Day: February 11, 2022

Finland wears down resolute Latvia

 

By Andy Potts – IIHF.com

Finland battled past a resolute Latvian rearguard action to maintain its winning start in Beijing. The Leijonat had a hard time solving Janis Kalnins in the Latvian net, with the Baltic nation producing a solid defensive display before falling to a 3-1 loss.

It wasn’t always easy watching, but there was no disputing the workrate and commitment on display at the National Indoor Stadium as Latvia sought to rebound from its opening 2-3 loss to Sweden. Finland, though, secured the win on goals from Valtteri Kemilainen, Leo Komarov and Marko Anttila.

There were a couple of changes for Team Latvia. Kalnins, who played three seasons with Jokerit Helsinki in the KHL, got the start in goal; his insider knowledge of the Finnish game may have given him the nod over Ivars Punnenovs today. Miks Indrasis, a surprise absentee against Sweden, returned to the offence in place of Andris Dzerins and Arturs Kulda slotted into the defensive line.

Finland, too, switched things up from the 6-2 win over Slovakia. The experienced Anttila returned to the team after his spell in isolation, while Toni Rajala was preferred to Niko Ojamaki on the third line. Defenceman Niklas Friman was the other player to make way for Friday’s game.

Latvia suffered an early blow when captain Lauris Darzins collided with Teemu Hartikainen. Darzins fell awkwardly against the edge of the door to the Finnish bench and headed to the locker room for treatment. He did not return to the game.

Despite that loss, the Latvians had plenty to be happy with in the first period. There were few Finnish chances in the opening stanza as Harijs Vitolins’ team defended stoutly. The best opportunity for the Leijonat fell to Iiro Pakarinen, but he had little space to work with in front of Kalnins and fired directly at the goaltender. At the other end, Latvia had a couple of half chances of their own, with Kaspars Daugavins and Martins Dzierkals both sparking anxiety as they looked to stuff the puck home at the back door.

The pattern of play did not much change in the second period. Latvia continued to make things difficult for Finland, while Jukka Jalonen’s well-drilled team struggled to find the creative edge needed to break down a resolute rearguard action.

It wasn’t until late in the frame that chances started to arrive in front of Kalnins. The Vityaz Podolsk partnership of Valtteri Kemilainen and Miro Aaltonen almost unlocked the door, but Aaltonen’s effort at the back door produced a fine sliding save from Kalnins. Then Aaltonen was the sidekick in an odd-man rush which saw Joonas Nattinen flash an effort across the face of the net before Teemu Hartikainen’s dangerous feed across the paint evaded Rajala and went to safety.

In Ufa, where he plays his hockey for Salavat Yulaev, Teemu is known as Hart-gol; today, though, it was Harti-post when he beat Kalnins only to see his effort fly back off the piping. The Latvian goalie looked far better than his unprepossessing stats for Vaxjo Lakers this season, but he was unable to keep the scoreboard blank into the second intermission. With two minutes to play in the middle frame, Kemilainen fired in a shot from the blue line and a crowd of players obscured the goalie’s view as the puck found the net.

Latvia, though, has good form on the power play in this tournament. Against Sweden it converted two out of three, almost clawing back a three-goal deficit in the process. Today, the special teams did the trick again when Renars Krastenbergs’ dish set up Rodrigo Abols for a wicked one-timer that flashed below Harri Sateri’s glove to tie the scores. Abols, whose father Artis is on the Latvian coaching staff, had three goals in qualifying last year; today’s tying effort revived hopes of a first victory over Finland since the 2014 World Championship.

However, the Leijonat regained the lead with five minutes to play. Once again, it took a point shot to unpick the Latvian defence, with Juuso Hietanen letting fly from the right-hand corner and seeing his effort tipped past Kalnins by Leo Komarov. The Estonian-born centre secured his place on the roster when he left New York for St. Petersburg earlier in the season and avoided the NHL embargo in Beijing.

Any hope of Latvia stealing a tie late in the game was extinguished by Anttila when he fired home from the right-hand circle. The Latvian bench challenged the call, hoping for goalie interference from Hannes Bjorninen as the shot came in, but there was no reprieve and Finland coasted through the final moments on the power play to seal the win.

Canada wallops Sweden to advance to women’s Olympic semifinal

By Aaron Vickers – Daily Hive

Brianne Jenner and Sarah Fillier scored three goals, and Marie Philip Poulin and Sarah Nurse had four assists to pace Canada to a dominating 11-0 win against Sweden in quarterfinal action at the 2022 Games.

The win advances Canada into a semifinal matchup against an opponent to be determined pending the remaining quarterfinal. Semifinal matchups are re-seeded; Canada, who went perfect through the round-robin portion of the tournament, is the No. 1 seed.

After winning all four games against Group A opponents, Canada earned the nod — including a marquee 4-2 win against Team USA and a delayed 6-1 victory over Russian Olympic Committee  — to claim the division’s top spot. Canada, the only team without a loss in the tournament, outscored opponents 33-5 en route to earning their date with Sweden.

That scoring prowess continued at Sweden’s expense.

Jenner, who won gold at 2014 Sochi and silver at 2018 PyeongChang with Canada, opened the scoring at 3:05 of the first period, tucking a shot along the ice by Soderberg for the 1-0 lead.

Fillier sniped twice in a 36-second span late in the opening frame to extend the lead to 3-0. She snuck a one-timer off Sodeberg’s pad and in, a goal that required video review to confirm, at 17:41 before pinballing a pass from Renata Fast off the Swedish netminder and in at 17:41.

Jamie Lee Rattray went bar down on a wrist shot from the point through traffic with 24.1 seconds remaining in the opening frame to make it 4-0.

Spooner chopped a rebound 3:16 into the second period, and Erin Ambrose went short-side shelf on Soderberg 1:59 later for a 6-0 edge.

Blayre Turnbull netted a bank shot at 6:56, and Jenner scored on redirect high over Soderberg’s glove at 8:13, pushed Canada ahead by eight. Emily Clark added another at 9:09 to give Canada a 9-0 lead after the middle frame.

Jenner completed the hat-trick at 10:55 of the third period, converting on a backdoor feed from Micah Zandee-Hart that beat goalie Ida Bowman, who replaced Soderberg after 40 minutes.

Fillier netted her third of the game at 12:06 to put Canada ahead 11-0.

Jenner and Fillier each lead the tournament with eight goals apiece.

Swedes secure second victory

By Andy Potts – IIHF.com

Sweden won its second game in Beijing, overcoming Slovakia thanks to a strong goaltending display from Magnus Hellberg.

The 30-year-old netminder, currently with HC Sochi in the KHL, got on the ice at the Olympics for the first time here. He went to PyeongChang with the Swedes but was an unused third choice in that tournament. Today, making up for lost time, he calmly neutralised a lively Slovak offence, making 40 saves in total and only missing out on a shut-out thanks to a late goal from Juraj Slafkovsky.

“It was my first Olympic game, so it was a lot of emotions and excitement,” Hellberg said afterwards. “I haven’t played a game in almost one month. It was a lot of fun out there. I think we did a really good job as a team. The guys really helped me a lot.”

“It was a great job by Magnus in net,” added Joakim Nordstrom, scorer of Sweden’s first goal. “We were blocking shots, doing the small things to get the pucks out. We got to keep building our game.”

At the other end, Slovakia started with Matej Tomek. The 24-year-old from Kometa Brno is the youngest of the three goalies in Craig Ramsay’s stable and he was preferred to veteran Branislav Konrad, who allowed six goals in yesterday’s loss to Finland. However, there was no dream debut for the youngster, who was replaced by Patrik Rybar after a difficult first period.

That opening frame saw Slovakia enjoy the better of much of the play, outshooting Sweden 14-12 and initially creating the more dangerous chances. Slafkovsky, the 17-year-old who announced himself in style with two goals against the Finns, looked menacing again. The best Slovak chance in the early stages, though, went to captain Marek Hrivik. His effective partnership with Peter Cehlarik is renewed here, and the Torpedo Nizhni Novgorod forward went close to converting a pass from his line-mate, only for Hellberg to make the save.

Then Sweden conjured a response. Up until Joakim Nordstrom’s opener, the Tre Kronor had struggled to turn an equal share of possession into a dangerous chance. But a good combination around Tomek’s net saw Lukas Bengtsson deceive everyone when he shaped for a point shot. The Slovak defence and goalie drifted out of position and the Swedish D-man slipped a pass to Nordstrom, who needed no second invitation as he stood all alone in front of an open net.

Late in the first, Sweden took control of the scoreboard with two further goals. First, Lucas Wallmark added to his two goals against Latvia with a tally on a 5-on-3 power play. The CSKA Moscow forward used Martin Marincin as a screen to find Tomek’s top corner. Then, back at equal strength, the Swedes added a third when Max Friberg redirected Philip Holm’s point shot in off the post.

“[Those early goals are] big for our confidence,” said Nordstrom. “It’s a tough lead to have and they did a really good job trying to score. They were playing good offence. When there’s not much time left they take more chances.”

Wallmark, meanwhile, is enjoying his start to life at the Olympics. “I’m playing with good players, that helps a lot.,” he said of his three goals to date. “We won the puck in the offensive zone and I just tried to find the net and when you play with good players it makes it a lot easier.”

That spelled the end for Tomek, who was replaced by Rybar at the start of the second period. The Dynamo Minsk man made a good stop to deny his clubmate Bengtsson midway through the frame and dealt with everything else that Sweden could throw at him in a goalless middle session.

However, Slovakia, which was missing forward Marko Dano due to suspension, was unable to find a cutting edge at the other end. Slafkovsky continued to look dangerous, but the Slovak power play slipped to 0 from 3 for the game and 0 from 7 in the tournament so far. Not even a few seconds of 5-on-3 play could greatly trouble Hellberg, with the goalie completing 30 saves through 40 minutes.

“It was a tough hockey game,” said Slovakia’s defenceman Martin Marancin. “Sweden played very well, pressured hard. We knew that they skate a lot. We have to play simpler in the D-zone and go forecheck.”

In the Latvia game, Sweden opened a 3-0 lead only to end up hanging on to a slender 3-2 advantage. That might have given hope to Slovakia, but the third period started badly for Ramsay’s team, with a high sticking call sending Pavol Regenda to the box for a double minor. Even though the penalty was killed without misadventure, it was time that the Slovaks could ill-afford to spend on the defensive.

There were more scoring chances: Hellberg came up with a big pad save to deny Michal Kristof on the breakaway at one end, then Rybar did well to deny Anton Lander when the Swedish captain got onto Jacob de la Rosa’s backhand feed to the slot and looked to put the game beyond reach.

Slovakia’s power play problems continued. A fourth attempt in this game came to naught midway through the third period as Sweden deployed an aggressive PK that halted the advance in centre ice and ran down the clock with some ease.

With 2:38 to play, Slovakia withdrew Rybar in favour of an extra skater. However, summing up Slovak fortunes, the only result was an empty-net goal for Carl Klingberg.

Slafkovsky had the final word, snapping home a fiery finish in the closing seconds to rob Hellberg of his shut-out. That’s the youngster’s third goal of the Games – he’s scored all of Slovakia’s goals – and cements his status as top pick at this year’s NHL draft. He was assisted by another 17-year-old prodigy, Simon Nemec.

The Swedish win means that the Tre Kronor can secure top spot in Group C – and a bye to the quarter finals – with victory over Finland in its final group game. Slovakia is still seeking a first victory in Beijing and completes its group stage program against Latvia on Sunday.

“We had a better game today than we had yesterday and we have to build on that,” Nordstrom summarized. “We have guys coming from all over the world to a short tournament with not so many practices. We took one step today and are going to keep moving to the right direction.”

Krejci in shootout gets Czechs first win

By Derek O’Brien – IIHF.com

After suffering narrow one-goal defeats in their opener – Switzerland 1-0 to ROC and Czechia 2-1 to Denmark in a surprise – both teams were eager to get their first win and avoid the Group B basement with one game left. Czechia won although both got their first points following a 2-1 shootout victory, in which David Krejci scored the lone shootout goal in the second round, snapping the puck through the small hole between the glove hand, body and right bad of Swiss goaltender Leonardo Genoni.

“It’s tough to do something with the puck on that ice after a full period and overtime, so I knew that I was going to shoot. I saw a little opening and I’m glad it worked out,” said Krejci.

After stopping all five Swiss attempts, Czech goalie Simon Hrubec said about shootouts: “Before this season I didn’t like them, but I talked with my goalie coach at Avangard and I told him I don’t have self-confidence in shootouts, so we had to solve this problem. I faced maybe a thousand penalty shots after practice through the season and now I feel better about them.”

Hrubec finished the game by stopping Gaetan Haas, who tried to fake a shot before attempting a backhand deke, but the Czech goalie read it perfectly and denied the Swiss shooter any room.

“You go there and you don’t know if the goalie knows what you’re gonna do or not,” said Haas. “You just go to your bag of tricks and hope he bites, but I guess he knew what we were gonna do because he stopped every shot.”

Haas scored the only Swiss goal of regulation time – in fact their only goal of the tournament so far – in the ninth minute of the game to tie the score after Jiri Smejkal had earlier opened the scoring. And that was it. Hrubec and Genoni stopped everything else, with the Czechs outshooting the Swiss 35-25 through 65 minutes of hockey.

“We knew they were going to be tight games but I definitely expected that we would have more than one goal after two games,” said Swiss head coach Patrick Fischer. “But also, we’ve only had two against. We definitely have to find a way to score more goals. Our offence needs to be better, we need to get more traffic, win more offensive battles, but it’s a growing process.”

After feeling they didn’t generate enough grade-A scoring chances against Denmark, the Czechs seemed to be the more determined team off the opening faceoff, drew an early power play and used that to build some momentum. Just seconds after the expiration of the penalty, Lukas Klok took a shot from the point that hit a stick and bounced in the air. Jiri Smejkal bunted the puck out of the air and it was destined to slide wide of the net when it hit the skate of Swiss defenceman Yannick Weber and slid into the net.

Switzerland drew even four minutes later on its first power play. Controlling the puck from the perimeter, Sven Andrighetto took a shot from a sharp angle that Hrubec stopped and thought he had covered. However, the puck was sitting loose beside the Czech goalie and Haas banged it in.

“We weren’t happy with our PP the other night, so we tried to work on it yesterday and, for sure it felt good to score,” said the EHC Biel-Bienne captain. “But after that, I felt that our PP wasn’t great. Our unit couldn’t keep the puck in the zone. In the end, we couldn’t score and you’re not going to win much with one goal in two games.”

Czechia continued to hold the edge in play and Tomas Zohorna almost restored the lead in the final minute of the first period but Leonardo Genoni made a big glove save.

In the second period, the teams settled down into a more defensive rhythm without much in the way of quality chances until the last two minutes, when HC Davos veteran Andres Ambuhl, playing in his fifth Olympics, carried the puck into the Czech zone with speed, made a move on the defence and sent a deceptive shot along the ice that Hrubec had to be sharp on.

With the game still tied in the third period, the teams took the cautious approach, not wanting to make the crucial mistake to miss out on points for the second straight game. But as the period wore on, the Czechs began to push again and Genoni, ever the big performer for the Swiss national team, was called upon to make some timely saves. Then just shy of the period’s midpoint, Killian Mottet sent a seemingly harmless shot on Hrubec that nearly found its way through the Czech goalie, but not quite.

“It’s almost like the seventh game of a playoff series,” said Hrubec. “There is no room for error because in this small rink, if you make a mistake, it might cost you the whole game.”

Switzerland went to the power play again with 7:33 to go but generated very little from it, but inside four minutes to play in regulation time, both teams had golden chances to take the lead – first Tomas Hyka for the Czechs when he seemed to have an empty net on a rebound but was upended without getting a shot away, and then Simon Moser for the Swiss on a partial breakaway but couldn’t beat Hrubec on the backhand.

In 3-on-3 overtime, each team had two shots as the teams played continuously without a whistle until Hrubec held the puck with 30 seconds to go. In the dying seconds, Libor Sulak ripped a shot wide.

“Two good teams going at it,” said Krejci. “They’re a good team, they played fast, but I think we played well defensively. One thing we have to work on is putting the puck in the net more often, but I believe it’ll come and we’ll be fine. For now, we’ll enjoy the win, rest up and get ready for tomorrow.”

ROC ice hockey team defeats Denmark 2-0 at 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing

Source: Tass News Agency

Players of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) men’s ice hockey team defeated 2-0 the national squad from Denmark on Friday at the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in China.

The goals were scored by Pavel Karnaukhov on the 29th minute and Kirill Semyonov with five seconds shy of the final buzzer.

The ice hockey competition at the 2022 Olympics in Beijing runs between February 9 and 20. The team of Russian ice hockey players was seeded in Group B along with the squads from Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Denmark.

On February 9, Team ROC defeated Switzerland in their group stage opener and now tops Group B with six points after two matches. Denmark is 2nd with three points after two matches, the Czechs are 3rd with zero points after one match played and Switzerland round up the group’s standings with zero points after one match played.

Team ROC (the Russian Olympic Committee) are now scheduled to play its next Group B match against the Czech Republic on February 12.

USA women’s team into Olympic semi-final after hard-fought win over Czech Republic

Source: Olympics.com

United States women’s ice hockey team are into the Beijing 2022 semi-final after a 4-1 victory over the Czech Republic on Friday (11 February).

Goals from Hilary Knight, Lee Stecklein, a late strike from Savannah Harmon and an empty-netter keep the U.S. alive in the competition, but it wasn’t as convincing as the score-line sounds.

Many expected this to be an easy victory for the reigning Olympic champs, but the Czechs put up a fight worthy of an Olympic knock-out match.

Goalkeeper Klara Peslarova was absolutely inspired and towards the end of the first period had 14 saves from 14 shots.

The Czechs took the lead too, Michaela Pejzlova scored first to set their fans dreaming, but the lead only lasted for 12 seconds as Knight brought the States back level.

The Czechs kept it tight until the third period when Stecklein put them ahead with 13′ left on the clock, her shot deflected by a skate under the pads of a furious Peslarova.

With the U.S. outshooting their opponents 59 – 6 in the game, it was frustrating for the Americans not to secure the win much earlier.

Harmon stepped up to make it safe with her second goal of the competition with just over three minutes to play. She now has two goals and four assists to her name in Beijing.

The Czechs pulled the goalie and Kendall Coyne Schofield found the empty net after she stole the puck six seconds before the buzzer.

“It was the first time we played the American team and I’m really proud of my team,” said Czech captain Alena Mills after the game.

“I think today we showed how we can play, to prove to ourselves how we can play.

“I wish we’d started to play like this a little bit earlier but it’s our first Olympics, our first experience here. We’re going to go home with a lot of life lessons and a lot of hockey lessons as well and learn from it and be stronger in four years.”

Scorer of the clincher, Lee Stecklein said:

“They definitely came out skating hard, it’s a quarter final, we’re skating for our lives, you know it’s gonna be a great game, they came out wanting to win.

“I don’t think we played a bad game but we definitely needed to stick with it and find a way to play big”

The U.S. will face the winner of Finland – Japan in their semi-final with Canada looming large on the other side of the draw.

For the Czechs, this young team showed that they have what it takes to mix it with the Olympic champs, expect a lot more from them in four years at Milano-Cortina 2026.

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