Sunday, May 16, 2010

IHWC Qualfiying Round:Switzerland atop Group F, while Russia grounds Germany

The 2 Qualifying Round Games from Saturday provided for some interesting action as Switzerland is looking like the biggest threat team to finally break through and win and international medal after taking down the Czechs 3-2 where a 2-0 1st period was able to stand despite a strong showing from Jamior Jagr. Goals by Andreas Ambuhl scored twice while goalie Martin Gerber made 30 of 32 shots stopping a very strong Czech Side from attempting a comeback late in the game.

Group E saw the Russians edge Germany in a back-and-fourth game before emerging with a 3-2 and overtaking Finland and Denmark for the Top spot in Group E with 2 games left in the 2nd Round. Germany is starting to slide a bit as the Germans are still in fourth with being ahead of both Slovakia and Belarus on Goal Differential right now and still have hope of making the Quarterfinals.

From the International Ice Hockey Federation Website:

Russia 3 Germany 2 (1-0, 1-1, 1-1)

From Risto Pakarinen

From Colonge, Germany: Germany rocked Russia like a hurricane, making the red machine work for the full 60 minutes, but in the end, it was Russia had something that the Germans didn't: Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexander Ovechkin.

Kovalchuk got the first, and Ovechkin the last goal. Semyon Varlamov made 32 saves for Russia. Germany's Christan Ehroff scored in his first game of the tournament and goaltender Dimitri Kotschnew turned away 33 Russian shots.

"It was a tight game, and we expected that kind of game. Germany played good hockey," Viktor Kozlov said.

Russia had a powerful offense as Alexander Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk, Sergei Fedorov, Alexander Semin, Maxim Afinogenov. Germany doesn't have them, but they do have the backing of the home crowd. Except in that game against Russia, the guests were almost as loud.

The Deutschland cheers got drowned out under Shaibu every once in a while, until they picked up steam, and, in turn, got the upper hand for a second. The black, red, and Gold of Germany mixed with the red, white and blue of Russia to create a living mosaic in the stands.

"The atmosphere was great. There were a lot of Russian fans, too." said German Captain Marcel Goc.

On the ice, the Germans put up a valiant fight, out-shooting Russia, 13-12 in the first period. Semyon Varlamov didn't have too much trouble turning away all 13 shots, though.

"We knew that they would have the puck more then we, and that's how it went. We played a defensivley game, made some good plays, and got the puck to the net as much as possible," Goc said.

With six minutes remaining in the first period, Alexander Frolov took a slap-shot from the blue-line. Alexander Ovechkin tried to deflect the puck in, but missed. However, the puck hit the boards behind the net and bounced back in the front of the net on the other side of the net. Ilya Kovalchuk stepped up and fired a wrist shot to the far post, beating Germany's goaltender Dimitri Kotschnew for the first time in the game, at 14:20.

Germany created more chances in the 2nd period, but again, Russia scored first when Viktor Kozlov got the puck to Maxim Afinogenov off a faceoff in the German Zone. Afinogenov, his back to the sideboards, sent the puck through to the front of the net, and Nikolai Kulemin deflected it in, through Kotschnew's five hole for a 2-0 lead at 6:10 into the 2nd period.

Down, but not out. Cheered by the home crowd, Germany got itself back into the game just as the buzzer signaled the end of the period. Michael Wolf checked in a Russian defensemen behind the net, snatched the puck, and sent it to the front of the net. The Vancouver Canucks defensemen Christian Ehroff, playing in his first game of the tournament, rushed to the net and one timed a wrist-shot top shelf at 19:59.

"They played us tight and they took a lot of emotion from the crowd. They have great fans and fed off that," said Pavel Datsyuk who joined the team yesterday.

With 10:14 remaining in the game, Ovechkin got the chance he'd been waiting for. Kovalchuk fed him the puck to the slot, and Ovechkin ripped a wrist shot that beat Kotschnew on the stick side, giving the Russians a two goal lead.

Four minutes later, it was a one goal game again as Alexander Barta grabbed a rebound, and beat Varlamov from the doorstep, at 13:19. Germany pressed hard with six skaters for the last 45 seconds, but Varlamov stood tall.

"We had our chances. We just need to be a little cooler when she got a chance, but I think we can be staisfied with our performance," said Goc.

Russia is still undefeated in the tournament. The team's next game is tomorrow against Denmark.

"They're a good team, they've proved in this tournament. They will make it tough for us," Kozolv said.

Germany plays Belarus, tomorrow as well.

Group E Standings as of 5/15

1. Russia 3-0-0-0 9 PTS 9-5

2. Denmark 2-0-0-1 6 PTS 11-4

3. Finland 2-0-0-1 6 PTS 6-4

4. Germany 1-0-0-2 3 PTS 5-5

5. Slovakia 1-0-0-2 3 PTS 5-11

6. Belarus 0-0-0-3 0 PTS 3-9

Group E Schedule

5/14: Slovakia 0 Denmark 6 (0-6, 0-0, 0-0)

5/14: Finland 2 Belarus 0 (0-0, 2-0, 0-0)

5/15: Russia 3 Germany 2 (1-0, 1-1, 1-1)

5/16: Denmark VS. Russia

5/16: Germany VS. Belarus

5/17: Finland VS. Slovakia

5/17: Belarus VS. Denmark

5/18: Slovakia VS. Germany

5/18: Russia VS. Finland

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

By Andrew Podnieks

From Mannheim, Germany: Andreas Ambuhl scored two goals and Martin Pluss added another to lead Switzerland to an impressive 3-2 win against the Czech Republic at the SAP Arena Tonight. Winning goalie Martin Gerber also stopped 30 of 32 shots in the win.

"We were very excited, very ready for this match," said Swiss defensemen Felicien Du Bois.

The win gives Switzerland first place in Group F with a perfect record of 3-0-0-0 for nine points, three clear of Sweden and Canada. It also disproved any suggestion that the team's last game, a 4-1 win over Canada was a mere fluke.

"We had a bad start to the game," said Czech Head Coach Vladimir Ruzicka admitted. "The Swiss were faster, and we made a lot of mistakes."

The incredible play of the Swiss continued right from the opening faceoff as they clearly held the edge in play. They were rewarded at 4:13 when a Goran Bezina shot could not be controlled by Czech goalie Tomas Vokoun. Pluss was right their to snap the puck loose into the open net to give Switzerland the early lead.

The defining moment of the night came with just under six minutes left in the opening period. Jiri Novotny controlled the puck inside his own blue line but was knocked to the ice by Ambuhl, who immediately passed passed to Thibault Monnet. Monnet passed to Damien Bruner, who was streaking hard to the net, but as soon as he got the puck he passed across the grain to Ambuhl, who moved to the net after hammering Novotny. He took the pass from Bruner and roofed it over his head a sprawled Vokoun who cleary thought that Brunner would shoot.

It was kind of a tic-tac-toe play only a team playing with the greatest of confidence can make, and it proved once and for all in this tournament that the Swiss are a genuine playoff team with a chance for a medal. Their last world Championship medal was a Bronze in 1953 with only three teams particpated.

The Czechs came out a lot more determined to start the second and were rewarded with a goal to get them back in the game. Jakub Voracek made a nice pass from behind the goal to Jan Marek at the top of the blue line, and Marek made no mistake with his quick release between Martin's Gerber pads to make it 2-1 game at 4:07.

Ambuhl got his second of the night at 11:47 on another play. He came down the right wing on a 2-on-1 with Monnet, stick handling as if he clearly wanted to pass the puck. But instead he fired a low shot between Vokoun's pads as the goalie was readying to play the pass. It was a smart goal, a goalscorer's goal, and it put the Swiss back in control of the game.

Three minutes later, though, the Czechs got a lucky one. Roman Cervenka won a faceoff in the Czech end and Miroslav Blatak snapped a quick shot from the point. It wasn't moving fast, but it was redirected off the stick of Pluss and into the top of the corner past a helpless Gerber.

The Swiss dodged a bullet late in the period when they ran into penalty trouble. But even though the Czechs had a 5-on-3 for 1:17, they couldn't tie the score and period ended 3-2 for the Swiss.

"We got back into the game in the 2nd period, but we didn't score on our 5-on-3," Ruzicka noted with a disappointment."

If the Swiss were more enthusiastic and creative in the first period, they were more determined and presistent by the third. They got back to the puck first and hemmed the Czechs in their own end for long periods, fustrating their opponents to no end and preventing any razzle-dazzle play by their opponents off the rush.

Both teams are back in action on May 17 when Switzerland faces Norway in the afternoon and the Czechs play Latvia at night.

Said Julien Vauclair about facing the under-manned Norwegians: "I think we have to step up to the point we've been very well prepared by our coaching staff. We've got to keep our feet on the ground. The most important thing for us now is to recuperate and get ready for this match."

Group F Standings as of 5/15

1. Switzerland 3-0-0-0 9 PTS 10-4

2. Canada 2-0-0-1 6 PTS 19-3

3. Sweden 2-0-0-1 6 PTS 10-5

4. Czech Rep. 1-0-0-2 3 PTS 6-7

5. Norway 1-0-0-2 3 PTS 6-19

6. Latvia 0-0-0-3 0 PTS 4-13

Group F Schedule

5/14: Canada 12 Norway 1 (1-1, 7-0, 4-0)

5/14: Sweden 4 Latvia 2 (3-1, 0-0, 1-1)

5/15: Switzerland 3 Czech Republic 2 (1-0, 1-1, 1-1)

5/16: Latvia VS. Norway

5/16: Sweden VS. Canada

5/17: Norway VS. Switzerland

5/17: Czech Republic VS. Latvia

5/18: Canada VS. Czech Republic

5/18: Switzerland VS. Sweden

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