Tuesday, May 18, 2010

IHWC Group F: Sweden shutouts Switzerland while the Czechs surprise Canada

It was a bit of a minor surprise, the Czechs were looking to get their offense going on what has been a luck luster tournament scoring wise. But 2 goals in the 2nd period allowed the Czechs to hold on and overtake Canada for 3rd and giving Canada a tough road to the IHWC Gold Medal by finishing 4th in the Qualifying Round and having to face Sweden who looked very strong against Switzerland.

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

Canada 2 Czech Republic 3 (1-1, 0-2, 1-0)

Canada VS. Czech Republic Game Photos: www.iihf.com/channels10/iihf-world-championship-wc10/pictures/page/0/game/CAN%20-%20CZE.html

By Andrew Podnieks

From Mannheim, Germany: The Czech Republic got two goals in the 2nd period to break a 1-1 tie and skated to a 3-2 win over Canada. As a result, they finish at least in 3rd place in Group F and advance, with Canada, to the Quarterfinals. It was a bitter and tense battle that showed signs of being one more punch or check away from getting out of hand.

Canada finishes fourth and will play the winner of the Russia-Finland Game tonight as the Czechs will play the loser of that game. All the Quarterfinals will be played on Thursday.

"We're going to have to go through the tough teams eventually," said Canadian forward John Tavares. "In whatever order it is, it doesn't matter. It's a new slate for everybody, and it's do or die now."

Today's loss was a historic one in the worst way for Canada. It marked the first time since the playoff system was adopted in 1992 that the motherland of the game has lost three games prior to the Quarterfinals.

It made for a strange afternoon as these teams met for an important game - and it was only the Qualifying Round. A loss by the Czechs meant a trip back to Prague, and a loss by Canada meant a likely quarterfinal date with Russia, the heavy favorites this year. The result was a very orney Czech Team that took two boarding penalties and started a fight. (That went into the books as a double minor for Tomas Rolinek and Steve Ott) in the first period alone.

As well, the Czechs came out flying, the more desperate team playing more aggressively. They had a couple of good chances early, but goalie Chris Mason, playing his best game of the tournament, stood his ground and made a couple of important saves.

However, it was Ray Whitney who drew first blood, for Canada, on a great play. He took a pass from Marc Giordano while coming down the right wing on a power play and cut in on goal as players from both teams converged on goalie Tomas Vokoun. With so many options, it seemed certain that Ray Whitney would pass, but the right-hand shot cut in on goal and slipped a backhand between the goalie's pads. Goalie Mason drew the 2nd assist on the play.

Canada was in control for most of the first period and was certainly the more disciplined team. The Czechs took three straight penalties, but Canada could not extend the lead. With less then two minutes to play, however, the inexperience of the 19 year old Jordan Eberle cost the team a goal.

He was too casual taking a pass in center during a power play and was checked off the puck by Jiri Novotny who fed Lukas Kaspar on the fly. Kaspar skated alone and deked Mason, sliding the puck between the goalie's pads at 18:20 to tie the game, 1-1. Eberle, meanwhile, sat on the bench for most of the rest of the game.

"I was a bit nervous when I was going in there," Kaspar said. "Because i'd missed an open net a couple of minutes before. I got the puck from Jiri and I was going in on the goalie. At first I thought shot, but it instead I deked him a little bit and put it through the legs."

Both teams continued to play on the edge in the 2nd period, with plenty of pushing and shoving and face-washes after the whistle, and both sides had some fine scoring chances. Mason and Vokoun were rock solid when tested, and an open period soon became more defensive, the next goal becoming more and more important.

Much of the 2nd half of the period was played between the blue-lines, but the Czechs got the go-ahead goal at 12:19 off a faceoff circle in the Canadian end. Jakub Klepis won the faceoff back to Ondrej Nemec sensational, one handed deflection of the puck while being checked, and the puck bounced past a helpless Mason (although it looked like Petr Vampola was the player who deflected the puck.)

They made it 3-1 near the end of the period on the power play when Michal Rozsival hit Kelpis with a pass between the defensemen, and Kelpis beat Mason with a stick-side deke to make it a 3-1 lead. This time, Vokoun had the assist.

Canada came within one on a wild play. Vokoun played the puck behind his own goal but was checked hard by Corey Perry, who knocked him hard into the ice. As Kelpis came into punch Perry in retaliation, the puck came out in front and Matt Duchene put it into the open net with 1:11 left in the 3rd period.

Canada couldn't tie the game with Mason on the bench in the final minute, but a wild melee broke out at the final horn and threatened to turn into a bench clearing brawl. Players from both benches remained disciplined they watch the players all over the ice pair off.

"There were scrums everywhere at the end and guys falling all over the place," said captain Whitney. "Unfortunately for Canada, there is no fighting, because were pretty decent at that."

And so, it's on to the Quarterfinals for both teams on Thursday, and then the real fun begins. Win 0r go home. The question for Canada is simple: where is the team speed and scoring? For the Czechs, it's about momentum. Can they build on their last two wins in a do-or-die game on Thursday?

Switzerland 0 Sweden 5 (0-1, 0-2, 0-2)

Switzerland VS. Sweden Game Photos: www.iihf.com/en/channels10/iihf-world-championship-wc10/pictures/page/0/game/SUI%20-%20SWE.html

From Lukas Aykroyd

From Mannheim, Germany: Forget about neutrality. Sweden convincingly beat Switzerland 5-0 in their final Qualification Round game to clinch the top spot in Group F. The Swedes will take on Denmark in Thursday's Quarterfinals, while the Swiss will play the host Germans.

This anticipated showdown simply turned into an exhibition of Swedish Puck Control, discipline and patience. The tone was the polar opposite of the chippy victory over Canada earlier. Apart from the maintaining of good civil order (Both teams took two minor penalties apiece.) There was also little to cheer about for Swiss fans among the 5757 on hand at the SAP Arena.

"The score might have looked easy, but it was a tough game for us," said Sweden's Victor Hedman. "We played well, and knew we had to come out strong. The Swiss have had a good tournament, but Markstrom was unbelievable game in net, too. We scored on our chances, and that was the difference."

Sweden Tony Martensson set the tone with a goal and two assists, while team scoring leader Magnus-Paajarvi Svensson added a goal and an assist.

The Swedes are fixtures in the final 8, never having missed out on the IIHF instituted the playoff system in 1992. In fact, Sweden had never finished lower then seventh (2000) in its modern history. Switzerland gradually emerging as a hockey power, will make its sixth straight appearance in the Quarterfinals.

Both teams dressed their backup goalies, and Swedes Jacob Markstrom recorded his first ever World Championships shutout over Switzerland's Tobais Stephen. Switzerland out-shot Sweden 28-25.

"We had the chance to finish first for the first time in our history, but the Swedes came out really hard and pressured us." said Swiss Defensemen Goran Bezina. "And it seemed like after that, we didn't have the juice to battle in the corners."

Sweden has historically dominated Switzerland. The Swedes earned the playoff wins over Switzerland en route to World Championships gold in 1992 and 1998, and beat them in the Quarterfinals prior to claiming the 2006 Olympic Title.

The Swiss who posted surprising wins over the Czechs and Canada, need to rediscover their game quickly after dropping two straight, including a 3-2 loss to underdog Norway.

At 3:02, the Swedes drew first blood as Paajarvi-Svensson finished off a sweet give-and-go play with Martensson, taping the puck into a wide-open net. It was the highlight of a conservatively played first period, in which Sweden out-shot Switzerland 8-4.

Just 48 seconds into the middle frame, Tre Kronor went up 2-0 when Johan Harju blasted a shot from the top of the left faceoff circle over Stephan's glove.

"The first period was 1-0, and we felt like we had a chance, but after the 2nd goal they played really solid defense and it was very tough to come back," said Bezina. "We didn't have the energy to attack the net, and they got all the bounces."

The confident Swedes started to relax at this point. Controlling the puck, Linus Omark twice gestured with his stick behind the Swiss net as if he was about to attempt the "lacrosse goal" pioneered by University of Michigan forward Mike Legg. However he simply elected to make a centering pass.

At 3:40 of the 2nd, Victor Hedman made it 3-0, deftly converting a cross-ice pass from Martensson over Stephan's glove. It was the 19 Year Old Tampa Bay blue-liner's first career World Championship Goal.

The Swiss called a timeout to regroup, but the game had already slipped away from them. Seconds later, Sweden's Niklas Persson got a breakaway and backhanded the puck high off the post.

In the third period, the Swedes continued their dominance. Jonathan Eriksson hammered a shot off the end boards and Fredrick Petterson smartly snared the rebound, tucking it home for a 4-0 lead. Less then a minute later, Martensson's centering pass deflected in off Swiss defenders for the fifth Swedish goal.

With under 10 minutes left to play, Markstrom made some of his best saves of the game during a Swiss power play with Mikael Backlund off for slashing.

"We knew they would never give up, even when it was 3-0, so we had to keep the forecheck high and make simple plays all the time," observed Hedman. "And now, we look forward to the Danish Game."

Sweden is hoping to win this tournament for the first time since 2006, while Switzerland is gunning for its first world Championship Medal since 1953 when they won Bronze.

Final Group F Standings

1. Sweden 4-0-0-1 12 PTS 18-7

2. Switzerland 3-0-0-2 9 PTS 12-11

3. Czech Rep. 3-0-0-2 9 PTS 10-11

4. Canada 2-0-0-3 6 PTS 22-12

5. Norway 2-0-0-3 6 PTS 9-26

6. Latvia 1-0-0-4 3 PTS 12-16

Advanced to the Quarterfinals

Eliminated from the IHWC

Final Rankings for teams ranked 9-16. Plus the 2 Teams that have won Promotion from Division 1.

9. Norway

10. Slovakia

11. Belarus

12. Latvia

13. U.S.A.

14. France

15. Italy

16. Kazakhstan

Austria and Slovenia won promotion from the IHWC Division 1 Tournaments and will compete in the 2011 IHWC in Slovakia.

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