World Championships 2008: Day Six

Thursday, 8th May 2008

Groups A and C were completed on Wednesday and the line up for the relegation play offs decided.

Group A

Sweden met Switzerland to decide top seeds from the group and a nearly full stadium saw another shock in the tournament. Switzerland controlled the game from the first face off and went 1-0 after 48 seconds. Thierry Paterlini reacted quicker than the Swedish defence to pick up a DiPietro rebound and tap the puck into the empty net after rounding Stefan Liv. Sweden tied the game after 10 minutes when Warg wristed a shot from left circle, completely fooling Hiller in the Swiss net. Switzerland tactically ruled the match from here on in as they backed into the neutral zone in numbers, trapping the Swedish forwards as every attack broke down. With three and a half minutes left in the first period Switzerland retook the lead as Ambuhl picked up the puck on the red line, skated round a Swedish defender and scooped the puck over the shoulder of the goalie.

The second period was goalless as the Swiss tactics frustrated the Swedes and Thibaut Monnet broke left side and backhanded the puck top shelf for 3-1. A crazy couple of minutes for Sweden made sure they would not come back into this game. Firstly Niclas Wallin picked up a game misconduct for a check to the head and a minute later Alezander Edler went on a 5 plus 10 for a check from behind. Sweden did pick up a second goal short handed with 58 seconds left as Hornqvist scored but the last word went to Switzerland and Forster who scored an empty netter for a final score of 4-2. Switzerland outworked Sweden in every department and deserved to go to the next round as group leaders. Niclas Wallin was later suspended for 2 games for his late hit in the game.

France played Belarus to decide who would drop to the relegation round in the group’s final game.

The game was a cagey affair with France reluctant to take the game to Belarus. The East European team took the lead on 12.57 as Kaluzhny slid a shot through Huet’s pads. The Kostitsyin brothers, fresh in from Montreal each got an assist on the play. France equalised with just seven seconds left in the period with a backhander from Coqueux from behind the goal that hit the goalie’s leg and stopped 2 inches over the line. Belarus took the lead again on 27.48 with Ugarov tipping a Leontiev shot through the goalie’s legs. End of the 2nd, 2-1 to Belarus and France with it all to do.

Huet was outstanding in the third as he kept Belarus from adding to their lead. With just less than a minute left Huet tried to get off the ice for the extra man but was caught in no mans land as Belarus broke down the French attack. Andrei Kostitsyin picked up the puck in the neutral zone and slid the puck into the unguarded net with Huet scrambling back. That was it and Belarus qualified for the next round and France must now meet Italy on Friday in a best of three series starting on Friday to try and retain their World Group status.

The group ended with Switzerland top on 9 points, Sweden second on 6, Belarus on 3 and France at the bottom with 0 points.

Group C

Finland ended the preliminary stage with a narrow win over Slovakia. The win was to prove catastrophic for the Slovaks later on in the evening.

Finland took the lead on 2 mins through Kapinen and doubled that advantage 11 minutes later with a powerplay goal from Ruutu. Slovakia hit back and levelled the game before the end of the first period with goals from Petrovicky and Kovacic. Five minutes into the second period, Finnish legend Teemmu Selanne scored the winner on the powerplay and a goalless third period saw the Finns march on with 3 wins from 3 games.

In the last game of the preliminaries Norway knew that a regulation win over Germany would see them make the next round and send Slovakia surprisingly into the relegation games. Things did not start well for the Norwegians as Germany took the lead after only 6 mins with a powerplay goal from NHL’er Marco Sturm. The Germans doubled their lead 4 minutes into the second period through Goggulla and it looked like curtains for Norway. Holtet gave them hope on 34mins with a goal on a 5 on 3 powerplay and the second period ended 2-1 to Germany.

Norway threw caution to the wind in the third and were rewarded with an equaliser after 47 minutes. Zuccarello Assen , a young 21 year old addition to the Norwegian team got the mark with assists from Hanssen and Trygg. The small Norwegian band of fans outshouted the more numerous German fans with 4 minutes to go when captain Ask scored the winner on a 5 on 3 powerplay to take the lead 3-2. At the end of the game the whole Norway team went berserk as they celebrated qualification to the next round.

Finland top the group with 9 points, Norway take second on 4, Germany and Slovakia are tied on 3 points but it’s the Germans who go through as a result of their win against Slovakia last week. For the Slovaks this is a disaster and they now must pick themselves up for the relegation series against Slovenia on Friday.


Major talking point prior to today’s games was the suspension of Germany’s Jason Holland for the remainder of the competition for eligibility reasons. Jason has played 3 years in the DEL and the Germans thought he could play under the 2 year qualification rule. However, as Holland had played for Canada in an Under 20 IIHF tournament in 1996 and therefore needed 4 years qualification. Under normal circumstances , the two games he played in should have been forfeited 5-0. After an extraordinary meeting the IIHF council decided not to enforce the forfeitures but to suspend Holland from the rest of the tournament.

Thursday will see the first of the qualifying round matches and Friday’s games will include the first of the best of three relegation series between France and Italy and Slovakia and Slovenia.

More tomorrow

Jim "Tambo" Piper

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