Friday, May 21, 2010

IHWC Quarterfinals Part 1: Sweden ends Denmark's Historic Run, Czech Rep. wins a SO against Finland

Thursday's Quarterfinals in the Ice Hockey World Championships saw some interesting battles as the Russians got revenge from the beating they received from Canada in the Olympics back in February.

History was made for Germany by eking out a 1-0 goaltenders duel as they reach the Semis for the first time and the Czechs eking out a 2-1 victory in a shutout after going down 1-0 early on in the first game of the day.

Denmark's run may have ended, but for a team that's usually been trying to battle off relegation. This meant a big step up and ending what otherwise has been a disappointing season for the Danes as they failed to make the Olympics during the Olympic Qualifiers last year and failing to promote to the WJC and U18 World Championships this season.

They didn't go without a fight as players like Dallas Stars Prospect Patrick Thorson among a growing list of players who are making an impact in both Europe (Especially Sweden) and North America with more & more players getting chances in the AHL and a few in the NHL right now.

They hoping to use this as momentum for 2010-2011 to keep up this pace as they look to have a stronger season internationally with the ultimate goal of qualifying for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia and getting their Juniors promoted to the WJC & U18 World Championships next season.

Czech Republic in addition to Russia also got revenge from their Olympic Rematches as they took down Finland 2-1 in a shutout in what was mostly a defensive showdown. But they were some great outbursts by both sides, especially in OT where both teams were looking to prevent the game from going to a shutout.

Now the Semifinals will be taking place on Saturday as Swede VS. Czech Republic will go at it in the early game. While Russia will be taking Germany who's looking to pull off an incredible run as hosts in the 2nd game.

From Risto Pakarinen

Finland 1 Czech Republic 2 (SO) (1-0, 0-0, 0-1, 0-0, 0-1)

Finland VS. Czech Republic Game Photos:

In Colonge, Germany: Tied after 70 minutes of battle, it all came down to a penalty shutout. Lukas Kaspar and Jan Marek scored for the Czechs and sealed the win.

Jakub Klepis for the Czechs in the 3rd period, and Tomas Vokoun made 29 saves in regulation time. Petri Kontiola scored for Finland. Pekka Rinne stopped 33 shots.

"It was a tough game, there were times when I was very nervous," Jaromir Jagr about the win that took the Czechs past the Quarterfinals for the first time since 2006.

"The shootout is lots of times a matter of luck. I got some, and I miss some. It's a fun to win, but a tough way to loss," added goaltender Vokoun.

Before the game, everybody said that it was no Olympic rematch because the rosters are completely different. True enough, but the nature of the game was similar to the one played in Vancouver three months ago. A low scoring game, thanks to good goaltending at both ends of the rink.

Another thing that was different in Vancouver, Finland scored late in the third period to win the game. In Colonge, they scored early in the first, and nursed the lead for 59 minutes.

"I don't think we want to get ahead of ourselves. We said before the game we are not supposed to be here and we have twice survived our death." Vokoun said.

Just 55 seconds into the game, Janne Niskala sent a pass from the top of the faceoff circle to Petri Kontiola on the Finns offensive blue-line. Kontiola snuck between two Czech Defensemen, waited for Tomas Vokoun to go down and beat him on a wrist shot on Vokoun's glove side.

There were two other differences, this time the Czechs scored, too. Just 1:12 into the 3rd period, while Jussi Jokinen was in the penalty box for the third time in the game, they played the puck to Jakub Klepis on the point, and he fired a slap-shot beat Pekka Rinne, and tied the game.

"It's a huge disappointment to have the season end like this, I think we battle hard, and we had some scoring chances too, "Said Jussi Jokinen.

The game was mostly a battle, with both teams making sure that there were no turnovers in the critical areas of the ice. Both teams also defended the inside walls, making the goalies jobs that much easier.

The Czech Team pushed hard in the third period, practically controlling the flow of the game. Rinnie in the Finnish net made several acrobatic saves, including one on Jaromir Jagr and another on Jiri Novotny, both from point blank range.

With nine minutes remaining, the Czechs had out-shot Finland 7-1 in the third period. But the score was tied after regulation time and the game went to a ten minute, 4-on-4 overtime.

At 3:58, Jakub Voracek got a tripping penalty, giving the Finns and excellent opportunity to score but the Czech Penalty Kill survived the scare.

"Our Penalty Kill was the difference and in overtime when we did not give a shot on the 4-on-3, guys were battling, blocking shots," marveled Vokoun.

According to Team Finland head coach Jekka Jalonen, his team ran out of gas in the third period. Ten additional minutes didn't change the score, and the Czech Republic is through to the Semifinal against Sweden in a penalty shootout.

Here's the results of the Shootout

CZE: Lukas Kaspar, Shot, Goal

FIN: Jarkko Imonen, Shot, Goal

CZE: Jan Marek, Deke, Goal

FIN: Jussi Jokinen, Deke, Missed the Net

CZE: Jakub Klepis, deke, Miss

FIN: Petri Kontiola, Miss

"We have to get ready to put in a 60 minute effort. It's a new game, and if we play hard, you never know what's possible." Vokoun said.

By Lucas Aykroyd

Sweden 4 Denmark 2 (1-0, 2-1, 1-1)

Sweden VS. Denmark Game Photos:

In Mannheim, Germany: Two hours before puck drop, the Danes were optimistically blasting "We Can Work it Out" by the Beatles in their dressing room. Unfortunately, that prediction didn't come true for underdog Scandinavian Nation in its Quarterfinal versus Sweden.

With a solid 4-2 Quarterfinal Victory over Denmark, Sweden moved on to Saturday's Semifinal versus the Czech Republic in Colonge. This marks Sweden's tenth straight year they have made the final four at the IHWC.

"We were the better team and we knew it, said Tre Kronor Scoring Leader Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson. We never gave them enough space to execute."

While the final outcome was predictable, the Danes could at least take pride in posting their lowest margin of defeat ever against Sweden at this tournament. The previous best was a 4-2 loss in 2007.

"We just met a better team today." said Denmark's Mads Bodker. "We tried to compete, and it was exciting to the end. We gave them a fight."

Marcus Nilson, Jonas Andersson, Rickard Wallin and Linus Omark scored for Sweden, and Magnus Johansson had a pair of assists. Jesper Damgaard and Morten Madsen replied for Denmark.

"We knew it would be a do-or-die game in the Quarterfinals, and if we're going to win gold, we have to win this one," said Nilson. "These are the game you long to play." This is where the tournament starts."

Swedish starting goalie Johan Gustavsson got the win over Denmark's Patrick Galbaith. Sweden outshot Denmark 39-29.

Sweden now looks ahead. It beat the Czech Republic in the 2006 finals, and has also the defeated that nation in elimination play at each of the last two Worlds (3-2 in OT in the Quarterfinals, 3-1 in the 2009 Quarterfinals). However, the last time the Czechs beat Sweden was in the semifinals, they won 3-2 in OT and went on to win the IIHF Gold Medal in Austria 2005.

Denmark which made its first ever Quarterfinal final appearance before 3487 fans at the SAP Arena, has never defeated Sweden in an international tournament. The Danes Previous best finish at an IIHF World Championship was tenth (Russia 2007). 2010 is a proud moment for the Danish Program.

Although the opening minutes of yearly Quarterfinals passed uneventfully, the Swedes patiently and gradually ratchet up the pressure around Denmark's net. The Danes had to hang back under Swedish fore-checking pressure, and the Swedes often used their size and skill to monoplize the puck down low. At times, it looked like Tre Kronor power play wasn't even it wasn't.

Inevitably though, the Swedes did get a power play, and they took full advantage. Magnus Johannsson found Marcus Nilson to the right of Galbraith's cage with a perfect pass, and Nilson sold the puck into the open side to make it 1-0 at 14:58 of the 1st period.

"It was good to get the first goal," said Nilson. "We knew we had a psychological advantage. When we scored, I think they sensed that a little bit."

The Danes couldn't fool Gustavsson on their own subsequent man advantages starting less then a minute later, with Christian Backman nabbed for hooking. They were blanked again when Victor Hedman was sent off for slashing in the first minute of the 2nd period. Denmark's failure to capitalize 5-on-4 would prove fatal.

Galbraith held his ground when Andreas Engqvist got a golden chance from the slot just over 4 minutes into the 2nd period. But simply missed Jonas Andersson's quick release when the Swedish forward burst down right wing and beat him stick side at 7:21.

It was Andersson's fourth goal of the tournament, tying him for the team lead with Magnus Paajarvi Svensson. The 29 year old from Dynamo Minsk is shining in his maiden World Championship voyage.

Sweden extended its lead to 3-0 at 12:29 with a nice shorthanded goal when Rickard Wallin blasted to the net and got a centering pass from Engqvist, putting it over Galbraith's goal.

Just 49 seconds later, the Danes fought back to make it 3-1 when captain Jesper Damgaard stepped into a slap shot from the right faceoff circle, over powering Gustavsson on the short side.

The Swedes gave Denmark very little in the third, and nearly stretched their lead to three goals with under 8 minutes left when Magnus Johansson pinched in and forced Galbraith to make a challenging glove stop.

On the power play with 6:43 remaining, Linus Omark put Sweden up 4-1 with a perfect shot inside Galbraith's converting a cross ice pass from Niklas Persson.

"The Difference was their power play," said Bodker. "They scored some goals on it and overall they had the better team."

The Danes, at this point, had no more chances of coming back then a jar of pickled herring does of swimming wild and free in the Baltic Sea.

Morten Madsen added a power play marker on a great slapshot to cut the deficit 4-2 with 2:25 left, and then the Danes pulled Galbraith for the extra attacker. They got off a few attempts, but it wasn't enough.

Denmark's best three players of the tournament were honored afterwards: Peter Regin, Frans Nielsen, and Patrick Galbraith.

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