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World Championships 2008: Quarter-finals

Thursday, 15th May 2008

Wednesday saw the last eight teams in the competition match up in the first knockout stage.

CZECH REPUBLIC V SWEDEN

First up were Czech Republic v Sweden. Local pundits said that this game was too close to call and it certainly proved so. The first period was a cagey affair with both teams sizing each other up. The importance of not making a mistake was there to be seen . With 2.16 gone, the Czechs made the firstone when Kohn crosschecked Andersson in the face and went to the box on 2 plus 10. I thought the referee was a bit lenient and Kohn very luck to stay in the game. The powerplay lasted only a minute as Weinhandl went to the box for holding. The rest of the period was nip and tuck and despite 9 shots for Sweden and 8 for Czech Republic, the period ended 0-0. One great shot and save of note was Hnilicka denying Hornqvist from point blank range.

The game was raised by both teams in the second and Czech Republic started to find chinks in the strong Swedish armour. However it was Sweden who took the lead on 26.29 on the powerplay. Backstrom and Nilsson passed and played the puck to Stralman on the point. Hnilicka saved but the rebound fell to Hornqvist on the edge of the crease to tip it in. 1-0 Sweden and slightly against the run of play.

The Czechs were level three minutes later as Kolinek wristed a shot from left circle. Lundqvist saved but the huge rebound fell to Rolinek between the circles and his one timer went in along the ice between Lundqvist’s pads. No more scoring after 40 minutes and the game could not have been closer. Equal on goals, equal on shots on goal, equal on save percentages and equal on minor penalties. The pundits certainly got this one right. Twenty minutes to go and not a hairs breadth between the teams.

The Czechs took the game to Sweden early in the third and hit Lundqvist with shot after shot but the superb Swedish backstop was up to them all. It was going to take something different to beat him and that duly came along after 52.19 when the Czechs were awarded a penalty shot after Vrbata was tripped on a breakaway by Hornqvist. For some strange reason just as Vrbata was working up to his shot, the zambonis came out to clean the ice. All I can think of there was that they thought it was a penalty shot at the end of the game where the centre ice is cleaned. This did not faze Vrbata who beat Lundqvist stick side with a backhander. Sweden came back strong and with 3.38 left in the game equalised. Nilsson hit a wrister that beat Hnilicka on the glove side for 2-2. Hnilicka was actually sat on the ice after being bumped by Wallin just before the shot came in. The Czechs demanded a video review but the goal stood and we were heading to overtime.

They say you need some luck to win a medal and Sweden gave themselves a chance to get one 3.15 into overtime. The Czechs had just killed a powerplay but Sweden managed to hold the puck in the offensive zone. After a melee just in front of Hnilicka Weinhandle forced the puck home while lying on his back just outside the crease. The puck hit a couple of sticks and skates and fond its way past the despairing Hnilicka. A horrible way to lose a quarter final but that’s the way it goes sometime. The stats will show 31 shots on goal each but a score of 3-2 to Sweden and they move to the semi finals on Friday.

CANADA V NORWAY

The hosts were next up and quoted as overwhelming favourites to beat Norway, who were just elated at reaching the last eight. Canada jumped all over Norway in the first passage of play and took the lead right from the opening face off. Dany Heatley picked up the puck on centre ice and skated down the left side. Two defencemen tried to check him but his strength took him through and he fired a routine shot on goal. Grotnes would certainly like another go at the save as the puck deceived him and entered the net. Norway equalised on a 5 on 3 powerplay at 7.51. Norway made some nice pretty moves around the zone then Morten ask just blew a ripsnorter from the top of the face off circle. Canada got the goahead goal at 11.02 on a 5 on 3 of their own as Ryan Getzlaf slapped home a loose puck in the slot. Norway had another 5 on 3 chance late in the period but the Canadian defence held firm. There were nine minor penalties alone in the first period including three 5 on 3 situations. Surpirse surprise, the referees were the same two incompetent Russians that made a mess of the Finland v USA game a few days ago. End of the 1st and 2-1 to Canada.

Canada totally dominated the first five minutes of the second period, and not for the first time these championships, the team under pressure come up with the goods. 25.32 on the clock and Olimb took a pass from Bastiansen in the slot and fired off a quick shot that beat Cam Ward gloveside. The fourth 5 on 3 powerplay of the game went to Canada and they took the lead 1 second after the first penalty expired with Jonathan Toews powering a shot high past Grotnes. 3-2 and this time Canada did not let Norway back into the game. A powerplay goal on 34.08 gave Canada a 4-2 lead as Derek Roy scored his first of two goals in a minute. The period ended with four more minor penalties and a score of 5-2 to Canada.

With the game over, Canada eased up but still managed 3 goals. Rick Nash picked up two goals and Derek Roy got his hat trick with a nice solo goal with 8 minutes left.

In the end an easy victory for Canada, despite a valiant effort from Norway in the first half of the game.

RUSSIA V SWITZERLAND

The mean red machine showed two sides to its character in this game as they blew Switzerland out of the water with 3 goals in their first 4 shots on goal. First up was Semin who raced into the zone and wristed a screened shot through the five hole on 1.46 for the go ahead goal. Less than 60 seconds later Afinogenov rushed down the right win cut through the defence and pushed the puck through Gerber. It looked like Swiss defender Diaz had helped the puck past his goalie. 6.23 on the clock and the game was effectively over as a contest. Phillipe Furrer won the puck off a face off in his own end on the penalty kill and tried to clear it round the boards. Unfortunately for him all he managed to do was slam it into his own net. Zaripov was the last Russian to touch the puck and he was awarded the goal.

Just to make matters worse for the Swiss Nabokov was showing everybody why he is an NHL starter when he sprawled to stop Sprunger scoring. Seconds later he made a spectacular glove save from Forster. No further goals in the period and with the shot count at 8-8 Russia had a probable game winning lead of 3-0.

Russia went 4-0 up a minute into the second period as Federov crossed the blue line and hammered a cannon over Gerber’s glove from the top of the circle. 5 minutes later it was 5-0. Afinogenov scored his second of the game as he roofed a shot high passed Berger. That was the end of Martin Gerber’s championship and Hiller came in for the rest of match. With four minutes left in the period Julien Sprunger was hit in the face and had to be helped off the ice. Alexander Ovechkin got in on the scoring act at 38.07 when he took a superb pass from Korneyev which came from the Russian goal line to the Swiss blueline. Ovechkin deked Hiller and slid the puck through the legs for 6-0. End of the second 6-0 to Russia and a place in the semi final beckoned.

No more scoring in the third period but there was one major talking point. Kovalchuk, who has been having a nightmare of a tournament and is still without a goal, brutally charged Julien Vauclair in the Russian end. The Swiss d-man lay motionless on the ice for several minutes as paramedics were summoned. Vauclair managed to skate off to the dressing room but later word was that he had gone to hospital with possible internal injuries. Kovalchuk is suspended for the semi final and one can only hope that he incurs a heftier ban from the discipline committee.

Back to the hockey and a superb, clinical display by Russia as they advance to the semi finals again.

FINLAND V USA

This was the game all the neutrals were waiting on. The round robin match ended in a brawl and one wondered if anything was going to carry over to the quarter final.

Fortunately two of the best referees in world hockey were allocated to this game and they kept a tight reign on the match without the ridiculous penalty count we had in the first match. Both teams spent the first period sizing each other up, neither willing to commit and caution was the order of the first period. Finland took the lead at 9.46 with only their third shot of the game. Tuomo Ruutu scored his fourth of the tournament as he slapped a backhand between Robert Esche’s pads. Finland seemed happy to hold the lead for the rest of the period and shut off all avenues for the Americans. End of 1st Finland 1 USA 0.

There was more offence on show by Finland in the second and took a two goal lead on 25.45 on the powerplay. Twenty seconds into the powerplay Janne Niskala blasted a howitzer past a startled Robert Esche. This was the young Finn’s first WC goal and word is that it will not be long before the ex Manchester Storm D man makes his way into the NHL with Nashville Predators. He is currently with Milwaukee in the AHL.

It was going to be hard for USA to get back into this game, but one thing for sure, this young American side has a never give up attitude. The period ended 1.18 early as a plexi plane fell out in the American zone and the time would be added to the third.

End of two Finland 2 USA 0.

USA huffed and puffed in the final stanza and they just could not find a way past a superbly organised Finnish defence. The the whole game turned upside down in the space of a minute. With only 4.16 left in the game Phil Kessel tipped a Tim Gleason slapshot for 2-1. Less than a minute later Drew Stafford equalised with an assist from Burish. Déjà vu or what ? Exactly the same circumstances as the quarter final between the two sides in Moscow, Finland looking home and dry and USA powering back into the game.

And so to overtime for the second time in a row in the quarter finals between Finland and USA. Koivu had the first chance to win the game after 1 minute as he intercepted the puck and drove the net, putting his shot high into the netting. Parise and Brown had chances to win the game for USA before the game winning strike.

3.59 on the clock and Finland made it to the semi finals when Sami Lepisto jumped in on the play to score, assisted by Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne.

Not the most entertaining game in the championships but still one worthy of the quarter finals. Finland deserved the win but great credit must go to the young USA side who played some fast, entertaining hockey throughout the tournament.

The semis...

The four remaining teams have a day off on Thursday before the semi finals in Quebec on Friday.

First up is a repeat of last year’s semi final between Russia and Finland then in the evening game, hosts Canada play Sweden.

See you Friday

Jim "Tambo" Piper

Related reads

2008 IIHF World Championships logo

The World Championships have got to the quarter-finals stages.


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