Czechs check champs out

Play USA in semis; Finland meets Sweden again

Bratislava  Slovakia

Jakub Strnad scored one of the Czech goals in the quarter-final win against Canada. Photo: Jan Sukup

BRATISLAVA – The Czechs eliminated Canada in the quarter-finals of the 2017 IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship and will play Team USA in the semi-finals. Finland had an easy win against Croatia and will meet Sweden in the semi-finals, who beat host Slovakia 6-4. Great Britain, Australia, Latvia and Slovenia advance in the Division I competition.

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Top Division: tomorrow's games
Semi-Finals: USA vs. Czech Republic 18:00, Finland vs. Sweden 20:00.
Placement Games: Canada vs. Germany 14:00, Slovakia vs. Croatia 16:00

Top Division: USA vs. Germany 4-1 (0-0, 1-0, 1-0, 2-1)

After three clear victories in the preliminary round, Team USA had its most narrow game facing winless Germany in the quarter-finals but edged its opponent 4-1.

The game remained close until the Americans scored two goals in the last eight minutes of play. Team USA outshot the Germans 32-18.

The Americans had some good chances in the beginning of the game including one from Matt White but the first period remained scoreless.

39 seconds into the second frame William Pascalli put a great show with his first of two goals. He crossed the centre red line and deked two opponents, Tim Brazda and Christian Poetzel, to get the puck to the crease. John Schiavo missed the puck in front of the goalie but it was deflected by the skate of German player Tobias Brazda.

“I just tried to get it going since Germany played really well. We expected it to be a tough game because they’re a good team,” Pascalli said. “From now on there will only be tough games and the next we can expect to be a close game too.”

The marker gave the Americans confidence but they didn’t capitalize on their chances and the one-goal lead remained until the half-time break.

Germany got stronger in the third period and didn’t allow the Americans that many scoring opportunities anymore. At 2:33 Alexander Duck had a good chance in front of the American net but goaltender Troy Redmann stopped the puck at the line and also made a save when Marco Deubler had the chance to score in front of him a few minutes later.

At 10:46 of the third period it was the Americans’ turn. When Team USA’s third line kept the puck in the German zone for a long time, Shane Fox eventually scored the 2-0 goal with a shot from the left face-off dot that went high past Sinisa Martinovic.

Germany managed to get on the scoreboard in the fourth period. After 15 seconds of power play Daniel Krzikok was left from the crease with the puck and his try with a shot from an acute angle worked out for the 2-1 goal. But instead of working on a comeback, the Germans found themselves two goals behind just one-and-a-half minutes later. Pascalli pretended a backward movement along the left boards, turned to skate towards the net and found himself in shooting position from about nine metres to score his second of the night and make it 3-1.

The Americans defended the lead and with eight seconds left in regulation time Travis Noe appeared in front of Martinovic during a power play and beat the German goalie for the 4-1 goal. Tomorrow they will meet the Czech Republic in the semi-finals.

Team USA celebrates. The quarter-final victory against Germany was the fourth win in the fourth game. Photo: Rene Miko

Top Division: Slovakia vs. Sweden 4-6 (0-1, 1-3, 3-0, 0-2)

After a slow start into the tournament Sweden beat host Slovakia 6-4 to set up a semi-final clash with archrival Finland. Slovakia outshot Sweden 28-24 and came back from a three-goal deficit but Sweden sealed the win with two goals in the last period. Linus Svedlund had two goals and an assist for Sweden, Marcel Holovic scored twice for Slovakia.

Svedlund deflected a Markus Kinisjarvi shot to open the scoring at 8:02. The Slovaks had their chances too but on a counter-attack it was again Svedlund, who scored and gave his team a 2-0 lead 90 seconds into the second period.

“It was a good feeling to score these goals early. We had a pretty good start and came out with patience. Unfortunately we unnecessarily stepped back and let them come back. I was a bit nervous,” Svedlund said.

Rasmus Dahlberg Karlsson with a shot from the left face-off circle made it 3-0 four minutes later but then the Slovaks battled their way back into the game.

Juraj Jurik tried it with a wraparound but found Filip Novak in front of the net who scored Slovakia’s first marker of the game. But the Sweden replied soon. Kinisjarvi skated for a counter-attack along the right boards and beat Vladimir Neumann with a shot into the top-right corner.

After the half-time break Slovakia had its strongest period and scored three unanswered goals. At 5:58 Jakub Ruckay sent a horizontal pass to the left where Marcel Holovic hammered in a slap shot from just behind the face-off circle to make it a two-goal game. With two minutes left in the period Peter Lichanec skated counter-clockwise around the offensive zone, then moved in towards the crease and beat Robert Kinisjarvi on his second attempt. 16 seconds later the Slovaks scored again. After a quick pass from Jozef Haring, Holovic one-timed the puck to tie the game at four.

The fourth period started tied but at 2:30 the Swedes got back the lead in the game with a laser of a shot from 15 metres by Hampus Larsson. Now it was the Slovaks’ turn to come back again but an odd-man rush gave Sweden the 6-4 lead. Svedlund got the puck but didn’t come in shooting position, skated past the goal line left from the crease and passed back to Jesper Kokkonen, who netted the puck.

The Swedes would continue to control the puck well and prevent Slovak chances. However, with 2:37 left Ruckay had the chance to score a shorthanded goal on a breakaway but his shot went wide.

The Slovaks pulled their goaltender for the last two minutes and Novak had a great chance but his close-range shot with 2.3 seconds left to play went wide and the Swedes won 6-4 to set up a rematch with Finland in the semi-finals. In the group stage Sweden lost 6-5 to their neighbours.

“It’s going to be a good game. This time we’ll beat them,” Svedlund said. “We learned from that game that we need to respect them because they’re a good team, but not too much because we’re a good team too.”

Two Swedish forward put pressure on the Slovak net. Photo: Jan Sukup

Top Division: Finland vs. Croatia 11-2 (4-0, 3-1, 1-1, 3-0)

An easy 11-2 victory over winless top-division newcomer Croatia led undefeated Finland to the semi-finals. Eight different players scored for Finland including Teemu Lepaus three goals and Jimi Palanto two.

“Having scored so many goals early was definitely good for us so we didn’t have to play full speed all game long,” Palanto said. “Tomorrow it will be a more important game.”

Finland will play the winner of the Slovakia-Sweden game tomorrow. “It’s hard to say against whom we will play but we will know soon.”

Finnish veteran Sami Markkanen told before his 100th national team game that he hoped Finland would score some early goals to take pressure away the rest of the game. Said and done. Finland had a 3-0 lead after eight minutes en route to routing Croatia with a nine-goal margin.

After a shot from Eemeli Suomi, Croatian goalie Tihomir Filipec made a pad save but Tomi Penttinen scored on the rebound. 47 seconds later Jimi Palanto beat Filipec on his glove side. After that it didn’t take long, 49 seconds, for Janne Laakkonen to score the 3-0 goal on an odd-man rush. The first period ended with Lepaus’ power-play marker with 11.6 seconds left.

At 2:52 of the second period Markkanen made it 5-0 after a long sequence of passing in the offensive zone. Markkanen was honoured before the game with a special jersey remembering all 15 World Championship participations and the number 100 for his 100th World Championship game. Lepaus made it 6-0 just 81 seconds later and Jouni Aalto scored the 7-0 goal.

The Croats had too little to offer and Samu Airasvaara had a strong day in the Finnish net but made space for Niklas Lehti after 18 minutes of play. With 1:46 left before the half-time break Lehti made the save on a breakaway from Matija Milicic but with 51.4 seconds left in the frame Ivan Jankovic brought Croatia on the scoreboard.

Croatia also changed goaltenders for the third period but at 4:25 Lepaus scored his hat trick goal on Mate Tomljenovic. At least the Croats also managed to score another one. Niksa Trstenjak pushed the puck into the Finnish goal with 42.5 seconds left in the third period to make it 8-2.

In the fourth period Palanto scored a power-play goal and Suomi and Petri Partanen added more markers for the 11-2 win.

Finnish forward Teemu Lepaus scored a hat trick in the quarter-final win against Croatia. Photo: Jan Sukup

Top Division: Czech Republic vs. Canada 8-2 (0-1, 3-1, 1-0, 4-0)

When the Czechs finished the group stage in second place and got Canada as quarter-final opponent, it didn’t look like a promising sign. But the Czechs simply made the best out of it and eliminated the defending champion from the title race with an 8-2 victory.

The Czechs outshot Canada 32-17. Zdenek Kubica scored a pair of goals to make up for a 2-0 deficit in the second period and Jiri Cernoch also scored two goals. Dominik Frodl had 15 saves.

“The goals were really important but it’s most important that we won as a team,” Zdenek Kubica said. “Canada played great. The difference was that we made the most of our offensive situations.”

In tomorrow’s semi-finals the Czechs will face the winner of the USA-Germany quarter-final game.

“They’re both good teams. We can’t choose and no matter who we get, we just have to play strong and hopefully we will win.”

Both teams had some high-score results in the preliminary round but started cautious today. For most of the first period the score remained scoreless but then Josh Foote got the puck behind the net and passed to Shaun Furlong, who opened the scoring with 47 seconds left. And 27 seconds into the second period the Canadians were cheering again. Brett Bulmer had a good forecheck on the right side and sent a horizontal pass to Brendan Baumgartner, whose shot went in.

52 seconds later the Czechs replied. Jakub Strnad skated a circle in the offensive zone and next to the crease fed Kubica with a short pass, who brought the Czechs on the scoreboard and just one goal behind.

A high-sticking call during a sequence with Canada’s Kade Vilio against Patrik Sebek gave the Czechs the first power play of the game midway the second period. After 15 seconds of the man advantage Kubica scored with a shot from eight metres. And it came even better. Late in the period the Canadians lost the puck in the offensive zone. Mikulas Zboril was fast on the transition and fed Cernoch. His shot on the right side went wide but the puck bounced back from the boards and Cernoch capitalized on his own rebound to give the Czechs their first lead of the game. The video review confirmed that the puck was in before the buzzer for the half-time intermission.

With 1:47 left in the third period a great rush from David Bernad led to another Czech goal. He won a puck battle at the own end, marched through the field of place and scored from the left face-off dot to make it 4-2 for his team.

The Canadians knew they’d have to do more to get back to the game but the Czechs remained dangerous on counter-attacks. One of these they used at 4:13 of the fouth period. Zboril skated through on the left and fed Cernoch on the right side, who shovelled the puck past Canadian goalie Brett Leggat. One minute later they used an odd-man rush with Petr Kafka’s 6-2 goal.

Canada took its time-out but it didn’t help. Two minutes later Jakub Petruzalek converted another odd-man rush with the 7-2 marker after a pass from Kafka and Jan Zahradnicek scored a shorthanded goal into the empty net.

Division I: tomorrow's games
Semi-Finals: Slovenia vs. Great Britain 17:00, Latvia vs. Australia 19:00
Placement Games: Argentina vs. Brazil 13:00, Hungary vs. New Zealand 15:00

Division I: Slovenia vs. Brazil 14-4 (3-2, 5-0, 2-1, 4-1)

Slovenia also won its fourth game and beat Brazil 14-4 in the quarter-finals. Jure Sotlar scored a hat trick and four Slovenians scored two goals: Gregor Koblar, Mateuz Erman, Ales Fajdiga and Jan Leben. Brazil’s Bruno Gomes also scored a pair of goals.

Brazil tried to give Slovenia a tough battle but that worked only out for the first period. After Koblar’s opening goal for Slovenia, Brazil gained a 2-1 lead with goals from Gomes and Felipe Geraldini scored within a span of 24 seconds in the fourth minute of play.

Slovenia managed the turnover in the same period with goals from Erman and Blaz Tomazevic. Five unanswered goals in the second period gave the Slovenes an 8-2 half-time lead en route to the 14-4 victory.

Slovenian forward Jure Sotlar scored a hat trick against Brazil. Photo: Jan Sukup

Division I: Latvia vs. New Zealand 12-4 (4-0, 1-1, 2-1, 5-2)

Latvia continued its winning streak and beat winless New Zealand 12-4 in the quarter-finals. The Latvians outshot the Kiwis 40-18 and held a 4-0 lead after eight minutes of play.

Olafs Aploks, Janis Golubovics, Rudolfs Maslovskis and Gati Sprukts scored in the first period. New Zealand improved in the second and got a goal through Lewis Taiapa but Sprukts’ second marker of the day made it a 5-1 half-time lead for Latvia.

Teams exchanged more goals in the second half of the game but they continued to come lopsided. Taiapa got his second goal for New Zealand. Maslovskis eventually got a hat trick for Latvia. Spruks and Rudolfs Prusis each had a pair of goals.

The win sets up a semi-final game with the other Oceanian team, Australia.

Gatis Sprukts battles for the puck in Latvia's quarter-final game against New Zealand. Photo: Jan Sukup

Division I: Hungary vs. Australia 2-4 (1-1, 0-1, 0-1, 1-1)

After a slow start in the preliminary round last year’s silver medallist Australia shone in the quarter-finals and beat Hungary 4-2. The team from Down Under outshot the Hungarians 39- 33. James Michael made 31 saves for Australia.

Attila Rafaj opened the scoring for Hungary at 5:08 but Brenton Fitzgerald tied the game five minutes later.

The deciding markers came around the half-time mark. Steve Best gave Australia the lead with his marker 15 seconds before the intermission and at 2:05 of the third period Mitchell Henning made it 3-1.

Penalty trouble prevented Hungary from a successful comeback. Sean Jones converted one at 2:37 of the fourth period to give Australia a three-goal lead. Hungary’s Vilmos Gallo scored the last goal of the game with 3:51 left in regulation time for the final score of 4-2.

Australia’s Sean Jones and Matthew Anderson celebrate the 4-1 goal against Hugnary. Photo: Jan Sukup

Division I: Great Britain vs. Argentina 5-3 (1-0, 2-2, 0-0, 2-1)

Great Britain and Argentina delivered each other a tough battle as both aimed at returning to the semi-finals. But that dream only became true for the British, who won the game 5-3.

Argentina outshot the British 33-18 but early success in the game gave Team GB the necessary advantage. Ben Lowe opened the scoring at 2:14 and 18 seconds into the second period Dan Hutchinson made it 2-0 on a power play.

The Argentines tried to battle back. When Herman Insua Shanly brought his team onto the scoreboard, the British replied with Alex Kingston’s goal. But Guido Marcolongo cut the deficit again with a marker four seconds before the intermission and after a scoreless third period, Owen Haiek tied the game at three 78 seconds in the fourth frame.

The game started at zero but the British regained the lead with Nathan Finney’s goal at 6:12. Argentina was looking to tie the score and force overtime but Hutchinson scored into the empty net with three seconds remaining in regulation time to seal his team the win and a semi-final berth. Argentina will move into the placement game and aim at a fifth-place finish and direct qualification for the 2019 IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship.

The British players celebrate a goal in their 5-3 quarter-final victory against Argentina. Photo: Jan Sukup

MARTIN MERK<//strong>




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