The Qualifying Round wrapped up today with 4 games that helped determined the Quarterfinal matchups which will be headed by Russia and Sweden having the top seeds for the Quarterfinals. Also Denmark are through to the last 8 for the first time ever while the hosts Germany are through the Quarterfinals for the first time since 2003.
Every inch was battled for in the Germany Slovakia game as the hosts felt the pressure of getting back to the Quarterfinals, while Slovakia had missed out on the IHWC Playoffs for the 3rd straight year. 2008 saw the worst year when a German win sent them down to the relegation round.
It took a two game sweep of Slovenia in the Relegation Round that year to keep their spot, while in 2009 3 straight losses in the 2nd round against Finland and the Czech Republic. Only a 3-2 OT Win was the only saving grace for the Slovaks, as they finished 2 points back of Belarus for the 4th and final spot in the Quarterfinals.
Regardless of the Quarterfinal result, Germany will hope to use this a springboard after two very bad performances in the last year.
After a 15th place finish in the IHWC last year and finishing 11th in the Olympics. Germany is hoping to use thier upcoming Quarterfinal Matchup against Switzerland as a successful end to a great event and maybe pull off a great upset after Switzerland had been slipping a bit after losing 5-0 to Sweden earlier today.
Slovakia 1 Germany 2 (0-1, 1-1, 0-0)
Slovakia VS. Germany Game Photos: www.iihf.com/channels10/iihf-world-championship-wc10/pictures/page/0/game/SVK%20-%20GER.html
By Risto Pakarinen
In Colonge, Germany: Every inch of the ice was a battlefield as Germany and Slovakia went head-to-head for a spot in the Quarterfinal. Backed by their home crowd, the Germans pushed through with a 2-1 win. Alexander Barta and Daniel Kreutzer scored a goal each, Dennis Endras made 20 saves in route to the win.
"Sure, they was pressure to get back after what happened in Switzerland. We got a lot of pressure after that tournament and I think we deserved it," said German Defensemen Christian Ehrhoff.
It's the first time since 2003 under then coach Hans Zach that the Germans reached the Quarterfinals.Seven years ago the Germans lost eventual gold medal winners Canada 3-2 in OT. Third period goals by Lasse Kopitz and Daniel Kreutzer tied up the score before Eric Brewer scored the game-winner 37 seconds into OT.
After twenty something games this season, and a few days of frenetic computing about different matchups to see who'd advance and who would not, the game between Germany and Slovakia came down to an easy set up. The team that got more points out of the game would advance to the playoff stage. This time it was the Germans while Slovakia missed out on the Quarterfinals for the 3rd straight year.
"We knew it was going to be a big fight, and a low-scoring game. We knew we'd be fighting for every inch of the ice. Maybe we didn't have hockey luck or hockey sense, but we couldn't score a second goal," said Slovakia's captain Richard Linter.
Germany got a perfect start to the game when Alexander Barta scored the first goal of the game at 7:19. Barta came flying down the right wing, and found Daniel Kreutzer waiting for the puck at the far post. Barta got the puck him, but Kreutzer's shot missed the net. Fortunately for Germany, it bounced from the backboard to Barta, who had half the net to choose where to place his backhander.
Slovakia had only five shots on Germany's goal in the first period.
Germany took command of the game early in the 2nd period again. At 4:42, Barta and Kreutzer made it a two goal game, this time Kreutzer getting the goal. Barta and Sven Felski put pressure on the Slovak defense behind the net, Barta grabbed a loose puck and found Kreutzer alone in the slot and this time, he didn't miss, and beat Peter Budaj high on the stick side.
Felix Schultz 4 minute high sticking penalty gave Slovakia its chance to get back in the game. With 20 seconds remaining in Schutz's latter penalty, Marek Savtos got the puck at the hash marks, he cut to the middle, went around the German defensemen, and fired a hard and accurate wrist shot to top shelf, beating Endras on the glove side, at 19:17.
Slovakia made a final push with one minute remaining, but the game ended in Germany's victory dance in front of Endras's net.
"You just want to get your body in front of the shots and guys out in front of the net. Once you hear the siren you are relieved," Ehrhoff said.
"We're just going to enjoy the night and see what happens tomorrow," he added.
Slovak Captain Richard Linter said the teams was "disappointed, but not upset."
"I know for sure that all our guys left 100% on the ice," he said.
On another note for the Germans, the org. committee announced during the game that with tonight's attendance, 15,100, they also met the attendance goal for the tournament, 400,000 fans.
Germany was the fourth team to qualify for the Quarterfinals, and with the win. The Germans overtook Denmark for 3rd and will face Switzerland, who finished 2nd in Group F.
Russia 5 Finland 0 (1-0, 2-0, 2-0)
By Risto Pakarinen
From Colonge, Germany: Russia rolled over Finland 5-0, getting goals by five different players and a shutout by Semyon Varlamov, Ilya Kovalchuk got two assists and Maxim Afinogenov got a goal and assist as well.
"With the new rules its all about the special teams and I think our penalty killing was great and the power play worked tonight. It is important for the Quarterfinals," Kovalchuk said.
The last time Russia left a World Championship rink as a loser was in 2007 when they lost to the Finns 2-1 in OT. Since then, the team has raked in 23 wins. Before their game against Finland. Now the win count is at 24.
Finland started the game very strong, they came out of the gate like they meant business. And they did. Finland Pressured the Russian defensemen, and created several good scoring chances. Unfortunately for the Finns, when it was time to put the puck to the back of the net, they hit the posts instead, three times.
"They played very well in the beginning," Kovalchuk admitted.
Russia got into some penalty trouble halfway through the period, with Alexi Emelin and Demitri Kulikov taking penalties with a minute from each other. But the Russian defense, and goaltender Semyon Varlamov kept the Finns off the scoreboard.
Then it was Finland who ran into penalty trouble. The Russian power-play showed why it needs to be feared. Finland's defensemen Topi Jaakola injured itself, turning the situation into a 5-on-3 play. Alexander Ovechkin one-timer failed but the puck found its way to Sergei Federov, who was waiting for it at Petri Vehanen's doorstep, and tapped in the puck at 16:42.
"We are pretty good. We have almost all the guys who played in the Olympics and we have some great atmosphere in the room," said Kovalchuk said.
In the 2nd period, Finland lost players when Defensemen Jusso Hietanen and Pusi Puistola were injured and Jukka Jalonen to shuffle the lines - and - having already decided to rest defensemen Lasse Kukkonen and Petteri Nummelin - moved team captain Sami Kapanen down to defense.
"I wasn't trying to hurt him, but I play in front of the on our power play, and have to make sure I make some room for our guys," Kovalchuk said about the situation where Hietanen was injured.
Maybe that's why Finland also ran into major penalty trouble in the 2nd period, taking six minors, and Jussi Jokinen's ten minute penalty for hitting to the head.
"Kapanen was excellent tonight. We hang five defensemen for half of the game, and he was our top-two defensemen," coach Jalonen said.
Given multiple chances, Russia finally scored at 13:52 when Ilya Kovalchuk got the puck in the slot, and waited until a Finnish defensemen hit the ice to block a shot, then stepped around him and fed the puck to Evgeni Malkin, who shot the puck through Vehanen's five hole to make it 2-0.
Right after the faceoff Maxim Afinogenov got the puck deep into the Finnish zone, and took the shot that Vehanen's was able to stop with his leg pad. The rebound escaped the Finnish defense but not from Nikolai Kulemin who gave Russia a three goal lead at 14:02.
"We started well, but didn't stick to our system tonight," and didn't have the speed we need in our game," said Kapanen.
Russia put the game to bed, for good, early in the 3rd period. Frist Kovalchuk sent a pass from the hash marks to the point and Emelin one-timed it high on Vehanen's stick-side to make it 4-0 2:15 into the 3rd period.
But Russia wasn't done yet, a mere 40 seconds after the fourth goal Afinogenov grabbed a loose puck on the Finnish blueline, took a step into the slot, and banged the puck past Vehanen for the fifth time in the game.
Russia won Group E and meets Canada in the Quarterfinals. In the other Olympic Quarterfinal rematch, Finland will take on the Czech Republic.
Final Group E Standings
1. Russia 5-0-0-0 15 PTS 20-6
2. Finland 3-0-0-2 9 PTS 11-11
3. Germany 2-0-1-2 7 PTS 8-8
4. Denmark 2-0-0-3 6 PTS 12-10
5. Belarus 1-1-0-3 4 PTS 5-10
6. Slovakia 1-0-0-4 3 PTS 8-18
Clinched Quarterfinal Berth
Elinamted from the IHWC
Final 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 1 Russia 6 (0-2, 1-1, 0-3)
5/16: Germany 1 Belarus 2 (OT) (0-1, 0-0, 1-0, 0-1)
5/17: Finland 5 Slovakia 2 (0-0, 3-0, 2-2)
5/17: Belarus 2 Denmark 1 (0-1, 1-0, 1-0)
5/18: Slovakia 1 Germany 2 (0-1, 1-1, 0-0)
5/18: Russia 5 Finland 0 (1-0, 2-0, 2-0)
Quarterfinal Matchups on 5/20
#1E Russia VS. #4F Canada
#2E Finland VS. #3F Czech Republic
#1F Sweden VS. #4E Denmark
#2F Switzerland VS. #3E Germany
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