Day: January 3, 2017

South Korea to stage Euro Ice Hockey Challenge event for first time

South Korea will play host to one of four Euro Ice Hockey Challenge (EIHC) tournaments next month in preparation for the Asian Winter Games in Sapporo, it has been announced.

The competition, where the host nation will be joined by Hungary, Denmark and Japan, is scheduled for February 6 to 12.

It will be held in the Goyang in Gyeonggi Province, northwest of Seoul, and represents the first time the country has ever played host to an EIHC tournament.

The event will see the four teams compete in a round-robin format.

The EIHC is a series of friendly competitions which are staged during international breaks set by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF).

They are held each September, November, December and February.

Austria, Poland and The Netherlands have been chosen to hold the other three EIHC tournaments in Feburary.

South Korea, ranked at number 23 in the world, claimed a shock win at the last EIHC event in Budapest in Hungary in November.

The Asian side overcame the hosts 3-2 in the final to earn their first EIHC triumph.

Their previous best result came when they finished second in 2014.

The 2017 Asian Winter Games in the Japanese city, which staged the Winter Olympic Games in 1972, are due to take place from February 19 to 26.

South Korea have never won an ice hockey gold medal at the Asian Winter Games and they will be hoping the EIHC will allow them to fine-tune their preparations for the event in Sapporo.

The country will also be making their debut appearance at the Winter Olympics on home ice at Pyeongchang 2018 as they qualified by virtue of being the host nation.

Canada to face Sweden in SF

By Lucas Aykroyd

Julien Gauthier scored twice in the third period to lift Canada to a 5-3 quarter-final win over the Czech Republic and set up a showdown with unbeaten Sweden.

It wasn’t a picture-perfect performance for the hosts, but it was a big relief to make the final four.

“In the first period we were panicking a little bit, but in the end I think it’s a big win for us,” said Gauthier, whose squad trailed 1-0 after 20 minutes despite an 11-4 edge in shots.

Canada, with five returning players from last year’s 6-5 quarter-final loss to eventual champion Finland, was hungry to avoid a second consecutive disappointment. The Canadians, who last won gold in Toronto in 2015, also failed to medal in 2013 and 2014.

“It’s obviously better than last year,” said captain Dylan Strome. “It feels good to be on the winning side of the quarter-finals. Obviously you’re not satisfied yet, but I think it’s a good step.”

The last time Canada faced Sweden in the World Junior playoffs was the 2009 gold medal game in Ottawa, a 5-1 Canadian victory. Sweden won the last two meetings, 6-5 in a shootout on 31 December, 2010, and 5-2 on 31 December, 2015.

“They’re a good team, and we’re going to have to be aware on all sides of the puck,” Strome said of the Swedes. “In the offensive zone, they can attack just as quickly as we can.”

Mitchell Stephens, who missed two games after injuring his ankle versus Latvia, was a force in the quarter-final with a goal and two assists. Blake Speers and Thomas Chabot added a goal and assist apiece, and Anthony Cirelli had two assists.

“I think we can still be better,” said Canadian coach Dominique Ducharme. “We were good at times but we need to be better over 60 minutes.”

David Kase, Tomas Soustal, and Simon Stransky scored for the Czechs.

“If we play Canada ten times we can maybe beat them once or twice,” said Czech coach Jakub Petr.

Connor Ingram, who was originally projected to back up Carter Hart at this tournament, made his second straight start in net for Canada. The 19-year-old Kamloops Blazers goalie did enough to preserve the win. Canada outshot the Czechs 41-19, testing Czech netminder Jakub Skarek from every angle.

With the loss, the Czech Republic finishes sixth. It hasn’t won gold since back-to-back titles in 2000 and 2001. Its last medal was bronze in 2005 — also the last time it made the semi-finals.

Stransky reflected on the tournament: “We started pretty good against Finland. We won that game. I thought it was going to be good. But then we lost two games against Switzerland and Denmark in overtime. Then Sweden. The key game was against Denmark. It was just unlucky, but we’re going home now.”

Prior to this game, Canada had won eight of the last nine games against the Czechs. The Czechs, however, won the previous encounter, 5-4 in a shootout on 28 December, 2013.

Defenceman Kale Clague replaced Philippe Myers on Canada’s top pairing with Chabot. Myers suffered a concussion in the 3-1 New Year’s Eve loss to the Americans.

The game got off to a relatively cautious start. Canada was outshooting the Czechs 8-1 when defenceman Noah Juulsen took the game’s first penalty for delay of game midway through the first, putting the puck over the glass in his own end. However, Petr’s team didn’t get a shot on goal during the man advantage.

With 3:11 left in the first, the Czechs stunned the Bell Centre faithful by taking a 1-0 lead on a flukey play. Captain Filip Hronek’s shot from the side bounced off Adam Musil in front and then hit the referee standing to Ingram’s right. Kase pounced on the loose puck and golfed it into the open side.

“I’ve never seen one go straight to a guy,” said Ingram. “I’ve seen it go off a linesman for a breakaway or a 2-on-1 or something like that. But I’ve never seen it cause an open net like that before. That’s something new. It’s going to happen once in a blue moon, I guess.”

Canada tied it up at 3:45 of the second period when Stephens centered it from the corner to an unguarded Speers, who redirected it through Skarek’s legs for his first World Junior goal.

That got the home team and fans fired up, and Stephens made it 2-1 Canada on a set play at 7:27. Anthony Cirelli won a faceoff in the Czech end and the Saginaw Spirit forward one-timed it in before Skarek could move.

Of Stephens, Chabot said: “He’s a guy who’s always working his ass off on the ice. He’s always first on pucks, winning every battle. He’s also a good, fast player. We’re glad to have him back in the lineup.”

However, the Czechs drew even on their first shot of the middle frame at 8:53. Soustal got the puck past Jake Bean at the Czech blue line, burst down right wing and executed a toe drag around a sprawling Juulsen before zinging it past Ingram’s glove.

At 13:32, Chabot made it 3-2. He took a pass from Stephens and stepped in, stickhandling around a sprawling Radek Koblizek before whipping home a low stick-side wrister.

“He’s a fun guy to watch,” said Ingram of Chabot, who played one game for the Ottawa Senators this season. “He’s making himself a household name across Canada right now. It’s exciting to see. The guy’s got a ton of skill.”

At 3:18 of the third period, Gauthier, a 2015 first-round pick of the Carolina Hurricanes, gave Canada some breathing room at 4-2. Nicolas Roy centered it to Gauthier from behind the net and he surprised Skarek with a quick top-corner shot.

The Czechs had an answer at 5:54. Ingram made a pad save on Necas’s turn-around shot, but Stransky deftly backhanded the rebound in. But Gauthier restored Canada’s two-goal edge just 43 seconds later, banging in the rebound from Clague’s long shot.

“Especially in the second and third, we were hemming them in their D zone,” said Stephens. “We had a lot of energy.”

In the final minute, Petr pulled his goalie and called his timeout, but it was too late for a Czech comeback. The three best Czech players of the tournament were named post-game: Filip Hronek, Michael Spacek, and David Kase.

Canada has won the World Juniors five out of the 11 times it has hosted (1991, 1995, 2006, 2009, 2015).

Parsons saves the day

By Andrew Podnieks

Jordan Greenway broke a 2-2 tie with a power-play goal midway through the third period, giving the U.S. a 3-2 win over the Swiss at the Air Canada Centre.

But the story of the game was the play of American goaltender Tyler Parsons at the right moments. He stoned Swiss teen sensation Nico Hischier with a great glove save in the dying minutes.

Hischier scored both Swiss goals and was the best player on the ice along with defenceman Jonas Siegenthaler, who had 27:24 of ice time.

“You can’t give a great team like that a power play,” Siegenthaler said of the winning goal. “It’s just stupid.”

The United States now advances to the semi-finals against Russia on Wednesday in Montreal. The U.S. beat Russia, 3-2, during the round robin in Toronto.

“The crowd was in their favour, and they fed off that,” said American forward Jeremy Bracco. “But Parsons was huge in the net for us.”

“They outplayed us,” Colin White admitted, “but good teams find a way to win. Our goalie was awesome, made some big saves. But we didn’t prepare as well as we could. We’ll learn from that and be ready for Russia.”

The Swiss are headed home after advancing in impressive fashion to the quarter-finals for the second time in four years.

The U.S. has never lost to Switzerland in U20 history, a streak that now includes 21 wins and two ties. Last year, the Americans won, 10-1, chasing tonight’s goalie, Joren van Pottelberghe, from the game.

“We had a bad start, but we said we talked about putting more pucks at the net, and we did that,” Hischier said. “We always believed we could win. We had a good tournament, and we have a good group of guys. We never gave up. It hurts.”

“We had a great four games, but we kind of felt it coming,” Parsons admitted of the team’s overall poor play. “We needed some adversity. This was our worst game of the tournament, but it’s big for us moving forward.”

The Americans started with an intensity too great for the Swiss. Bracco opened the scoring on the power play. He took a nice feed from Troy Terry and beat van Pottelberghe with a quick shot at 8:32.

Just two minutes later, they doubled their lead off a play at the top of the crease. Greenaway found captain Luke Kunin in close, and Kunin got just enough of his stick on the puck to push it over the line.

The Swiss had a great passing play to create a superb scoring chance for Raphael Prassl, but the puck was rolling and he couldn’t get a good shot on the open side of the goal.

Van Pottelberghe made a couple of good saves late in the period to keep it a 2-0 game, and that counted for something when Nico Hischier made it 2-1 just 13 seconds into a power play.

Hischier, a top prospect for 2017, made a great deke on Charlie McAvoy to move in on goal and then beat Parsons with a shot to the far side at 10:47.

Indeed, the Swiss played a much better period and allowed only two shots by the U.S., taking seven of their own and playing on equal footing for the middle 20 minutes.

The Swiss continued their fine play in the third, drawing two penalties early and tying the game, 2-2, on the second one. In a mad scramble around Parsons’s goal, Hischier pulled the puck free and executed a quick wraparound at 6:00, stunning the Americans but exciting the pro-Swiss crowd.

“Somehow the puck came to me,” Hischier described, “so I tried to lift it at the near post, and that didn’t work. I saw an opportunity for a wraparound, and it worked, so that was great.”

The celebration didn’t last long. Moments later the Swiss were down a man, and the U.S. regained its lead. McAvoy’s point shot dropped in front and Greenway knocked it in to make it 3-2.

Late in the period, Hischier had a great chance to tie the game again but Parsons snapped his glove out and denied the Swiss star. “He was there with his glove. It was a good save, but I should have shot higher as well,” Hischier said.

“I have to make those big saves when the team needs it,” Parsons said. “That’s what I focus on. There was a deflection, and I followed the puck back over. I know the good players like to get the puck high, so I tried to get my glove and leg up, and fortunately I got a glove on it.”

And with that save, the Americans are off to a semi-finals date with Russia, their medal hopes still alive and kicking.

Swedes subdue Slovaks

By Lucas Aykroyd

Sweden took a 3-0 first-period lead and pounded Slovakia 8-3 in the early Montreal quarter-final. Captain Joel Eriksson Ek and Tim Soderlund each scored twice.

On Wednesday, the Swedes will battle the Canada-Czech Republic winner in the semi-finals.

Swedish scoring leader Alexander Nylander and Fredrik Karlstrom chipped in a goal and an assist apiece. Carl Grundstrom and Lias Andersson also scored for Sweden. Rasmus Asplund had four assists and Oliver Kylington had two helpers. The Swedish power play clicked three times.

Except when coach Tomas Monten’s team let its guard down at the end of the second period and the start of the third, Swedish goalie Felix Sandstrom had a quiet afternoon compared to Slovakia’s Adam Huska. Shots favored Sweden 50-18.

“We got the start we really wanted,” said Monten. “It was a similar start like in the last game against the Czechs. We wanted to get the speed going, create pressure and chances. We played a great first period.”

Martin Bodak, Miroslav Struska, and Adam Ruzicka scored for Slovakia.

“We just couldn’t keep up with the Swedes,” said Slovak coach Ernest Bokros. “They skated better and were better one on one. The shot advantage speaks for the Swedish team.”

The Swedes, who came fourth the last two years, are hoping to top the podium for the first time since 2012 in Calgary. Their only other gold medal came in 1981 in West Germany. They haven’t medaled since settling for silver at home in Malmo in 2014.

“I remember the feeling last year,” said Eriksson Ek.”I don’t want to have that feeling again. I hope we can step up a little bit more and win the hockey games.”

At the 2015 World Juniors in Toronto, the Slovaks earned a surprising bronze thanks to Best Goaltender and tournament MVP Denis Godla. It was their second World Junior medal of all time, following 1999’s bronze in Winnipeg. However, they’ll head home empty-handed in 2017.

“I think this year was pretty hard for Team Slovakia because we had a really hard group with Canada, the USA, Russia and Latvia,” said Slovak captain Erik Cernak. “But we’re staying in the [top] division, and we beat Latvia. I think that was really important for Team Slovakia.”

Sweden took just 1:08 to strike first with the man advantage. After a faceoff win in the Slovak end, Eriksson Ek accepted a pass from Asplund and snapped it from the right circle over Huska’s glove.

The Juniorkronorna kept coming. Huska foiled Jonathan Dahlen, who had a hat trick versus the Czechs, on his backhanded breakaway attempt. Eriksson Ek picked off Cernak’s pass up the middle and zinged one off both posts. Gabriel Carlsson also tasted iron with a point shot.

Soderlund, an 18-year-old from Skelleftea, gave Sweden a 2-0 lead at 16:28 with blazing right-wing speed, beating Slovak defenceman Martin Fehervary wide and cutting in to fire it home. It was the World Junior rookie’s first goal at this level.

“I got a pass from Andreas Wingerli from the middle, and I broke in and shot,” said Soderlund.

Just 33 seconds later, Grundstrom made it 3-0 when the Swedes won an offensive-zone faceoff and he roofed one from the right faceoff dot. When the horn sounded, Sweden was outshooting Slovakia 20-5.

Sweden got an early second-period power play when Struska hit Asplund from behind into the boards. Asplund was shaken up, but kept on plugging.

Nylander put Sweden up 4-0 at 7:13, taking Dahlen’s cross-ice pass from below the goal line and squeezing the rebound past Huska’s right skate. At 13:07, Filip Ahl took an open-ice hit to make a play, finding Karlstrom unguarded in front of the Slovak goal, and his high backhand gave Sweden a five-goal edge.

The Slovaks woke up with a pair of late second-period goals. Bodak spoiled Sandstrom’s shutout bid on the power play at 15:48. At 16:54, Struska, standing in front, deflected in Cernak’s point shot. Sandstrom barely denied a fired-up Struska and Ruzicka on a flurry of chances just before the buzzer.

“We played really well in the second period,” said Cernak. “We scored two goals. If we played the same game all game, that would have been good.”

At 1:53 of the third, Ruzicka eluded Andersson’s checking as he swung out in front of the Swedish net and wrapped the puck through Sandstrom’s pads to cut the deficit to 5-3.

But that was as good as it would get for the Central European underdogs, who will finish eighth for the third time in six tries under Bokros.

“It was a bit shaky when they scored their goal there, but we’re a really calm group,” Kylington said. “We talked a lot in the bench. There wasn’t any panic. I think we handled it pretty good.”

In the third period, Soderlund ended Slovakia’s comeback hopes at 2:24, stickhandling in the slot before zipping a wrister past Huska’s blocker to make it 6-3.

“It was an important goal for us,” said Asplund. “We got back the energy and they got a little bit low after that.”

Andersson scored Sweden’s seventh goal from behind the net on the power play at 4:27. Eriksson Ek rounded out the scoring with the man advantage, converting a rebound with 2:56 left.

For Slovakia, at least the final score was an improvement on last year’s 6-0 quarter-final loss to Sweden in Helsinki. The Swedes have won 11 straight World Junior quarter-finals. Their last quarter-final loss was 1-0 to Finland with Tuukka Rask in goal on 2 January, 2006 in Vancouver.

Slovakia’s three best players of the tournament were honoured post-game: Adam Huska, Erik Cernak, and Martin Fehervary.

Russia on to semis

By Andrew Podnieks

Russia scored two goals in the first period—including one from centre ice—to defeat Denmark 4-0 and advance to the semi-finals in Montreal on Wednesday.

Captain Kirill Kaprizov had two goals for the winners and now leads the tournament in goals (7) and points (10).

Ilya Samsonov had an easy time in goal, stopping only 14 mostly harmless shots in the Russian cage for the shutout.

The Danes had plenty of chances on the power play but went 0-for-6.

“It’s a bad thing we took so many penalties,” defenceman Sergei Zborovski said, “but we watched a lot of video before the game to try to improve our penalty killing. We blocked a lot of shots and didn’t give them many chances.”

This marked the third straight year Denmark has stayed in the top pool of the U20, the third time Denmark has qualified for the quarter-finals, and the third year these two teams have faced each other.

In 2015, the Russians needed a shootout before winning, 3-2 in the round robin, and last year the game went to overtime before the Russians prevailed, 4-3 in the quarters.

“I’m very proud of our team,” said coach Olaf Eller. “We had a phenomenal tournament, but today we didn’t get the bounces we’ve gotten in previous games. I think we made a bit more progress this year than last year and the year before.”

“We made history in the round robin,” enthused Christian Mieritz, “and for a small country like Denmark to compete here with huge hockey countries is amazing.”

Although the Danes came out and played a decent first half of the period, the game changed on a terrible blunder from goaltender Lasse Petersen. Alexander Polunin got the puck just inside his side of centre ice. He took a couple of strides and flicked a long shot in on goal. Petersen lost sight of it, and the puck floated into the top corner at 8:45.

“It was a lucky goal,” Zborovski agreed. “But after that we started to play better and controlled the play in their zone more.”

“That wasn’t the reason we lost,” Mieritz said in support of his goalie. “We had a lot of chances after that and we didn’t score. Lasse has been excellent for us. Unfortunately, that was one shot he should have saved, but that’s how it is.”

Denmark had two power plays to get a goal, and although it had some decent movement it couldn’t capitalize. Russia had a late man advantage of its own—and connected with only 10.9 seconds left on the clock.

Mikhail Vorobyov fired a nice pass from behind the net to Kaprizov in front, and Kaprizov’s quick shot snuck under Petersen’s glove on the short side for a commanding 2-0 lead.

Coach Olaf Eller swapped Petersen out and Kasper Krog in to start the second, but the damage had been done. The middle period was one dominated by the penalty killers. The Danes took a double minor and then minor in quick order, leaving them a man down for six minutes in a row, but they did a great job of keeping the Russians at bay. 

Later, the Danes had two power plays but failed to generate any dangerous shots.

“They packed together in front of the net,” Mieritz noted of the Russian strategy. “We just couldn’t get any shots at the goal. We should have done more, but we didn’t.” 

The Russians added an insurance marker at 7:12 of the third when Denis Guryanov fanned on a shot in the slot. The puck came right to Pavel Karnaukhov, and he drilled a shot past Krog for a 3-0 lead.

Kaprizov put an accent on the win at 15:35. He walked out from the corner and drilled a shot over Krog’s shoulder.

And now the Russians will play the winner of tonight’s United States-Switzerland game on Wednesday. One thing is for certain, Zborovski said: “We have to have a better start. We have to be ready and play hard the whole game.”

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