USA back on inline throne

Czechs win bronze; Slovenia promoted

Bratislava  Slovakia

The record champions are back on top: Team USA wins the 2017 IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship. Photo: Jan Sukup

BRATISLAVA – Team USA is back on the inline hockey throne after beating Finland 4-2 in the gold medal game of the 2017 IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship. The Czechs won their first inline hockey medal in six years after beating Sweden 5-2 for third place. Germany will return to the top division of the IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship after winning the relegation game 8-5 while Croatia will be relegated back to the Division I competition and be replaced by Slovenia.

In Division I play Slovenia beat Latvia 6-3 for gold and Australia won bronze against Great Britain. Argentina won the relegation game while Hungary, New Zealand and Brazil will have to play in the regional qualification next year.


Final: USA vs. Finland 4-2 (1-0, 3-1, 0-1, 0-0) Highlights Full Game Interviews

Record world champion USA won its seventh gold medal in the history of the IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship after beating Finland, which reached the final with an undefeated streak as well, 4-2. USA Hockey has won five of the six IIHF World Championship titles this season.

It's been a couple of years with disappointing finishes for us since the last gold and it feels unreal to get back on top. This game meant so much for our team and to get back on top. We were hungry when our chances came, Team USA captain Travis Noe said.

We knew they're going to be a good team. They looked good all tournament. They played a great game, we just capitalized on our chances early in the game and then we really played strong defence and had a really strong performance from our goalie Troy Redman.

Early goals lead the way for Team USA, which outshot Finland 26-25. The Americans built up a 4-0 lead after 20 minutes of play. Although the Finns never gave up, they didn't manage to make up for that during the remainder of the game.

Redman, who was voted Best Goalkeeper of the event, saved 23 out of 25 shots on his goal. His teammate Matt White was named Best Forward and Finland's Petri Partanen Best Defenceman of the tournament.

To come out on top is a pretty special feeling for all of us. It was a tough game. We scored the first four goals in the second half and they scored their two goals in the second half. It could have gone either way, you never know in this type of games, White said, mentioning the difficult semi-final with the Czech Republic.

Team USA opened the scoring at 2:48. After the Finns had lost the puck on attack, Shane Fox skated through on the left side and beat Samu Airasvaara with a high shot from the left face-off dot.

After a short break the Americans started the second period cheering. 22 seconds into the frame Peter DiMartino outskated Eemeli Suomi and beat Airasvaara with a short-range shot. And as this wouldn't be enough, they added another one converting their first power play at 2:44. After a puck battle at the right boards, Cody Kettler found Noe free on the left side, who scored the United States' third goal with a high shot.

The Finns had their chances too but didn't capitalize on them for a long time. With four minutes left Teemu Lepaus missed out on a two-on-one. After winning the ensuing face-off, Jack Combs sent White for a breakaway and the latter beat Airasvaara for the 4-0 goal.

We had a couple of good shots right away, just played good puck possession, grind them down and we were fortunate enough to beat a really good Finnish team, said Combs. "It's definitely one of the best feelings I've had in hockey. To win with this special group and represent our flag is special."

The Finns changed the goalie and Juha Taponen came in instead. Two minutes later they eventually made it onto the scoreboard. Lepaus got the puck from a rebound and netted it into the top-left corner to make thoughts of a comeback more than a dream.

The Finns came out from the half-time intermission on fire. Already in the first minute Lepaus was cheering on a goal but it was waived off because a teammate was in the crease.

We lost and Team USA was better today. I'm of course disappointed. We tried to defend better than in earlier games. We should have had the puck more often but we didn't and so we lost, said Lepaus, who led the tournament in scoring with 11 goals and 11 assists in six games.

A penalty against Tyler Spezia for slashing gave Finland new hope. Kids on the tribune were screaming "Maali! Malli!", the Finnish word for goal, like in their goal song. With 46.2 seconds left in the period the song was played again. Lepaus and Suomi passed the puck to each other and Suomi in central position made it 4-2.

It was still two goals to go for the Finns with 12 minutes remaining in regulation time and with a Team USA fast and dangerous on counter-attacks. Taponen had to make several big saves to keep his team in the game and hopes alive.

An unnecessary cross-check by Nielsson Arcibal with 3:17 left gave Finland another possibility for a man advantage but they didn't capitalize on it. The Finns pulled their goalie for the last two minutes of the game but the 4-2 score stayed and Team USA's celebration started.

Bronze: Czech Republic vs. Sweden 5-2 (3-0, 0-1, 0-1, 2-0) Highlights

The Czech Republic won the bronze medals of the 2017 IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship after beating Sweden 5-2 for third place. It was the first medals since winning the Worlds at home 2011 in Pardubice.

After a 3-0 first period lead by the Czechs, the Swedes tried to get back and outshot their opponent 34-18, but to little avail. David Bernad scored two goals for the Czechs while Dominik Frodl saved 32 of 34 shots on his goal.

“It’s beautiful, it’s perfect, it’s like a dream!” he said about winning bronze and scoring two gaols. “It’s the highest inline hockey tournament you can play so this is a very special moment in my career.”

The Czechs surprised Sweden with a long shot after 49 seconds – Bernad made it 1-0. At 2:47 Jesper Kokkonen had the chance to tie it up when he got the puck in front of the Czech net but Frodl made the save. At 3:10 it was the Czechs, who had a two-on-one. Bernad on the right fed Patrik Sebek on the left side for the 2-0 goal. Late in the period Vladimir Kames ended a lengthy forecheck by the Czechs with a shot from just behind the face-off circles to make it 3-0.

The Czech lead didn’t seem in danger despite many shots but the Swedes eventually got on the scoreboard late in the second period. Alexander Olsson scored after a quick pass to the net from Martin Eklund on the right side.

The Swedes eventually came one closer late in the third period. With 46 seconds left Rasmus Dahlberg Karlsson skated clockwise around the Czech defence to beat Frodl for the 3-2 goal.

A power play in the fourth period gave the Czechs the two-goal advantage back. After the Swedes had managed to block several attempts, Bernad eventually was free to shoot on the right side and beat Robert Kinisjarvi with a high shot.

With 3:36 left in regulation time and a penalty against Czech defenceman Vladimir Kames, the Swedes took their time-out. They didn’t score on the man advantage but then pulled the goalie to put more pressure in the dying minutes of the game. It didn’t work out and Jakub Strnad made it 5-2 with a goal into the empty net in the last second.

For the Czechs it’s the fifth medal in history and the first after four World Championships outside of the medal ranks.

The Czechs ended a strong tournament in Bratislava with a 5-2 win against Sweden and the bronze medals around their necks. Photo: Rene Miko

Relegation Game: Germany vs. Croatia 8-5 (2-1, 4-2, 0-0, 2-2) Highlights

Germany and Croatia faced each other in a game for seventh place and to avoid relegation after both teams had lost the previous five games of the tournament, sometimes tight, sometimes clear and with Germany having the better records.

Like in two previous games here underdog Croatia started scoring the lead but had to leave the field as the losing team in the end.

“We reached our goal, we stay in the top division and are happy about it. Of course we would have liked to reach more, to make the final round. Big respect from the players who were here and did their job against teams at a very different level. Also to our goalies both played well. Sinisa Martinovic played inline hockey the first time in ten years,” German captain Steffen Tolzer summarized his team’s campaign in Bratislava.

Once a medal contender, the team had to cope without former national ice hockey team players such as Thomas Greilinger and Michael Wolf. “That players like them quit hurt of course but now we need youth to jump in but that takes time,” said Tolzer, an ice hockey pro from the DEL’s Augsburger Panther who represented his country in ice hockey at the 2005 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Like in the previous games the Croats did what they could as the underdog of the top-division tournament. They had nothing to be ashamed of and were bid farewell with a warm applause from family and fans who travelled from Croatia.

Ivan Jankovic opened the scoring for Croatia at 1:45 when he deked Tobias Brazda, who lost balance, and beat German goalie Martinovic, who also has Croatian citizenship, for the lead.

The Germans tied it up three minutes later. After Mate Tomljenovic made a save, Alexander Preibisch scored on the rebound with a shot from behind the net that went in via the goalie. Mathias Jeske gave Germany the lead just 36 seconds later with a top-shelf wrist shot from the right face-off dot.

Igor Jacmenak tied the game after 40 seconds in the second period with a close-range shot from central position but Tolzer outskated Tomislav Cunko and beat the Croatian goalie for the 3-2 marker. Tim Brazda scored another one on a counter-attack after a Croatian giveaway 43 seconds later and Daniel Krzizok on a rebound after a long shot from Mathis Jeske made it 6-2. At that time Tomjenovic had already left the crease to make space for Tihomir Filipec. A power-play goal with 41 seconds left in the second period tightened the gap to three goals.

After a scoreless third period a goal from Mario Novak after a pass to the crease from Matija Milicic early in the fourth period gave the Croats hope for some moments but just 29 seconds later Marco Deubler made it 7-4. After another Croatian marker from Milicic the team pulled the goalie but Ales Jirik’s goal into the empty net sealed the win. With 15.7 seconds left Sebastian Lachner missed out on a penalty shot and the 8-5 score remained until the end.

German players Alexander Preibisch and Christian Poetzel celebrate a goal in the 8-5 win against Croatia in the relegation game. Photo: Rene Miko


Final: Slovenia vs. Latvia 6-3 (3-2, 1-1, 2-0, 0-0) Highlights

Slovenia made its stay in Division I as short as possible. After five clear wins the Slovenes also beat Latvia, 6-3, in the final for Division I gold and will be promoted back to the top division.

Six different players scored for Latvia while goaltender Tomaz Trelc saved 39 of 42 shots on his goal.

“It was a tough game but we expected the game to be like that,” said Jure Sotlar, who was the tournament’s scoring leader with 8 goals and 16 assists.

“Every game was difficult but we needed to win because we wanted to be back with the top teams in Canada. It’s really nice to be able to play in the top division next time, we’re very happy about it and are looking forward to it.”

Mateuz Erman opened the scoring for Slovenia after 63 seconds on a quick forecheck. One-and-a-half minutes later it was 2-0 for Slovenia. After a bad pass by the Latvians during a forecheck, Gregor Koblar had a two-on-one with Sotlar and the latter scored but a few moments later Latvia’s Rustams Begovs made it 2-1.

Again the score didn’t stay for long. 36 seconds later Miha Brus scored the 3-1 goal after a side pass from Ales Fajdiga. But then the Latvians reacted again with Gatis Sprukts capitalizing on a rebound. A giveaway during a Slovenian power play almost led to another Latvian goal but Rudolfs Maslovskis’ shot didn’t cross the line the officials determined after video review.

The teams continued to exchange goals in the second period. After 45 seconds the Slovenes converted the power play with a marker from Ales Fajdiga, who redirected the puck in front of the net. Three minutes later Latvia also got a power play and Aleksandrs Galkins capitalized on it after 11 seconds to cut Slovenia’s lead to 4-3.

The Latvians changed goaltenders during the half-time break. Kristaps Kruze came in for Renars Kazanovs but a Latvian penalty early in the third period led to another goal for Slovenia. At 2:38 Gregor Koblar succeeded with his shot from the right face-off circle. And at 7:09 Slovenia scored another one at even strength. Matic Kralj initiated a patient forecheck and found Blaz Tomazevic in front of the net, who saw his shot saved but from behind the net he sent the puck to the crease and it went in via the skate of Vladislavs Konisevs.

The Slovenes didn’t concede any other goal and earned the gold medals and a ticket to the top division. For Latvia winning silver is the biggest success in the competition since joining the IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship in 2014.

The Slovenian players celebrate with the gold medals after winning the Division I tournament at the 2017 IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship. Photo: Rene Miko

Bronze: Great Britain vs. Australia 3-7 (2-3, 0-1, 1-2, 0-1) Highlights

After silver last year Australia won the Division I bronze medals in Bratislava after beating Great Britain 7-3 for third place.

The British came back to tie the game at two but when Australia got the lead again the team from Down Under didn’t give it away anymore. Six different players scored the goals for Australia including Jordan Gavin with two markers. They outshot Great Britain 25-22.

Gavin brought Australia on the scoreboard with his power-play marker at 4:10 and 100 seconds later Cameron Todd made it a two- goal lead for Australia.

The British fought back and tied the game with goals from Nathan Finney and Alex Kingston scored within a span of just 16 seconds late in the period but 20 seconds later Matthew Anderson hit the back of the net on the other side for Australia’s 3-2 period lead.

Australia had a strong second period that was rewarded with Gavin’s 4-2 goal that eventually turned out to become the game-winner.

Ben Lowe brought GB back within one goal scoring at 2:21 of the third period but a power-play goal from Michael Haynes and another marker from Steve Best gave Australia a 5-3 period lead and forced Great Britain to change goalies. Miles Finney left, Alex Birch came in. But at 1:28 of the fourth period Sean Jones also beat him with the 7-3 goal.

The fourth period was overshadowed with the injury of Joshua Yeardley. At 1:54 the British player suffered an injury at the boards and had to be taken off the field on a stretcher after stabilizing the neck area. Luckily he was able to move all parts of his body but was brought to hospital with concussion symptoms. Australia’s Jayden Ryan was assessed a major penalty for boarding.

Great Britain tried to score after the shock and pulled the goalie but Australia’s 7-3 lead stayed until the end.

Australia won the Division I bronze medals in Bratislava. Photo: Rene Miko

Relegation Game: Hungary vs. Argentina 4-5 (0-0, 2-0, 1-3, 1-1, 0-0, 0-1) PS Highlights

The Argentine players celebrated long after the game. Coming back from a 2-0 deficit despite outshooting Hungary, the South Americans came back and beat Hungary 5-4 in shootout. Owen Haiek scored the only goal in the penalty lottery.

Thanks to the win Argentina finished the Division I tournament in fifth place and is again qualified for the next IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship Division I in 2019. Hungary, New Zealand and Brazil are relegated to the regional qualification tournaments in 2018.

Hungarian goaltender brought the Argentine forwards to desperation and kept his net clean with 14 saves in the first half of the game. Hernan Insua Shanly missed on a penalty shot.

The Hungarian forward did it better. Norbert Fekecs gave his team the lead at 2:16 of the second period and with 72 seconds left before the half-time break Attila Rafaj made it 2-0.

The Argentines eventually got on the scoreboard during their first power play of the third period. Sebastian Echevarria scored at 5:28. 33 seconds later Juan MacArdle tied the game and another 68 seconds later Sebastian Bustos gave Argentina its first lead of the game, 3-2.

The game now went back and forth. David Szappanos tied the game for Hungary three minutes later but at 6:36 of the fourth period Argentina was in front again after a goal from Facundo Varda.

With one-and-a-half minutes left in regulation time the Hungarians pulled their goalie and were pushing for the game-tying goal and Arnold Feil scored it with 55 seconds left. The game remained scoreless for the rest of the period and five minutes of overtime and shootout decided in Argentina’s favour.

The Argentine players celebrate after the last save in the shootout. Photo: Jan Sukup





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