World Hockey Championship Roundup: Rivalry Day

More qualification round action was in the books today in Switzerland. France needed a win to stay alive while Latvia was dreaming of a medal round birth. The US and Russia were battling for tops in Group E. The Czechs and Slovaks renewed their rivalry. To top things off, Finland and Belarus battled in a classic.

Group E: Latvia 7 vs. France 1 – It has been a tournament to forget for the French. At least they can take solace in the fact that they’re in next year’s world championships. The Latvians double their goal production in each period (1, 2, and 4 goals, respectively) en route to beating France. Edgars Masalskis was solid yet again for the Latvians making 27 saves. Martins Cipulis led the offense with 2 goals while Aleksanders Nizivijs had a goal and 2 assists. With the loss, France has been eliminated from medal round contention. Latvia rounds out its qualification round against Russia while France looks to put in a respectable showing against Russia.

Group E: Russia 4 vs. USA 1 – It was the old Cold War battle all over again. The game started well for the Americans with the first goal of the game coming three minutes in off the stick of Lee Stempniak. Unfortunately for the Yanks, that was all the offense they could muster. The Russian answered back with four unanswered goals including two goals coming less than six minutes after the American goal to pick up the win. The Russian power play was in fine form with three of those four goals scored on the man advantage. Ilya Bryzgalov had some early jitters but settled down quickly, making 26 saves in the victory. Russia was led on offense by five player with two point performances. With the win, Russia clinches first place in Group E but still has to play Latvia. The Americans look to hold onto second in the group with a win against Switzerland.

Group E Standings
1. Russia 3-1-0-0, 11 Pts.
2. USA 2-0-1-1, 7 Pts.
3. Latvia 0-2-1-1, 7 Pts.
4. Sweden 0-1-2-0, 4 Pts.
5. Switzerland 1-0-1-1, 4 Pts.
6. France 0-0-0-4, 0 Pts.
(Standings include all games against Group E opponents including games played in the preliminary round)

Group F: Czech Republic 8 vs. Slovakia 0 – This is one of the biggest rivalries in European hockey so we knew we were in for a barnburner. Unfortunately, it was just the Slovaks who got burnt repeatedly by the Czechs. Coming off a game yesterday, Slovakia didn’t have enough in the tank to stop the Czech Republic from running roughshod over them for the big win. The Czechs scored four in each the first and second periods before taking pity and playing defence only in the third. Jaromir Jagr and Roman Cervenka each had two goals while Karel Rachunek and Jakub Klepis had three assists each. The Czechs next see action tomorrow against Belarus while Slovakia gets a day off before facing Norway.

Group F: Belarus 2 vs. Finland 1 (SO) – Andrei Mezin may find himself in the NHL next season. Mezin made 44 saves to almost single handedly lead the Belarusians over the Fins. Belarus opened the scoring only 5 seconds into the game with a goal by Sergei Demagin. It wasn’t until midway through the second that Janne Niskala scored the tying goal on the power play. From there it was a goaltending duel with Mezin and Pekka Rinne making save after save to preserve the tie. It went to a shootout to decide things. Oleg Antonenko scored on both his shootout opportunities to put Belarus over the top and give them the win. The Fins play their next game against Canada with first place in Group F on the line. Belarus looks to be safely in the medal round but must first play the Czechs.

Group F Standings
1. Canada 3-0-0-0, 9 Pts.
2. Finland 2-1-1-0, 9 Pts.
3. Czech Republic 2-0-0-2, 6 Pts.
4. Belarus 0-3-0-1, 6 Pts.
5. Slovakia 0-0-2-2, 2 Pts.
6. Norway 0-0-1-2, 1 Pt.
(Standings include all games against Group F opponents including games played in the preliminary round)

Three Stars of the Day:
1. Andrei Mezin (Belarus) – 44 saves
2. Jaromir Jagr (Czech Republic) – 2 goals
3. Matins Cipulis (Latvia) – 2 goals

Sunday’s Schedule:
Group E: Switzerland vs. Sweden
Group E: Latvia vs. Russia
Group F: Norway vs. Canada
Group F: Belarus vs. Czech Republic
Group G: Germany vs. Austria
Group G: Hungary vs. Denmark

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