the game went on as they got 7 off in the 1st, just 4 in the 2nd and just 3 in the 3rd period. But the Slovaks made their power play count big time as they scored twice with the man advantage and provided a spark on defense to help fend off the Swedes and knock them out.

For Slovakia, this is the best result ever for the team since the split of the Czech Republic and Slovakia in the early 90s. The Slovaks will play the host Canadians in Friday's Semifinals. For Slovakia, they have 3 IHWC Medals to their credit in their pretty short history. Gold in 2002, Silver in 200 and a Bronze in Medal in 2003. This will also be their first ever shot at an Olympic Medal in Ice Hockey.

Going into the Semifinals, we have 2 teams in Finland and Slovakia who have never won Olympic Gold. As well as the U.S.A. who are looking to win their first Gold Medal in 30 years. That leaves Canada as the only team with a recent Olympic Gold that they won in 2002 in Salt Lake, City Utah.

Updated Brackets for Friday's Semifinals. Both games are at Canada Hockey Place.

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

Canada VS. Slovakia 6:30 PM PST

From Lucas Aykroyd of the International Ice Hockey Federation.

Sweden VS. Slovakia Team Photos:

Sweden VS. Slovakia Game Summary:

Farewell Sweden, In the last Men's Quarterfinal, Slovakia advanced to a semi-final meeting on Canada on Friday, edging the 2006 Champs from Turin 4-3. Canada will face Canada, while the U.S.A. will play Finland.

Tomas Kopecky scored the third-period winner, and Pavol Demitra paced the Slovak Attack with a goal and 2 assists. Marian Gaborik and Andrej Sekera added singles, while Marian Hossa had two helpers.

"It is an awesome feeling, beating one of the favorites in the tournament," said Hossa of the 2010 biggest upset to date. "We played well defensively tonight."

Patrick Hornqvist, Henrik Zetterberg and Daniel Alfredsson replied for Sweden. "I don't really have an explanation," said Nicklas Backstrom. "They're a good team." We knew that, but we weren't ready. We didn't play as well as we could have."

"It wasn't a vintage outing for superstar Swedish Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, as Slovakia fired just 14 shots on goal to Sweden's 29. Jaroslav Halak got the win for Slovakia. Heading for it's first Olympic Semifinal appearance, Slovakia is guaranteed a top-four finish and a shot at it's first hockey medal at the games ever. The Slovaks came fifth four years ago in Turin, eliminated by the Czechs in the Quarterfinals after winning five straight in the Group Stage.

Slovakia will host the 2011 Ice Hockey World Championships in Bratislava and Kosice, has only three previous senior IIHF World Championship Medals to its credit, all from the Worlds: Gold in 2002, Silver in 2000, and Bronze in 2003. The game started slowly, but turned into a frenzy of trading chances as time wore on: however, the Slovaks never trailed.

"It's ideal when we get the lead and can play our game, but we weren't able to do that tonight," said Zetterberg. Marian Hossa and Tomas Kopecky nearly hooked up on a 2-1 in the opening minute, but there weren't many dangerous scoring opportunities as the team cautiously felt each other out. In the first period, the Slovaks failed to capitalize on three power play chances on Sweden's 1.

The Physical intensity increased just before the buzzer, as Slovak captain Zdeno Chara nearly put Henrik Tallinder over the boards with a big hit and Swedish defensemen Mattias Ohlund stood Marian Hossa up at the blueline with a solid-open ice hit.

In the 2nd period, the Slovaks got to Lundqvist in a big way, scoring three times on just 4 shots.

First the Swedes were caught with too many men on the ice, and paid the price. Slovakia opened the scoring at 7:34 with Marian Hossa fed a perfect cross-ice pass on the power play to Gaborik, whose one-timer along the ice beat Lundqvist. It ended the Swedish starter's tournament best shutout streak, which included wins over Belarus (2-0), and Finland (3-0).

Just 37 seconds later, the Slovaks opened up a 2-0 lead when Richard Zednik stepped away on a 2-on-1, feeding a nice backhand pass by the stick of Nicklas Lundstrom to Andrej Sekera, who made no mistake. Zigmund Palffy, who received the second assist, took a hit to make the play, as he was crushed in his own zone by Niklas Kronwall stepping up in vintage fashion.

The Swedes cut the deficit to 2-1 at 13:49 of the 2nd period with some magic courtsey of the suddenly-awakened Peter Forsberg line. From behind the goal line, "Foppa" got his first point of the Olympic Tournament with a perfect backhanded pass to Hornqvist, who in turn lifed a backhanded past Halak's right pad.

Just 37 seconds later, Foresberg bulled his way to the net and distracted Milan Jurcina as Zetterberg's 2-2 goal at 14:26 bounced in off the big Slovak defender. But the Swedish rally wasn't enough. With 48 seconds left in the 2nd period, Demitra put Slovakia up 3-2 on the man advantage with a screened slapshot that whizzed over Lundqvist's left shoulder.

"It was a huge goal by Demitra," said Marian Hossa. "When you score a goal with 3 seconds left in the period, it is a confidence-booster."

The 3rd period witnessed more dramatics. With 11 minutes left, Demitra busted down right wing, fed Marian Hossa on the other side, and Kopecky raced into convert the garbage into a 4-2 Slovak lead. The Swedes weren't done, though. Half a minute later, Nicklas Backstrom grabbed the puck behind the goal-line and fed a sweet centering pass to Alfredsson, who snapped it over Halak's glove to make it 4-3. That was as close as the Tre Kronor would come.

Sweden buzzed Halak's cage in the dying minutes but failed to get the equalizer. The Slovaks mobbed their goalie jubilantly at the final buzzer.

"We beat a quality team tonight," said Chara. "Sweden were outstanding throughout the tournament. We have to enjoy tonight, but great ready for the next one." (Mentioning Canada in the Semifinals).

The Slovaks played without forward Lubos Bartecko, who was concussed on a hit by Norwegian defensemen Ole Kristian Tollefsen in Slovakia 4-3 2nd round win on Tuesday.

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