Today was a sad day for the USA as Sweden remembered the hockey powerhouse they are, with alternate captain Patrik Berglund once again leading the offense with two goalsâ€”and Al Montoya forgot the goalie he can be in face of the Swedish onslaught. And an onslaught it was; after watching the replay on Versus I can safely say that the Americans were outplayed when it comes to puck pursuit and physicality, especially during the second and third period. The Swedes were fast and aggressive, and the pressure they put on the US led to six goals allowed, the three of which set the tone for the game and were as much Montoyaâ€™s responsibility as they were Swedenâ€™s.
The first period was steady for both teams, with both goaltenders making some nice saves and play occurring at both ends of the ice. Patrik Berglund opened the scoring almost at the end of the period off a giveaway by Mark Stuart, and Cam Fowler responded shortly after on the power play to make it 1-1 at the end of the first period. The second period opened with a Montoya mistake: he backhanded the puck straight to Mattias Tedenby, who got it to Blackhawks prospect Marcus Kruger for the first goal. Then Mattias Sjogren, who had a goal and two assists in the game, shot at Montoyaâ€™s gloveâ€”and the puck went off his glove and straight across the line. To top it off, Magnus Paajarviâ€™s pass attempt was deflected to Montoya, who did not clear it fast enough and instead dribbled it for Patrik Berglund to record his second goal and make the game 4-1.
Halfway through the third period, USAâ€™s Blake Wheeler tallied his own goal to make it a 4-2 game, but Jimmie Ericsson and alternate captain David Petrasek would each score once more, with the latter taking advantage of a power play due to a Jack Johnson cross-checking penaltyâ€”a result of both frustration and lack of discipline that was evident as the third period began to wind down. Consequently, Sweden defeated the US 6-2, taking the top spot in group C to move forward into the Qualification Round as part of Group F. (A more detailed game summary, including a link to the game sheet, can be found here.)Â Friday will be the next time each squad plays, with Sweden facing France and the United States facing Canada.
After the jump: the Czech Republic and Sweden both carry wins into the Qualification Round.
Friday will also be the moment where neighbors (and former countrymen) Czech Republic and Slovakia will be meeting as part of group E now that the Czech Republic has defeated Finland. As is usually the case between the two teams, yesterdayâ€™s game had few goals but a lot of battles. You could see both teams fighting it out both in the physicality they displayedâ€”and the penalties they took. The constant see-saw of penalties meant that momentum kept shifting between teams, and when the Czechs didnâ€™t score on a 5-on-3, it seemed like Finland could pull the game their way. But Pavelec said no, and Milan Michalek took advantage of a second-period power play to give his team the lead. Jaromir Jagr, who ran the show during the third period by creating a lot of scoring chances, got to score the game-winning goal less than three minutes into said frame. Pavelec was solid in the face of Finnish pressure, and it took 20 seconds to go and six skaters for Finland to crack the former Wolf and end his shutout. Finlandâ€™s coach Jukka Jalonen summed up the game perfectly: â€œWe had a lot of scoring chances; I think we had over 20 chances on power play, but we just couldn’t score. Their goalie played a great game, covered down low, and we couldn’t get the puck high enough.â€ Both teams are headed to the Qualification Round, with Finland taking on Germany on Friday and the Czechs and the Slovaks having a bit of a reunion match.
Loyalties at Runs on Duncan will certainly be divided in more than one game, but we can all agree that there should be some great hockey for us tomorrow.
To tide us over in the meantime, yesterdayâ€™s results will give us a game to talk about later today, as Norway will be facing Switzerland in the opening for the Qualification Round. After a shaky start, the Norwegians â€œcrushed them,â€ to quote Morten Ask. Eerikki Koivu opened the scoring with the help of alternate captain Anders Bastiansen and former IceHog Mathis Olimb, who has been making Rockford and Norway fans alike quite proud so far. He then got help from Bastiansen to score his own goal, and passed on the help along with Per-Age Skroder so Jonas Holos could score a power play goal of his ownâ€”all of this in the first period. The second period saw Bastiansen and Olimb combine once again for Lars Erik Spets to make it 4-0, and halfway through the third period Olimb and Skroder got Bastiansen his goal to achieve the final score of 5-0. Thatâ€™s right, folks: Mathis Olimb had a goal and four assists and was a +3, making him the best player in the game, at least numerically. Can I be super sad heâ€™s returning to FrÃ¶lunda yet? To put things in perspective for me, however, there is a rather heartbreaking admission from Austrian forward Oliver Setzinger (whose hooking of Anders Fredriksen led to Norway getting a penalty shot): â€œThey have a much better team then [sic] us. They skate better and they get to play at a higher level all year. They’re just a much better team than us.â€ Just for that, I am hoping Austria makes it through the relegation rounds unscathed, starting with their match against Belarus today. Good luck, Austria!
As a final note, Qualification Round standings have been compiled at the IIHF website. Note that Germany finished first in Group A, ahead of both Russia and Slovakia, and tied with the Czech Republic for most points (6). They are followed by Canada (5), then Sweden (4), and then Finland, Russia, Switzerland, and the US with 3 each. Slovakia and Denmark will be the only two teams entering at zero.
If nothing else, the Qualification Round will have plenty of excitement (read: heart attacks) for all of us to experience, so watch your blood pressure and hold on to your seats!