World Championships 2008: Day Nine

Sunday, 11th May 2008

The qualifying round has reached the penultimate stage and the quarter finalists are becoming clear. We also now know which two teams are relegated to Division 1 and possible opponents next April for the GB team.

Group D

The Czech Republic eliminated Belarus from quarterfinal contention with a hard fought penalty shot win. Belarus have had a good tournament and taken the big boys all the way to the wire.

The Czech Republic controlled the first period, outshooting Belarus 13-5, however, once again, the dominant team gave up the first goal. With just under 2 mins to go Chupris grabbed a loose puck from a Hnilicka save and lifted it over the blocker for 1-0. End of the 1st, 1-0 to Belarus.

The Czechs again dominated the game in the second period but it took them until the 37th minute to get the deserved equaliser. Rolinek rushed the net with Plekanec and the puck deflected in off his skate. After a lengthy review the goal stood as no distinct kicking motion was evident. End of 2nd 1-1.

The third was a cagey affair, Czech republic were still in control of the game and looking the more likely to score. Again Belarus defied the odds and took the lead for the second time. At the midpoint of the period Andrei Kostitsyn skated across the blue line with the puck and hammered a slapshot past Hnilcka for the 2-1 lead. The Czechs equalised again with 6.22 left on the clock ans Kotalik hit a Plekanec centering pass into the net. End of regulation, 2-2 and overtime.

In the first minute a long pass from Hlincka found Martin Erat who beat Koval on the backhand only to find the goal washed out for offside. Erat was so frustrated he picked up a 10 minute miscondut. The 5 minute overtime ended scoreless and we went to penalty shots.

The first round of shots resulted in Vrbata with a high backhand deke to score for the Czechs and Andrei Kostitsyn missing after a Hnilicka glove save. Patrick Elias missed in the second round and Meleshko scored with a high shot to make it 1-1 in the shootout. Kotalik put the Czechs ahead with another high backhand and Hnilicka saved Grabovsky’s shot with his pads to give the Czechs the win and the extra point.

When Russia play Sweden there is always something for everybody and this match up was no exception. As usual the first exchanges are all about setting out your stall and this time these exchanges boiled over after 10 minutes.

Sweden’s Douglas Murray checked Alexai Morozov to the upper chest/shoulders and was given a match penalty for the hit. In the fight that resulted, Strahlman for Sweden and Kovalchuk were also given 5 plus game penalties. All this after Sweden took the lead three minutes prior to the altercation. Martensson found Weinhandl in the slot and he wristed the puck past Nabokov, who was making his WC debut for Russia. The intensity did not wane and a series of penalties for slashing, roughing, tripping and cross-checking resulted in a total of 87 penalty minutes in the period. End of the first 1-0 to Sweden who had been outshot 15-8 by the Russians.

The second period saw intense hockey but this time without the misconduct and a pattern of Russian attacks and Swedish patience and counters became the order of the day. Russia equalised on 32.14 as Alexander Semin passed to Ovechkin who’s shot was saved by Lundqvist. Unfortunately for the Swedish backstop, he spilled the puck and Semin was on hand to tip it into the net. Sweden took the lead again with 50 seconds left in the period as a speculative shot from the blue line by Frogren, took a weird bounce in front of goal and Martensson was waiting to dispatch it past Nabokov. End of 2 periods and 2-1 to Sweden.

Russia looked the more determined team in the early stages of the third period and deservedly equalised with 44.57 on the clock. Federov scored off a Zaripov shot that rebounded off Lundqvist’s pads. Sweden looked to have repelled the Russian onslaught until 6 seconds from the end. There was a crazy amount of traffic around Lundqvist’s crease as first Grebeshov and then Semin both had efforts blocked before Ovechkin looped the puck in the air and it fell just over the line despite frantic efforts by the Swedes to hook the puck back. Lundqvist was so distraught that he smashed his stick on the crossbar, earning himself a 10 minute misconduct. 3-2 to Russia in a game that had everything. Russia advance to the quarter finals with Sweden also assured of a last eight berth thanks to the defeat of Belarus.

Group E

Only one game in Group E on Saturday as Canada demolished a totally disorganized rabble that masqueraded as the German national team. Four goals in the first period, followed by five in the second saw Canada go to 4 and 4 in the tournament and set up a likely match with Finland on Monday to earn top seed in the quarterfinals.

Canada’s goals were scored by Eric Stahl (4), Green, Mayers, Roy, Spezza, Heatley and Sharp. Special mention must go to Martin St Louis who bagged 5 assists. Germany did manage to score when it was 10-0 as Frank Hordler broke free and got a lucky bounce off the stick of Hamhuis to divert the shot past Cam Ward. A good display by Canada against a side that looked like rabbits in the headlights in the first two periods.

Relegation round

France took a one game advantage into the second of the best of three series, having won 3-2 on Friday night and were looking for more of the same and book their ticket to Switzerland 2009. Only change to the line up was that Italy were wearing blue and France white, opposite of the contest the night before.

The first period was nip and tuck with Italy having the best of the exchanges and they took the lead on 2.49 as Cirone tipped a rebound past Christobal Huet. Italy then got themselves into penalty trouble, just has they had done on Friday and France scored on two successive extra man plays. Firstly at 8.13 Bordeleau found Amar with a long pass to the blue line and the stand in captain found the net. Five minutes later, again on the powerplay, this time on a 2 man advantage, Bordeleau and Amar set up Treille to put Les Bleus(wearing white) in front. End of the 1st period 2-1 to France.

Italy fought back early in the second period but it was Zwikel on a two on one break with Desrosiers who gave France a two goal advantage and one foot out of the relegation mire. Italy changed goalies after this goal and the change seemed to gee up the troops and Signoretti scored short handed at 26.12 with a slapshot past Huet. The Italians pressed hard and had two powerplay opportunities before the period ended but France stood firm and held their 3-2 lead to the end of the 2nd.

The third period swung both ways as France and Italy served up a treat in the last 20 minutes. France went 4-2 in the first minute with an end to end rush and shot by Julien Desrosiers. 3 minutes later Pat Iannone lifted a rebound past Huet to reduce the deficit once again. The scorers were working overtime as within a minute France restored their 2 goal lead as Treille followed up a Francois Rozenthal shot to score on the rebound. With 9 minutes remaining Bordeleau gave France a winning 6-3 lead as he beat Gunther Hell with a bouncing nightmare of a puck and was first to react to his own rebound to make the score 6-3. Jonathan Tippis scored a consolation for Italy with 3 minutes left but France deservedly retained their Elite status for next season.

Slovakia met Slovenia in the other relegation game and a second victory would ensure their participation on Switzerland in 2009.

The Slovaks took the lead on 7.42 as Kolnik beat Hocevar with a hard slap shot to score his third of the competition. End of the period 1-0 to Slovakia.

Slovenia tied the score when they broke 2 on 1 into the Slovakian zone and Manfreda beat Lasak stick side to make it 1-1. Petrovicki put Slovakia into the lead at 31.25 and made it a 2 goal game 3 minutes later through Visnovsky. Slovakia gave themselves hope with a minute left in the period as David Rodman scored with a deflected goal. End of the second 3-2 to Slovakia.

The third was nip and tuck as Slovenia battled hard without realing looking like troubling Lasak. That was until Slovenian hero Anze Kopitar scored on 55 minutes with a howitzer which went past Lasak before he could blink. That finished the scoring and neither team could get the break through in overtime and Halifax was to witness its first penalty shoot out. Slovenia took the first shot and Lasak saved from Kopitar. Kolnik scored with a high backhand shot to put the Slovaks 1-0 up. Tomas Razingar scored through the five hole to equalise and Marcel Hossa missed for Slovakia. Denis Rodman saw his shot saved by Lasak and the Slovenian bench slumped as Visnovsky scored with a wrister to send Slovenia back to Division 1.

So Italy and Slovenia drop down to Division 1 and one of them will play GB in next years competition. They will be replaced by Austria, who return after 1 years relegation and Hungary, making their first appearance in the World Group for 33 years.

More qualifying round games tomorrow as the quarter-final line up takes shape.

Jim "Tambo" Piper

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2008 IIHF World Championships logo

Jim "Tambo" Piper reports on all the action in the 9th day of the 2008 World Championships being held in Canada.

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