Friday, February 11, 2011

Sweden and USA win on Day 3 of 5 Nations Cup

Friday was the third day of the Five Nations Cup in Hradec Králové, and it featured a couple of interesting match-ups.

Pontus Aberg. Photo:
In the early game, Russia took on Sweden, two teams that were expected to challenge the USA for tournament supremacy, but both failed miserably in their games against that team. Russia led 2-1 after a period, but then Sweden took over the game by scoring 4 straight goals. They appeared bigger and stronger than their Russian opponents, dishing out some big hits and winning most of the key battles for the puck. They then held on to win 6-3 and upped their record to 1-2. Pontus Aberg, who assisted on 2 of Sweden's goals was their only multiple-point getter. Nikita Kucherov picked up a goal and an assist for Russia, and now has 4 points in 2 games.

Friday's late game was the showcase event of the tournament, as the Czech Republic hosted the United States. After outscoring Sweden and Russia 16-6 in the first two games, the Americans were expected to have little trouble with the Czechs, who were perceived to be weaker. However, the Czech team had a boisterous crowd behind them, and it made for an emotional and physical first period.

J.T. Miller. Photo:
The USA's big line of Reid Boucher, Rocco Grimaldi, and J.T Miller opened the scoring at 8:10 when Boucher snapped a shot inside the post that beat goaltender Patrik Bartošák. Then the Czechs started putting on pressure, however, and when Matt Van Voorhis took down Ondřej Hampl as he was going to the net with the puck, the Czechs got the game's first power-play. It took only six seconds for Radek Faksa to put the puck over the goal line and even the score at 9:57.

Things got even more physical in the second half of the opening frame, as Tyler Biggs knocked down Petr Šidlík behind the play and wasn't penalized, which drew the ire of the home crowd, and later, on a US power-play, Miller was cross-checked hard in front of the net, which also drew no call. The Czechs then killed off a 2-man disadvantage to the crowd's delight, and escaped the period tied.

The Czech team then came out flying in the second period, putting on all kinds of pressure and forcing John Gibson to make some of his best saves of the night. The Czechs out shot the US 11-9 in the middle frame, but couldn't beat Gibson. Bartošák came up big too, stopping Miller on a breakaway, but he couldn't stop Blake Pietila a couple of minutes later, as the left winger scored on a short-handed breakaway to give the Americans the lead.

"Travis Boyd, the guy I was penalty-killing with, made a nice play," Pietila said after the game. "He sent me on a breakaway and I ended up scoring."

Four minutes later, Nicolas Kerdiles stripped the puck off a Czech defenceman at the side of the net and quickly snapped the puck top shelf to make the score 3-1.

From that point, the Czech Republic didn't fold its tent, but at the same time they weren't able to cut into the US lead, and the game ended 3-1. Though they weren't expected to win the Czech Republic gave the Americans a scare, which is especially impressive considering their best player, Dmitrij Jaškin wasn't playing. Jaškin, the Czech team's only prospect rated to be picked in the first round of this year's NHL draft, is sitting out the tournament at the request of his club team, Slavia Praha, to give him a chance to rest his knee for the upcoming Extraliga playoffs.

"They were a lot better than I actually expected," Kerdiles said after the game of the Czechs. "They actually did a lot more (physically) than I expected. I guess that was their game plan."

The Czech-USA game can be seen in its entirety at:

After three days, the USA leads the tournament with a 3-0 record. The only other unbeaten team is Finland, at 2-0. Sweden is 1-2, and Russia and the Czech Republic are both 0-2. On Saturday, Finland plays Russia at 15:00 CET, followed by the Czech Republic and Sweden at 18:30.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic website! So glad I found this. I'm an American who will be moving to Prague next weekend for a study abroad semester. This blog has been added to my bookmarks. - Tobin from North Carolina