World Championships 2011 - Day 11

Tuesday, 10th May 2011

Monday saw the last of the qualifying games in Groups E and F with the top four progressing to the knockout quarter finals. The medals are getting closer.

Group E

Slovakia 4-1 Denmark

Slovakia and Denmark were not just playing for pride on Monday afternoon. Yes, both teams had already lost any chance of qualifying for the quarter finals but they were playing to finish as high in the rankings as possible. One place can make all the difference in the placements for next season’s competition in Finland and Sweden.

Denmark drew first blood on 4.09 when Mads Christensen took the puck from Bodker in the neutral zone, waltzed past Ruzicka and backhanded past Halak. Slovakia gave its long suffering but faithful fans something to cheer about on 10.10 when Stumpel deflected a Jurcina shot into the net for the equaliser. Veteran Miro Satan gave the hosts the lead with 4.08 left in the period with a neat wraparound goal.

No goals in the second period but there were a couple of noteworthy points. Half way through the period, Patrick Galbraith in the Danish goal was shaken up as he took a slapshot to the face mask half way through the period. After lengthy treatment, he decided to play on. Slovakia were on top, but unable to break through the stuffy Danish defence and frustration built up. Miro Satan let things get the better of him in the last minute of the period and had a little wrestling match with defenseman Jesper Jensen. End of the second and still 2-1 Slovakia.

Marian Hossa ended the game as a contest 32 seconds into the third period with the Slovakian third goal of the game. Goalie Halak earned himself a point on this one as he passed long to Gaborik, who in turn fed Hossa on the left wing. Hossa cut inside and squeezed the puck through Galbraith’s pads for 3-1. Denmark should have done better on a two minute 5 on 3 advantage but their minds were definitely on their summer holidays by this time and did not trouble Halak. Zednik scored number 4 for Slovakia with 50.05 on the clock when he took a pass from Handzus and shot from the right faceoff circle past Galbraith. Final score 4-1.

Russia 2-3 Finland (Penalty Shots)

This is always one of the match ups of the tournament. Russia v Finland never disappoints and this game was no exception. 9,222 fans packed into the arena and saw an old fashioned hockey game.

Russia have a new focus. Their game is not just about the super skills of Ovechkin and the Z line. Everybody is now talking about the Hulk. Yevgeni Artyukhin that is. This monster is a hockey manager’s dream. He is a brute of a guy who can play a bit as well. He parks himself on the edge of the crease and it takes explosives to move him. He hits like a train and knocks the stuffing out of the opposition, leaving the way clear for the skill guys to make the most of their chances. He was only on the ice for about 8 minutes in this game but created havoc in that time. He hit Pihlstrom with an unbelievable open ice hit early on that took him several minutes to recover. His assist on the first goal of the game came from a check that turned the puck over. Kulikov picked the loose puck up and shot from the left point for Kulyomin to tip past Vehanen. Timed at 4.36. One minute later, Russia doubled their lead. Zaripov centred from behind the net to Nikulin who quickly beat Vehanen for 2-0. Finland called a time out and surprisingly pulled Vehanen in favour of Lassila. Russia continued to dominate the period, out shooting the Finns 14-3. Lassila came up big on two occasions, robbing Ovechkin with a tight glove save and a superb stop on an Atyushov one timer. End of the first period, 2-0 to Russia.

Finland woke up in the second and Barulin had to earn his corn with point blank back to back saves from Kapanen and Komarov. Finland did get on the scoreboard when at 26.59 Mikko Koivu tipped a drive from Pasi Puistola to make it a one goal game. The equaliser came at 36.39 with a goal from d man Janne Niskala. Jarkko Immonen won a draw and pushed the puck back to Niskala to send a howitzer over Barulin’s glove. Artyukin was still causing havoc all over the ice and nearly scored himself near the end of the period. End of the 2nd and 2-2.

Russia pressed hard for the go ahead goal early in the third period as Ovechkin and Afinogenov just failed to team up on a 2 on 1. Kovalchuk also came close with a quick shot from the high slot but Lassila got his glove up quick enough to hold on. Finland also had their chances, especially on a long 5 on 3 advantage, but failed to convert the pressure into a goal. With Russia needing a regulation win to move up the standings, it was surprising that they did not pull the goalie near the end for the extra skater, especially as a regulation loss would not have altered anything. The game fizzled out as a 2-2 draw and Finland had the only shot on goal in the overtime period. Penalty shots it was to be.

Jarkko Immonen scored for Finland with the first penalty shot and Lassila saved Kovalchuk’s effort. Koivu planted Finlands second shot past Barulin and Morozov had his shot saved by Lassila to give the Finns the extra point.

Germany 2-5 Czech Republic

The Czech Republic increased their record to 6 wins in regulation with a comfortable performance against Germany. They got off to a dream start when, on the first shift of the game, Jaromir Jagr carried the puck into the German zone and found Tomas Plekanec, who spu around and sent the puck goalward. It hit Justin Kruegers stick and deflected past Endras for 1-0. This was the second game in which Germany lost an “own goal” and just like last time, they recovered to tie the game. With both sides a man down thanks to a bit of roughing between Holzer and Elias, Lavalee sent a wrister from the top of the circle and John Tripp was there to swipe the rebound past Jakub Stepanek, playing his first game of the tournament. With 10.38 gone Jiri Novotny found Michael Frolik in the slot and the latter’s wrister hit Holzer on the thigh and bounced into the net. How unlucky can a team get. End of the first period and it is 2-1 to Czech Republic.

Czech Republic dominated the second period and scored 3 unanswered goals. To be honest, Germany were completely outclassed and it looked like a training scrimmage rather than a WC game. Jaromir Jagr took over and gave a master class. Firstly sending a pass across the German zone from the half way line to Karel Rachunek who one timed it into the net on 22.47. It was 4-1 on 35.34 when Cervenka found Jagr, who shot from the high slot. The shot was weak but went straight to Plekanec who tipped it past Endras for his second goal of the game. 1.24 later the score went to 5-1. Prucha and Havlat turned the German defence inside out and it was left to Prucha to find Elias at the far post to score. End of the second period, 5-1 to the Czechs.

With the result beyond any doubt, both teams conserved their energies with the quarter finals looming. Germany did manage to score in the third when Greilinger beat Stepanek with a slap shot from the top of the left face off circle. That ended the scoring and Czech Republic finished the qualifying stage with maximum points.

Group E ended with Czech Republic on top after 3 wins and 15 points. Finland were second on 10, Germany third on 8 and Russia disappointingly in fourth place on 7 points. Hosts Slovakia were a major disappointment to the home fans ending fifth on 3 points and Denmark bottom without a regulation win and 2 points.

Group F

France 2-5 Norway

With France already having no chance of making the quarter finals, it was Norway who had to make the running in this game if they were to make it through at the expense of Switzerland.

France started the strongest and should have taken the lead after 2 minutes. Meunier broke out shorthanded but Haugen in the Norwegian goal was not fooled when the Frenchman went to his backhand and grabbed the puck. A minute later Norway’s Skroder tried a similar move but this time the switch to the back hand worked and he top shelved past Huet for 1-0 Norway. 26 seconds later the Holtet show started as he took a pass from Spets in the French zone, moving to the left hash mark and unleashing a ripper behind Huet and 2-0. Fair play to France, they never gave up and made it 2-1 after 10.57. Tollefsen turned the puck over in his own zone and Damien Fleury hit the puck from the right slot past Haugen to score. Any hope of France making it to the first break in contention was ended on 17.50. Holtet scored his second of the night, controlling a bobbling puck on his way to the slot, cut left and chopped the puck in from close range with Huet nowhere. End of the first period Norway lead 3-1.

The French team at World Championships are never dull and boring. They kept that reputation in the second period of this game. Chasing a 1-3 scorline, one would not expect them to do it from the penalty box. Minor penalties at 24.34, 27.04, 29.16 and 30.33 were followed by a shorthanded goal by Meunier on 31.20. The French captain sped towards the Norwegian net and collected a pin point pass from Kevin Hecquefeuille and finished with aplomb to make it 3-2. One would think France would see the error of their ways and keep out of the box to make a game of it. Nahhhhhh , it worked before with 4 men, why not try it with 3. Brian Henderson shot the puck out of the building for a 2 minute delay of game then Bellemare took a hooking penalty to give Norway the 2 man advantage. This time the shock French tactics did not work and Holtet got his hat trick from a centring pass by Skroder on 15.19. End of a eventful second period 4-2 to the Polar Bears.

France were not finished in the penalty box and picked up another 14 minutes and gave away a penalty shot in the third. Holtet scored his 4th goal of the game on 52.26 when he cut through the middle of the slot and planted the puck past Huet for 5-2. Treilles went to the locker room at 56.14 when he picked up a 2 plus 10 for elbows and Olimb missed a penalty shot with 2 minutes left after he had been hooked by Hecquefeuille. Final score 5-2 to Norway.

Norway’s offence has been a delight to watch this tournament and 22 goals in 6 games have been rewarded by a quarter final place.

Switerland 5-3 USA

Switzerland came into this game knowing it was their last of the tournament due to Norway’s win over France in the afternoon. USA also knew their fate and they would be playing Czech Republic in the quarter final. Would it affect the type of game we would see? No idea, but it ended up a run and gun shooting fest.

Craig Smith opened the scoring on 11.01 as he shrugged off Matthias Bieber, took the pass from Wilson and beat Stephan from the edge of the crease. 1-0 USA. Switzerland had only scored 5 goals up until this time in the competition and it was a major surprise when they hit back within 30 seconds. Loetscher scored a goal for the hockey purists. He cut out from the left wing in the US zone, found his way through traffic and beat Conklin high on the short side for 1-1. At 14.10 Switzerland took the lead when their first line finally clicked. A neat move between Pluss and Rutheman ended with Diaz firing the puck past Conklin. The puck just made it over the line before being swept away by USA D man Mike Brown. The referee went to the video judge who confirmed the puck had just crossed the line. 2-1 Switzerland and that is how it stayed at the end of the first period.

The Swiss top line scored again on 21.06 with leading scorer Ivo Ruthemann hitting the net, assisted by Bieber and Pluss. USA then scored on 26.09 when Ryan Shannon drove the net hard and slipped the puck past Stephan before everybody was taken into the Swiss net by Gerber. Once again, the review judge was asked for his opinion and he adjudged that the puck had indeed crossed the line before the net was dislodged. Goal and 3-2 Switzerland. On 31 minutes young Kevin Loetscher scored his second goal of the game when he pounced on a loose puck off the end boards and blasted a shot top shelf past Conklin to regain the two goal advantage. USA then changed their goalie, giving Montoya the second half of the game. End of the second period and 4-2 Switzerland.

USA battled in the third period and took the game to Switzerland but were unable to breach the Swiss defence until 58.17. James van Riemsdyk, playing in his first game of the tournament, made it 4-3 as he made the left side of the slot and fired past Stephan to make it a one goal game. With just over a minute left, USA pulled their goalie for the extra outskater, but paid the price on 59.43 as Ryan Gardiner hit the back of the empty net to give Switzerland a 5-3 win.

Canada 3-2 Sweden

This was another game with the sceptics pondering some sort of foul play scenarios. Due to the afternoon’s results, the winner of this game would play Russia and the loser would have the seemingly easier game against Germany.

If there was any doubt about the integrity of the game, the first 4 minutes should have put all that to bed. Canada scored after 1.08. Rick Nash passed through the centre as James Neal rushed the net and snapped the shot low past Ersberg. On 3.43 Sweden equalised on the power play . Berglund’s shot from the point was saved by Bernier, but the rebound was pounced on by Petrasek to score.

At 13.20 Canada regained the lead when John Tavares bundled the puck through a plethora of bodies around the creases and into the net after Ersberg stopped Skinner’s original shot. End of the second 2-1 Canada. Sweden scored the only goal of the second period. On the powerplay, with Tavares in the box on a hooking penalty, Silfverberg fed Tedenby and his low shot beat Bernier low down at the post. Not a goal Bernier would definitely like back. Only one goal in the period but plenty of highlights. Two of the best came firstly from Bernier when he pokechecked Mikael Backlund who came in on goal from the left and Ersberg making a superb glove save to rob Evander Kane. End of the second period and the game is tied at 2-2.

Canada scored the winner midway through the third period. Rick Nash tipped a powerful Brent Burns wrister from the point to beat Ersberg on the glove side. Canada had a great chance to make the game safe with three and a half minutes left when they had a 2 man power play advantage. However Canada chose to play the safe option and used the time up with puck possession to close out a 3-2 win.

Group F finished up with Canada on top with 13 points, Sweden second on 10, Norway third on 8 and USA fourth with 7 points. Switzerland on 6 and France on 1 fail to qualify and are playing golf on Wednesday instead of a quarter final game.

Quarter Final Preview

Czech Republic v USA

Got to go with the Czechs in this game. Pavalec has proved himself to be a more than capable replacement for Tomas Vokoun from last year’s team. On defence, all do their jobs with consummate ease and in Marek Zidlicky they have a defender who is more than comfortable jumping into play. Milan Michalek and Tomas Plekanec are the top goal scorers for the Czechs and in Jaromir Jagr, they have a guy who can still do the business at the highest level. As the competition progresses, he is the one that will feel the most comfortable. USA have struggled in the goal scoring department and this is where they may come unstuck. Ty Conklin and Al Montoya are relatively new to this level of competition and I feel that this pairing may be found wanting.

Prediction: Czech Republic 4 USA 1

Sweden v Germany

Germany have had a great competition and are reaping the benefits of having hosted last year. Endras is not far away from being an NHL goalie. On defence Dennis Reul has the makings of a good D man but this competition may be a couple of years too soon for him. Nicolae Goc is an experienced d man but again, nobody has that much experience at the level required. Felix Schutze is their top goal scorer and it is hard to see where the goals are going to come from in the knockout stages. In defence Nicklas Grossman of Dallas is the most experienced and Sweden may find this stage a problem. Viktor Fasth is a competent goalie and will come up big when required at quarter finals, after that who knows. Not much between the teams this year and I am going for:

Sweden 3 Germany 1

Finland v Norway

I absolutely hate trying to predict Finland games. They never ever play to the script. In goal they have Petri Vehanen. He is only 23 years old and is one of the best in the championships. He backstops Bars Kazan in the KHL and is truly one of the best in the world. In front of him he has Salmela from the New Jersey Devils and Janne Niskalla, now of Magnitogorsk but played 6 games for Tampa Bay and also 10 games for Manchester Storm. A big tough D man who likes to join up with the attack. Up front Finland have Jarkko Immonen and Tuomo Ruutu with 5 goals each so far.

Norway have one of the most potent offence of all the teams left in the competition. Holtet has 6 goals and Bastiansen has 3. This game could be a run and gun game and thus is difficult to predict.

Prediction Finland 3 Norway 2

Canada v Russia

Canada’s young guns against the Russian old guard. On paper Russia should walk it, but they have not played well and Bykhov the coach has had major problems. In goal, Canada have Reimer and Russia should have Barulin. However, the Russian coach for some reason prefers Nabukov, who has had a shocking tournament. This could be a key decision in the tournament. If Russia plays Nabukov, I would say Canada will win. If it is Barulin, Canada will have a real problem. In goal for Canada, Reimer is a capable young keeper but definitely inexperienced. The Russian Z line of Zaripov, Zinoviev and Morozov can score for fun. On Canada’s side there is Tavares and Eberle.

Prediction Canada 2 Russia 3

Well there you have it, stuck my neck out and ready to be shot.

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World Championships 2011 - Day 10

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