Tuesday, April 20, 2010

IIHF U18 Quarterfinals & Relegation Round Up:

It was the Americans controlling the Czechs for the 2nd straight year in the U18 Quarterfinals where the Americans are looking to defend the U18 Gold Medal for the 2nd straight year. It was also deja vu as the Americans were also seeded 2nd in last year's U18 Tournament Playoffs as the Americans will now face Finland in the Semifinals in what should be a great game in a battle of defending champions against a team that's looking to make up for lost time at the Junior Level.

The Other Quarterfinal saw Russia beat Switzerland 4-3, the game was more deceiving as the Russians were up 4-0 until the last 5 minutes when Switzerland finally found their grove, but it was to little to late as the Swiss were unable to pull off their 2nd big win over Russia in the IIHF Tournament Season after the Swiss beat the Russians at the WJC just after New Years.

The Relegation Round got underway as Slovakia helped their chances of survival with a 5-1 win over Belarus who's looking at relegation now after being 0-2 and having a -12 GD after losing to Canada 11-3 in the Group Stage.

Here's a look at the Game Wrap Ups for Today and the schedule for tomorrow's Semifinals and Relegation Matchups.

Wednesday's Schedule


Finland VS. USA

Sweden VS. Russia

Relegation Round

Canada VS. Latvia

From the International Ice Hockey Federation Website: http://www.iihf.com/

Quarterfinal #1: USA 6 Czech Republic 0 (2-0, 3-0, 1-0)

USA VS. Czech Republic Game Photos: www.iihf.com/channels0910/wm18/pictures/page/0/game/USA%20-%20CZE%20%28QF%29.html

From Minsk, Belarus: USA will skate in its 9th straight Semifinal at the U18 World Championship after dominating the Czech Republic 6-0 in today's Quarterfinal in Minsk.

The U.S. broke the game open late in the 2nd period, taking advantage of Czech Penalty Problems with two power-play goals in a five-minute span to go ahead 4-0. American Austin Czarnik was the biggest nemesis for the Czechs, putting in three goals, including two in the 2nd period surge.

The U.S. was clearly the stronger team, but held only to a 2-0 lead at the end of the first period after putting in a quick pair less then two minutes apart.

The Czechs had the chance to cut the lead in half with many chances of their lone power play of the 2nd period, but the momentum was killed when the tide turned dramatically with a five-on-three for the U.S. The Americans hit a post just as the two-man advantage expired, but made up for it with three seconds left in the five-on-four when Austin Czarnik put the 3-0 tally on an odd angle shot.

After that, the Americans dominated the period as Nick Shore put in another power-play goal, while Czarnik followed up 20 seconds later with the 5-0 marker. The goal was the end of the game for Czech Goalie Libor Kasik, who was replaced by Roman Will. On the other end of the ice Jack Campbell had little excitement facing only 8 shots in the first 40 minutes.

It was more of the same in the 3rd period when Bryan Rust jammed in the 6-0 goal - also on the power play. It was the lone goal of the period as Will managed to keep the Americans in check, but could do little to prevent the eventual loss.

In their eight trips to the Semifinals, the Americans have only gone home empty handed once, in 2003. The defending champions have a six year medal streak. Last year, the Americans also played the Czech Republic in the Quarterfinals against the Czechs and won 6-2, They went on to top Canada, 2-1, in the semifinals and Russia, 5-0, for the gold.

The Czechs will play in their second straight fifth-placed game. They lost the placement game last year, 4-2, against Sweden.

Quarterfinal #2: Russia 4 Switzerland 3 (2-0, 1-0, 1-3)

Russia VS. Switzerland Game Photos: www.iihf.com/channels0910/wm18/pictures/page/0/game/RUS%20-%20SUI%20%28QF%29.html

In Minsk, Belarus: Russia made it to the Semifinals at this year's U18 World Championship after earning a 4-3 win with five minutes left in regulation when Switzerland had an incredible comeback to pull within one. Ultimately, time ran out, on the Swiss efforts, but it was a positive end for the determined Alp Nation.

The Swiss had an impressive run at the event and put in a gutsy performance today, but couldn't get over the hump against the bigger, stronger, more skilled Russian Team. Swiss Goaltender Lukas Meili was put through the ringer by the Russians but stood his ground, allowing his team to mount an occasional counterattack.

Ultimately, the Swiss had a few minor break downs that cost them dearly. Evgeni Kuznetsov put in the 1-0 shorthanded goal just over five minutes into action with a deke that would make Alexander Ovechkin proud. Maxim Shalunov doubled the lead three minutes later, but the Swiss buckled down after the goal and held the Russians scoreless for more then 20 minutes before surrendering the 3-0 goal. Roman Berdnikov forced the puck in mid-game for the important 3rd goal just as a Russian power-play expired.

Berdnikov put in his 2nd goal of the game for the 4-0 lead, seemingly putting the game out of reach for the Swiss. But a late comeback bid by Switzerland made the last 5 minutes a thriller for the sold out Palace of Sports Crowd. Reto Schmutz and Kaj Leuenberger scored two goals coming 35 seconds apart in the twilight of the game, making it 4-2.

The Russians still sensed they were safe when Gregory Hoffman scored with the extra attacker on the ice to make it a surprising one goal affair. The Swiss pushed until the last second, but couldn't come up with the game-tying goal and are now bound for the 5th place Game against the Czech Republic.

Both of last year's finalist, USA & Russia, are into the next round and on track to make it to the Final again. But before punching their card for the Gold Medal Game, the Russians will have to overcome Sweden in tomorrow's Semifinals, while the Americans will face the Finns.

The Russians have been in the finals the last three years, but the last time they won was 2007.

Relegation Round: Slovakia 5 Belarus 1 (1-0, 2-1, 2-0)

Slovakia VS. Belarus Game Photos: www.iihf.com/channels0910/wm18/pictures/page/0/game/SVK%20-%20BLR.html

In Bobruisk, Belarus: After losing its first relegation round game today against Slovakia, 5-1, it would take a miracle for host Belarus to stay up in the U18 World Championship for the 2010-2011 season.

Slovakia, meanwhile, is essentially safe from relegation after today's win as it would take an extraordinary string of events to send the Slovaks into 3rd or 4th place. Slovakia now has 6 points in the Group and Belarus is still looking for its first win at this year's event.

It looked like it would be ugly for Belarus early in the game when Petr Trska scored just 19 seconds after the opening faceoff. But Belarus regrouped after the quick goal and held the Slovaks scoreless through the rest of the period.

Unfortunately for Belarus, it started the 2nd period on its heels again, allowing the 2-0 goal just 40 seconds into action. Belarus again re-grouped, as the teams exchanged goals to close the 2nd period at 3-1. Slovakia's Marek Tvrdon scored twice in the third period to bring the final to 5-1.

Both teams have the day off tomorrow as Canada and Latvia are the only game tomorrow in Bobruisk. If Canada wins that game, then both Belarus and Latvia would both be relegated, while Slovakia and Canada would return to next year's U18 World Championship. Should Latvia win the game, the group remains wide open.

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