Date: December 29, 2016

Americans look sharp in 5-2 win

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By Andrew Podnieks IIHF.com

Team USA built on its improved play as its first game progressed, and the players came to the rink ready for a full 60 minutes of skating tonight.

They worked effectively in all facets of the game, beating Slovakia 5-2 and improving to 2-0 in the tournament. There were five goal scorers, and 12 players recorded at least one point for the winners.

“We were focused and ready to play,” said captain Luke Kunin. “We did what we needed to do to be successful. We needed to get a good start and get pucks to the net. Everyone on the team contributed.”

The Slovaks were much improved over their one-sided loss to Canada last night but were still decidedly the second best team on the ACC ice tonight. They are now 0-2.

Moving the puck with confidence and using their speed, the Americans pressured their opponents all night long and generated countless good scoring chances. In all, shots were 50-20 for the U.S., and the Slovaks have now been outshot in two games by a cumulative total of 94-26.

Slovakia coach Ernest Bokros decided to rest goaltender Adam Huska in favour of Matej Tomek tonight, and Tomek was busy and mostly impressive.

At the other end, coach Bob Motzko did the same, playing Joseph Woll and resting Tyler Parsons.

“Coach Motzko always says you have to come to the rink ready to play every day,” noted defenceman Jack Ahcan. “That’s what we did today. It’s about our heart and our effort.”

The U.S. opened the scoring at 10:15 of the first despite a great save by the goalie off a point-blank shot by Tanner Laczynski, but Tomek couldn’t control the rebound and Laczynski knocked in the loose puck.

The Americans went up 2-0 near the end of the period off a gaffe by Andrej Hatala at the U.S. blue line. As he prepared to play the puck he lost his balance and fell awkwardly, allowing a two-on-one with Clayton Keller and Colin White.

Keller waited, fired a nice saucer pass to White at the blue ice, and White redirected the puck in for a 2-0 lead.

But Slovakia showed some life. Midway through the period it had a power play and almost scored, moving the puck well and creating several chances. The Slovaks had a second man advantage later in the period and built on the success of the first, scoring at 18:08 on a great back-door pass from Oliver Pataky to Martin Fehervary who didn’t miss the open net.

The U.S. went up 3-1 at 2:03 of the second on a delayed penalty. Jack Ahcan got the puck to Tage Thompson in the slot. The pass was behind Thompson, who spun and roofed a shot in one motion over an unsuspecting Tomek. The highlight-reel goal seemed to deflate the Slovaks.

Six minutes later, a Charlie McAvoy point shot beat Tomek cleanly, and soon after Troy Terry added a fifth goal. The U.S. had just the comfortable lead it deserved.

Michal Roman got the only goal of the third, with 36.5 seconds remaining, on a long point shot to make the score marginally closer.

Swedes stay perfect

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By Lucas Aykroyd IIHF.com

Sweden beat Switzerland 4-2 for its second straight Bell Centre win on Wednesday. Captain Joel Eriksson Ek scored twice, including the third-period winner.

Eriksson Ek accepted Carl Grundstrom’s lovely backhanded feed from behind the net and zipped the puck through Swiss goalie Joren van Pottelberghe with 5:08 remaining.

“I’m playing with good players,” said Eriksson Ek.”They set me up and I just try to shoot. Today I was lucky and two went in.”

Lias Andersson and Lucas Carlsson also scored for Sweden, and Grundstrom and Alexander Nylander had two assists apiece. Jonas Siegenthaler notched a goal and an assist for Switzerland, and Calvin Thurkauf had the other goal.

Van Pottelberghe did his best to keep his team’s hopes alive as Sweden outshot Switzerland 46-15. In Switzerland’s opening 4-3 overtime win versus the Czechs, he faced 39 shots.

“It’s a great booster when we know we have a guy in the back that can make saves when we need them,” said Thurkauf. “Joren has been astonishing over the last two games. We hope we can count on that for the rest of the tournament.”

The Swedes, who sit first in Group A, face winless Nordic rival Finland on Thursday. Switzerland battles Denmark in a crucial matchup on Friday.

Last year, the Finns edged Sweden 2-1 in the semi-finals en route to gold in Helsinki. So there’s a grudge match coming up.

“I think it’s going to be a good battle,” said Nylander. “They’ve lost two, so they’ll be coming at us hard. But we are mad from last year, so we’ll be on top of our game too, I think.”

This game was tied 2-2 heading into the third period, and Swiss fans prayed their team could emulate Denmark’s 3-2 upset over Finland the night before. Alas, it was not to be.

“For sure we’re proud that we played a pretty good game,” said Thurkauf. “But in the end, we lost a very important game that we should have won, or at least gotten one or two points out of it.”

Sweden struck early. On a Nylander set-up, Eriksson Ek fooled van Pottelberge with his quick release from the edge of the left faceoff circle at 4:13.

Nine seconds into their first power play, Switzerland made it 1-1 at 5:08. Siegenthaler’s centre point blast, the first Swiss shot on goal, eluded goalie Felix Sandstrom.

The blue-and-yellow boys looked unfazed. Grundstrom burst down the left side and dished it to Andersson, who corraled the puck and snapped a shot high glove side for a 2-1 lead at 6:38. It was the first World Junior goal for the 18-year-old HV71 forward, who had nine points for Sweden’s silver-medal U18 team in April.

Sandstrom slid across to make a nice save on Damien Riat’s late-period one-timer. He wasn’t busy overall, as Sweden outshot the Swiss 15-6 in the opening frame.

However, Switzerland valiantly persevered in the second period, tying it up at 6:17. It took just 21 seconds to cash in on the power play. Hischier fed Thurkauf down low, and the Swiss captain slammed in a wrap-around for his second of the tournament.

The Swedes kept firing away, but couldn’t convert. With just over three minutes left in the middle frame, van Pottelberge made a sharp glove save on Oliver Kylington, who cut to the net with a quick backhand.

“We had a lot of shots, but the goalie was playing good,” said Eriksson Ek. “We need to be in front and not allow him to see the puck.”

The Swiss called their time-out to strategize before a power play early in the third period, but it proved ineffective.

After Eriksson Ek’s go-ahead goal, Lucas Carlsson gave Sweden some insurance, scoring on a high shot with 2:49 left. It was deserved, as shots favored Sweden 17-4 in the third.

“We played a little bit complicated in some of the areas,” said Nylander. “We need to keep it more simple and we’ll do better. But they had a good game. They played good too. It was nice to get the win.”

Highly touted 16-year-old Swedish blueliner Rasmus Dahlin didn’t crack the scoresheet in this game, but impressed again with his skating, positioning and playmaking. He had two points in the opening 6-1 win over Denmark, a Swedish World Junior record for a player his age.

It was Sweden’s eighth straight win over Switzerland at the World Juniors. The last Swiss victory over Sweden was on 3 January, 2003, 5-3 in relegation play.

In 2010, Sweden trounced Switzerland 11-4 in the bronze medal game, the largest margin of victory ever in a World Junior medal game.

Day Three Recap of the Spengler Cup

By spenglercup.ch

Lugano takes direct route to semifinals

With a 4-3 victory over HK Mountfield on Wednesday afternoon HC Lugano secured top spot in Group Torriani and, thus, a direct semifinal berth at the 90th Spengler Cup.

The matchup between the Ticinesi and the Czech club from the town of Hradec Kralove was decided halfway through regulation time. Within 88 seconds Luca Fazzini with an accurate wrist shot and reinforcement Ryan Vesce extended Lugano’s lead to 4-1. Up that point the game had been even. Gregory Hoffmann had put the Ticinesi ahead on a long-range shot redirect on the man advantage, and, after Jiri Simanek’s equalizer, gave the Swiss the lead again with a fine solo for his second marker. Mountfield had the upper hand in the opening period outshooting their opponents 16-7. And, shortly before the third goal against them, Radislav Dej missed the 2-2 equalizer, when he failed to beat Lugano keeper Daniel Manzato on a short-handed breakaway.

After the 4-1 goal Ondrej Katecl took over for Patrik Ryber, who was not at fault for any of the goals, in net for Mountfield. The number 2 goaltender shut the door, while Andris Dzernis short-handed and Rudolf Cerveny brought their team within one goal to make for a highly exciting end to the game. But the final eight minutes and, in the end, an extra skater were not enough for the Czechs to even the score.

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Davos only finish in second place despite win

At the 90th Spengler Cup HC Davos defeated Dynamo Minsk 5-4 in an particularly spectacular game. Based on the goal differential the Belarusians still secured first place in the group ahead of the hosts and Team Canada, who both finished with the same point total.

The sell-out crowd of 6300 at Vaillant Arena witnessed a wild game. In the middle period Davos was, in theory, temporarily in first place of the group, when they took a 4-1 lead. The “Bündner” resolutely took command of the game after an unlucky start with a short-handed goal by Minsk’s Canadian Rob Klinkhammer. Still in the first period Adam Hall tied it up on the power play. Noah Schneeberger used the next man advantage for a Davos lead. Then it was Perttu Lindgren, who finished a textbook combination and Drew Shore marked the 4-1. The Belarusians reacted promptly as Danila Karaban and Alexander Pavlovitsh cut the deficit after some carelessness on Davos’ defence. In the middle period no fewer than 5 goals were scored within nine minutes and ten seconds. When Enzo Corvi netted the 5-3, Davos’ first place hopes sprung again. But Pavlovitsh put in his veto by bringing Minsk within a goal on the power play.

While Minsk has directly qualified for the semifinals on Friday, Davos will play on Thursday evening at 8.15pm in the quarterfinal versus Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg. In the first quarterfinal, Team Canada will face HC Mountfield at 3pm.

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