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World Championships 2008: Day Five

Wednesday, 7th May 2008

Preliminary round Groups B and D were finalised after Wednesday’s games.

Group B

Top game in this group was the match up between Canada and USA with the winner topping the group. Both teams had qualified for the next round prior to this game.

America came out of the traps like a greyhound and peppered goalie Cam Ward from all angles. However, it was Canada who took the lead on 8.26 with a rocket of a shot from Brent Burns from the point. USA again dominated play but it was Canada who went 2-0 up with the Heatley/Getzlaf/Nash line again coming up trumps and Heatley pushed one past Thomas on 19.49. 2-0 to Canada at the end of the first but the period was totally dominated by USA who outshot Canada 13-6.

Canada opened up a 3 goal and seemingly unassailable lead with just 18 seconds on the second period clock. Jonathan Toews grabbed a loose puck and fired past Thomas before he could react. This USA team does not know how to give up and 24 seconds later they edged themselves into the game with a goal from Zach Parise and 2 minutes later they made it a one goal game as O’Sullivan went one on one with goalie Cam Ward and deked the puck past for 3-2. That was all the scoring in the second with USA again dominating and they appeared to be the team that would go on and win the game.

USA changed their goalie to give back up John Tortorella some experience at the start of the third, but this looked to have backfired as Canada went 4-2 up through a Chris Kunitz one-timer. America were not done yet and two minutes later they again reduced the deficit with a powerplay goal from Dustin Brown. USA looked like they were going to take the game to overtime when they sensationally evened up the scoring with a Pominville power play goal. The drama was not over and with less than one minute left Getzlaf bore down the left wing and fed Heatley all alone in front of goal to get the game winning goal. Final score 5-4 to Canada but great sympathy around the rink for the courageous USA team.

In the group’s final game, Latvia played Slovenia in a winner takes all qualification match up with the loser going into the relegation play offs.

The first period ended scoreless but a dominant Latvia outshot Slovenia 12-4. Scoring chances were at a premium with the best of them coming to Martins Cipulis on a penalty shot after being pulled down when clean through. Kristan actually made a great save but the referee had already blown for the penalty shot. Galvins raced in and deked the goalie to the forehand but the shot went high and wide.

Latvia took the lead on 29.55 after being awarded their second penalty shot of the night. This time Daugavins was pulled down and this time Cipulis deked Kristan and when the goalie was sprawled on the ice, roofed the puck. A minute later Latvia scored their second when Sirokovs scored on a pass from Cipulis End of the second period and Latvia were looking like being the team to advance to the next round.

Latvia dominated the third period without scoring until an empty netter in the final minute from Sirokovs ended the game 3-0 to Latvia. Overall, Latvia’s best performance so far as they kept Slovenian dangerment Kopitar and Razingar well away from scoring opportunities.

The group ends with Canada on maximum 9 points, USA on 6 and Latvia with 3, as the qualifiers for the next round. Slovenia now move to the relegation round and a best of 3 series against the bottom team in Group C to retain a place in the World Group.

GROUP D

The three qualifiers in the group had already been decided before today’s games. Only positioning was now left to be decided.

Russia ended up topping the group by beating Denmark 4-1 in their final round robin game. The red machine were in command right from the beginning but despite outshooting the Danes 13-3, had only one goal to show for their efforts. On 10.38 Afinogenov picked up a loose puck on the red line and sent a screened shot past Galbraith for 1-0.

7.07 into the second and top NHL’er Alexander Ovechkin doubled the Russian lead with a one timer on a Fedorov pass from the slot. With 10 mins gone in the period, it was 3-0 as Ovechkin screened a Fedorov effort from the blue line. Huge relief on Fedorov’s face to finally get a goal after having two efforts washed out in Russia’s first game against Italy.

Russia made it 4-0 on 42.47 when Gorovikov hit a rebound under the arm of young Danish goalie Galbraith. Denmark eventually scored late in the game on the power play. Kim Staal beat Biryukov with a quick shot to make the final score 4-1. Denmark have definitely improved since last year when Russia overwhelmed them 9-1 but they are still looking for their first victory over the red machine, having lost all four meetings dating back to 2003.

The Czech Republic duly beat Italy to take second place in the group. The first period was full of surprises as Italy had the audacity to take a 2-1 lead before being caught just before the period end. The Czechs had taken the lead on 41 seconds with Erat nipping in front of veteran Gunther Hell in the Italian goal, finishing off a pair of neat passes by Elias and Kaberle. The crowd were stunned 18 seconds later as Italy stormed up the ice, gaining a face off on the left side. Luca Ansoldi , brazenly shot the puck from the face off through netminder Pinc’s legs for the equaliser. 2 minutes later the Italians had the lead when Fontanive battled his way down the left wing, found space inside and slapped a beut over Pinc’s glove side. This shocked the Czechs and on 4 minutes they made it a 2-2 game. Vrbata cut in from the right wing and hit the puck towards centre goal. It hit a defender, came back to him and he duly slotted a backhand past the goalie for the equaliser. End of the 1st 2-2. Czech Republic continued their dominance into the second period and they took the lead at 21.29 as Zidlicky one timed a pass from the left circle through Hell’s five-hole. With just over half the game gone Vrbata hit a wrister under the crossbar to give the Czechs a bit of breathing space. Two goals at the end of the period from Elias and Kuba made it 6-2 and the points were safe in Czech hands.

The republic eased off in the third, only troubling the score once at 43.53 with a goal from Jaroslav Hlinka. An easy victory in the end over a plucky Italian side.

Russia end the group on 8 points with the Czech Republic on 7. Denmark are the third qualifiers on 3 points and Italy now go to the relegation round against the loser of the Belarus v France game at the end of the week in a best of 3 game series.

Wednesday night will see the last round robin games in Groups A and C.

Group A has Sweden v Switzerland to decide the group winners and France v Belarus to find the third qualifier. Loser of this game will go to the relegation match against Italy. Group C games are Finland v Slovakia and Norway v Germany with only Finland guaranteed a place in the next round. Any one of the other three could end up in a relegation series against Slovenia.

More tomorrow

Jim "Tambo" Piper

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Day five of the World Championships decided the placings in Groups B and D


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