USA, Finns only unbeatens left

Inline: Stromberg's pair sinks Canada, Swedes survive Germany


USA played a nail-biter against the Czech Republic but came out on top. Photo: Malvina Ministrova

PARDUBICE – Finland's offence is in good shape so far at the 2014 IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship, following consecutive wins over last year's silver and bronze medalists Sweden and Canada. Kim Stromberg netted two goals in the third period to put away the Canadians 5-3. In the late game, USA pulled the plug on a late Czech comeback to win 5-4. In Division I, Brazil got its first win of the tournament.

USA – Czech Republic 5-4  (0-0, 2-1, 2-1, 1-2) Postgame

Facing the hometown Czech Republic, Team USA gave up a fourth period lead but came through in the final minutes to remain unbeaten at the 2014 IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship.

The Czechs looked to be down and out in the face of a strong USA team, but roared back to life in the fourth period.

"They're a perennial powerhouse in this tournament," said USA head coach Joe Cook. "But we were able to match up well against them."

Martin Vozdecky, who has been one of the best players at the tournament so far, scored his third of the game with six and a half minutes left to go. Then Czech forward Ales Hemsky, who joined the team the same day, took possession of the puck in the USA zone, skated around the sprawling defender and found Patrick Sebek with a cross-ice pass for the tying score.

But the Americans pulled through as Tyler Spezia took the puck into the Czech zone and around the back of the net, dishing it off to forward Matt White for what would be the game winning goal with just over a minute and a half remaining.

"Great game to play in, probably the best crowd I've ever seen at an inline tournament," said White, who finished with a hat trick and four points to earn the Best Player award for Team USA.

Following a scoreless first period White broke free of his marker and beat goaltender Dusan Salficky blocker side. Then White struck again just under three minutes later, cutting across the face of the net and firing a low shot past Salficky.

The Czechs cut the lead when Vozdecky scored with a nice forehand shot straight into the top corner with less than a minute to go into the second frame.

Following halftime Vozdecky tied the game with a goal early in the third period. But the Americans went back up by a goal soon after when Spezia streaked towards the Czech net and fired a wrister to the far side of the Czech goal. Then on a power play Patrick Lee put the U.S. up by two once more, to the dismay of the home crowd.

Team USA moves on to face Slovakia, while the Czechs close out the preliminary round against Great Britain.

Canada – Finland 3-5 (2-1, 0-1, 0-2, 1-1) Postgame

Down 4-2 in the final period, Canada tried to stage a rally in the final five minutes, cutting the lead to one with a power-play goal with 4:35 remaining.
But team captain Kirk French brought a Finnish player down on a rush with under three minutes left, allowing the Finns to kill off more time on the power play before ultimately putting the game away on an empty net goal from Sami Markkanen.

"A good win, overall a great team effort from all the guys," said Stromberg, who got the Best Player nod for Finland. "We had a bad start but stuck together and were good on the power play, we have to believe that if we keep this same effort going forward good things are going to happen."

With the teams coming out of halftime tied 2-2, Finland got its first lead of the game thanks to a seemingly harmless shot by Kim Stromberg that bounced off Canadian goaltender Brett Leggat and into the net.

Canada then dug itself into a deeper hole when forward Chris Raukman was called for interference after crashing into the Finnish net. Stromberg put his team up by two goals on the ensuing power play, with a one-time slapshot from the point assisted by Janne Laakkonen and Mikko Pukka.

"We gave them too much time and space today," said Canada head coach Jason Stephens. "But to be honest this is the best Finnish team I have seen in the last four years, they are going to be tough to beat."

Canadian defenceman Kyle Sheen drew first blood less than a minute into the game. His teammate Jordan Draper added another, catching the Finns on a two-on-one to go up 2-0.

Finland cut the lead down to one with three minutes to go in the first period, as forward Marko Virtala cruised into the Canadian zone and was able to get off a shot untouched that beat Leggat five-hole.

Moments after killing off a power play in the second period, the Finns knotted the game up thanks to a successful two-on-one rush that ended with Virtala feeding Camilo Miettinen in front for the score.

Finland (2W-0L) will play Germany next on Tuesday, while Canada (1W-1L) faces Sweden.

Slovakia – Great Britain 7-1 (2-0, 3-1, 0-0, 2-0)

Slovakia bounced back from an opening day loss to the Czechs with a dominant 7-1 win over Great Britain.

Both teams came into the game having dropped their openers, the Brits losing to USA 10-3 and the Slovaks falling 5-2 to the Czech Republic.

Slovak captain Miroslav Preisinger struck first in the game, getting the puck in front of the net and shooting it home before crashing over British goalie Alex Birch. The Slovaks went up 2-0 five minutes later with a goal from Jakub Ruckay, assisted by Milan Siller and Andrej Mrazik.

Slovakia added a third goal on the board in the second period, with Mrazik coming down the court just to the right of the British goal and getting off an uncontested shot past Birch. Shortly after Ruzicka got his second of the game Juraj Prokop added another as Great Britain, while able to get on the board just before halftime, had no answer for the speedy Slovak forwards.

Slovakia added two more goals to close out the game, and will next face defending inline champs USA on Tuesday. Great Britain, which has been outscored badly in its first two games, will look to improve against the Czech Republic on Tuesday.

Sweden – Germany 4-3 OT (1-1, 1-0, 0-2, 1-0, 1-0)

Sweden barely avoided an upset and a 0-2 start at the 2014 Inline Worlds, coming back to tie the game against Germany before winning in overtime 4-3.

Germany, which the day before played a tough opening game against Canada (a 3-1 loss), was able to convert its chances despite being outshot by the Swedes 35-17. Tied 2-2 in the second half, the Germany went ahead 3-2 on a goal from Marco Pfleger.

In the final period the Swedes seemed to have caught a break when German player Marcel Brandt was called for boarding. But the German defence held on up until 48 seconds remaining. Then Sweden, with the goaltender pulled for the extra attacker, tied the game up to send it to overtime. Robin Sjoren got the puck along the boards in the German zone and fired a centering pass to Henrik Hoglund in front of the net for the equalizer.

Then in the extra frame Germany took an early penalty as Fabio Carciola was called for hooking. Just as quickly Hoglund scored off a one-time pass in front of the net and the game was over.

“We’ve been struggling on the power play so it was good to get this one,” said Hoglund. “Germany was tough today but I like to play against tough teams like that.”

The Germans struck quick 1:17 in the first period, when Yannik Baier came around the back of the net and passed it to the point, serving up a one-time slapshot to Fabio Carciola.

Just before the end of the first period, Dick Axelsson beat out the German defender, getting enough space to fire a hard shot from the left circle past goaltender Marco Eisenhut for the tying goal.

Then Sweden’s Jesper Kokkonen forced a turnover in front of the Czech net and dished it off to Henrik Hoglund to go up 2-1 early in the second period. But following the halftime break Huba Sekesi and Marco Pfleger hooked up on a two-on-one to tie the game 2-2.

“Defence is our biggest concern going forward,” said Swedish head coach Bjorn Ostlund. “We have good forwards but we need to skate back harder and play more responsibly.”


Australia – Latvia 5-1 (0-0, 0-1, 3-0, 2-0)

Australia made short work of Latvia on Day 2 of the 2014 IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship Division I tournament, answering a second period goal with five unanswered to win 5-1.

Sean Jones, Brenton Fitzgerald, Luke Fritchley scored in the third period to erase an early 1-0 lead by the Latvians. Jordan Gavin added a fourth short-handed and Antony Collins scored on the power play to round out the game sheet for the Aussies.

Australia faces Japan next, while winless Latvia takes on Croatia.

Hungary –  Brazil 3-6 (1-1, 1-1, 1-1, 0-3)

In its return to Division I after a four-year absence Brazil has its first victory in 2014, defeating Hungary 6-3 in its second game of the 2014 IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship.
The two teams traded goals through the first three periods, until Jose Guilardi, Luiz Almeida Filho, and Luis Custodia scored three unanswered goals to put the game away in the fourth.

Brazil (1W-1L) will face Japan on Tuesday. Hungary (1OTW-1L) takes on Austria.

Slovenia – Croatia 5-0 (0-0, 1-0, 1-0, 3-0)

Slovenia is now undefeated through two games at the IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship Division I, having outscored the opposition 14-9 including a 5-0 shutout of Croatia.

Forward Jure Sotlar had two goals, and Gregor Devin and defenceman Domen Vedlin each had a goal and two assists for Slovenia.

The Slovenes will wrap up the preliminary round against Australia. Croatia (1W-1L) faces Austria on Tuesday.

Austria – Japan 8-2 (1-0, 2-0, 1-2, 4-0)

Austria is in control of Division I Group B at the 2014 Inline Hockey World Championship with another dominant performance, this time defeating Japan 8-2.

Austria's top defensive combo registered nine points in the game against the Japanese. Kristof Reinthaler had four goals in the game, and Harry Lange notched a goal and four assists.

Austria will face Hungary in its final game of the preliminary round, while Japan will face Brazil while trying to avoid finishing in last place in Group B.


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