Sunday, May 16, 2010

IHWC Relegation Round: USA Crushes Kazakhstan and France edges Italy

The IHWC Relegation Round got underway yesterday as the Americans are looking to make the best of a bad situation as the Americans got a 10-0 thrashing of the Kazakhs to open the Relegation Round. It's a tough blow for Kazakhstan as the Kazakhs will have it very tough to keep their spots for the 2011 IHWC Tournament as Italy and France still haven't won a game. But at least they have been able to keep their games close.

France won the first crunch game as the French forward Laurent Grasp used an early 3rd period goal to get the French their first win of the tournament and an early edge in the Relegation Round.

From the International Ice Hockey Federation Website:

From Alan Adams

USA 10 Kazakhstan 0 (4-0, 5-0, 1-0)

From Colonge, Germany: Team USA Scored 4 times in the first period to match its entire goal production to date and the Americans went on to rout Kazakhstan 10-0 in a Relegation Round Game at the 2010 IIHF World Hockey Championship on Saturday. The USA is trying to avoid an ignominious fall from the IIHF top pool to its second tier and the win - the first in four games for Team USA at the 2010 Worlds - will help accomplish that.

Team USA Plays France on Sunday while Kazakhstan takes on Italy the same day.

For a team that could not score in its three prelim round games, the goals came quick and often for the United States in its first ever World Championship Game against Kazakhstan, Matt Gilroy led the way with a three-goal performance.

"We were embarrassed to be in this situation and it was great to get some goals and see the forwards rewarded for their efforts." said Team USA Captain Jack Johnson.

"We were anxious to get going."

"It's good to get the goals, said Team USA Head Coach Scott Gordon. "For all the scoring struggles we have been having, its quite a relief for some of the guys."

T.J. Oshie scored on a wraparound at 0:55 of the first period on the First USA Shot of the game. Oshie was in the right place at the right time when defensemen Maxim Semenov misplayed on the loose puck and goaltender Alexei Kuznetsov was caught completely off guard when the American forward swept around the net and scored.

Kyle Okposo made it 2-0 just 18 seconds later, again thinks to a miscue by Kazakh defender behind the net. This time Oshie picked up the loose puck and Okposo snapped a centering pass into the net at 1:13.

Gilroy went end-to-end to make it 3-0 at 8:53. He deeeked Semenov just inside the Kazakh blueline to slip past him and then whipped a wrist shot that beat Kuznetsov cleanly on the low on the glove hand side. Gilory then made it 4-0 at 10:20 to complete the first period goal splurge for the Americans.

Kuznetsov was put on the bench at the start of the 2nd period but his replacement, Pavel Zhitkov, fared no better.

When Nick Foligno scored at 8:03 of the 2nd period, it was the USA's fifth goal of the game and that's one more goal then the Americans had during the prelim round in three straight games in the 16 team tournament. The rout continued not long after, with Ryan Potulny scored at 6:34 and Gilory completing the hat trick 10 seconds later. Brandon Dubinsky made it 8-0 at 18:44 and Tim Kennedy followed with a goal at 19:29.

Chris Kreider scored with 1:03 left in the game for the only goal of the 3rd period and to make it a perfect 10 on the afternoon.

"The Americans are the strongest team in the group. They should not be here," said Kazakhstan Head Coach Andrei Shayanov.

As for the Kazakhs, they had two good scoring chances in the 2nd period denied by goaltender Scott Clemmensen.

Clemmensen did the splits to kick out a wrist shot by Roman Starchenko with his right pads at the 3:38 mark of the 2nd period. Then two minutes later, Alexei Vorontsov's shot was blocked by Clemmensen, who was on the bench to start the 3rd period.

Ben Bishop finished the game in net for the Americans.

From Lucas Aykroyd

Italy 1 France 2 (0-1, 0-0, 1-1)

From Mannheim, Germany: Oui, ca va bien! France continued its recent domination of Italy on Saturday, prevailing 2-1 in a tight checking affair at the SAP Arena to kick off the Relegation Round. Laurent Gras scored the winner early in the third period.

The last time these two nations met in Relegation Round action, it was 2008, and the French sent Italy down with wins of 3-2 and 6-4 in a two game series in Quebec City. This time, the Relegation Round participants are playing a round-robin, with no points carried over from the Prelim Round.

With its first win of the 2010 Worlds, France now has a big three points as it vies for a fourth straight berth in the elite Division. Italy remains winless in four straight games.

Baptiste Amar also scored for the French. Michele Strazzabosco had the lone Italian goal.

"We fought hard and worked as a team," said Amar. "We know we're not technically the best team, but we work hard as a group, and we were rewarded today."

French goalie Fabrice Lhenry out-dulled Italy's Daniel Bellissimo for the victory. The Italians out-shot the French 29-22.

There's no rest for these teams. On Sunday, France will face the Americans, coming off a lopsided victory over Kazakhstan. That day, Italy will take on the Kazakhs in a must win game.

"This game is history," said Italy's head coach Nicola Fontanive. "We can't change history. We have to come out and win tomorrow."

France opened the scoring at 4:34 when Stephane Da Costa behind the goal line and snapped it high over Bellissimo.

A couple of minutes later, Lhery was alert to stop Giulio Scandella, who got a step on the French defense and fired a swift, low shot into the netminders pads. Lhery stayed sharp as the Italians out-shot France 9-5 in the first period.

In the 2nd period, the Italians kept pressuring for the equalizer on their first power play during a holding penalty to Nicholas Besch. But they could only generate flurries around the French net, including a nice right wing rush and backhanded move by Luca Ansoldi.

"We tried to use our speed and forecheck to create our chances." noted France's Amar. "We wanted to keep the puck on the out-shot and not get fancy."

With about seven minutes left in the middle frame, France nearly took a two-goal lead when Gras's shot squeezed through Bellissimo, but the Italian Defenders manged to sweep the puck away from the goal line before any damage was done.

The chances kept coming but neither side could capitalize. With less then four minutes before the buzzer, France's Anthonie Lussier stick-handled in on a breakaway, but lose control of the puck at the last instant. Coming back the other way, Italy's Giorgio de Bettin zinged one off Lehnry's crossbar.

An early third period power-play saw France go up 2-0 at 3:14 when Gras banged to the front of the net, whacking in the 2nd rebound from Kevin Hecquefeuille's point showing before flying in the air.

The Italins got a glouris opportunity to get on the board with a short 5-on-3 man advantage. Just as it turned to a 5-on-4, Strazzabosco's drive from the center point beat Lehnry five hole to make it a 2-1 game with 8:56 left.

Unfortunately, Strazzanbosco's took a late tripping penalty that hurt his team's chances of coming back. Gras had a great chance for his second on the night on a breakaway, but Bellissimo said no. Regardless, it was too late for Italy, which pulled its netminder for the extra attacker as well.

"Their goalie was the best player, but one goal wasn't enough," said Fontanive. "We were able to score more goals if we expect to win."

Altough this game was sparsely attended, fans in the stands generated their own atmosphere by paring up with tournament mascot Urmel for some of the most demonstrative dancing seen yet at this year's World Championship.

Relegation Round Standings

1. USA 1-0-0-0 3 PTS 10-0

2. France 1-0-0-0 3 PTS 2-1

3. Italy 0-0-0-1 0 PTS 1-2

4. Kazakhstan 0-0-0-1 0 PTS 0-10

Relegation Round Schedule

5/15: USA 10 Kazakhstan 0 (4-0, 5-0, 1-0)

5/15: Italy 1 France 2 (0-1, 0-0, 1-1)

5/16: France VS. USA

5/16: Italy VS. Kazakhstan

5/18: USA VS. Italy

5/18: Kazakhstan VS. France

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