Month: February 2022 (Page 2 of 7)

ROC down Denmark to progress to men’s Olympic ice hockey semi-final at Beijing 2022


ROC are through to the men’s ice hockey Olympic semi final after squeezing past a spirited Denmark 3-1 at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games on Wednesday 16 February.

Four years after the Olympic Athletes from Russia won gold in PyeongChang, ROC will play in the last four for a place in the gold medal game. Earlier, Slovakia caused a major upset by eliminating the USA in the day’s first quarter-final.

ROC opened the scoring against Denmark in the first period through Vadim Shipachyov, but Denmark levelled it at 1-1 thanks to a Frans Nielsen strike.

The ROC outshot Denmark 40 to 18 over the 60 minutes and Danish goalie Sebastian Dahm lived up to his name making save after save.

Nikita Nesterov finally broke the dam again late in the second period and Vyacheslav Voinov made sure of the win for ROC with a wrist shot into the top corner on a powerplay, with 4:15 left on the clock.

Goalkeeper Ivan Fedotov was important for ROC too, and while he coughed up a couple of chances with some poor decision-making with his stick, he also came up with huge stops to keep his team ahead at 2-1.

Fedotov didn’t let in a single goal in 120 minutes of hockey in ROC’s first two group games – one of them against Denmark – and has been one of the outstanding young performers in Beijing, with a move to the NHL reportedly in talks.

In the end it’s the ROC who advance to the semi finals, but Denmark can be proud of their Olympic debut, making the quarter final and pushing the Olympic champs all the way.

Slovakia stun USA and progress to semi-final


Slovakia men’s ice hockey team are into the semi-finals of the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games after eliminating Team USA in the quarterfinals on Wednesday 16 February.

After a tight and tense 2-2 in regular time and a deadlocked overtime period, Slovakia won in the penalty shootout.

The heroes for Slovakia were goalkeeper Patrik Rybar who stopped four of the USA’s penalty shots and Peter Cehlarik who scored his for a historic victory for the Slovaks.

The USA are out and Slovakia will play the winner of ROC-Denmark in the semi-final.

It’s an incredible moment for Slovakia who started the tournament poorly with two defeats in their first two games – a 6-2 loss to Finland and a 4-2 loss to Sweden.

But they managed to tighten things up and stunned reigning Olympic silver medallists from PyeongChang 2018 Germany 4-0 in their qualification playoff on Tuesday.

USA were tagged as favourites when they beat Canada in the prelims but Slovakia made life very difficult for a talented, youthful USA team, withstanding an early American onslaught to score first in the 12th minute.

Revelation Juraj Slafkovsky found space in front of the U.S. net and beat Strauss Mann with another precise wrist shot into the top corner for his fifth goal of the tournament.

At 17 years of age, Slafkovsky is one of the breakout stars of the Games, and his goal gave the Slovaks the confidence to begin dominating the U.S.

But just when it looked like the underdogs might head into the locker room with a goal advantage, up popped Nick Abruzzese to find Rybar’s five-hole less than a minute before the end of the first period to tie things up.

Abruzzese finished off a fine team goal after a great assist by Steven Kampfer and an even better pass from Matty Beniers whose quick hands opened up Slovakia.

The second period began just as tight with the Slovaks outshooting the U.S. but on 11:04 Sam Hentges collected out front, spun, and found the bottom corner with a backhand.

Nick Perbix and Nathan Smith picked up the assists on that goal.

The USA went in leading at the end of the second period despite being outshot 13-6 by their surging opponents.

Beniers hit the post halfway through the third period, so close to his opening goal in Beijing, and Slafkovsky was denied by Mann with a sharp save, but the 3rd period deadlock continued.

With the U.S. 44 seconds from the semi-final, captain Marek Hrivik stepped up and levelled it at 2-2 to send the game into overtime. The Slovakian bench erupted in celebration.

Ten minutes of overtime yielded no goals thanks to great work from Rybar, and he would be the hero of the shootout too, shutting out the U.S. with four penalty saves, and they missed one.

Cehlarik took the decisive shot and managed to beat Mann, before U.S. captain Andy Miele failed to equalise.

“Words just can’t describe how I feel right now, it’s a real tough pill to swallow,” said USA Coach David Quinn after the loss.

“I thought as the game went on we got away from doing the things we needed to do to have success. I thought we tried to force plays offensively, really fueled their offence and you could really feel the momentum change.

“To me the five-on-three was the turning point of the whole game. We had the chance to go up five-to-three and we just couldn’t do it.

“It was such an incredible group of players to coach and it just really stings that it’s over.”

The dream of a first ever Olympic medal for Slovakia is just one win away.

Canada beats China in Olympic men’s hockey; will play Sweden in quarterfinals

Adam Tambellini had two goals, including one on a penalty shot, to go along with three assists as Canada survived an early scare Tuesday to beat China 7-2 in the qualification round of the men’s hockey tournament at the Beijing Olympics.

Jordan Weal, with two goals and an assist; Eric Staal and Jack McBain, with a goal and an assist each; and Eric O’Dell provided the rest of the offence for the Canadians, who got 27 saves from Matt Tomkins. Maxim Noreau added three assists.

Cory Kane scored twice for China. Jeremy Smith stopped 15 shots for the hosts in the first period before injuring his left leg. Paris O’Brien made 23 saves in relief for the Chinese, who went winless in four games and were outscored a combined 23-4 in the program’s first Games.

The Canadian roster of non-NHLers, which beat the Chinese 5-0 on Sunday in the round-robin finale and are the No. 5 seed after finishing second in Group A behind the United States, will now take on Sweden in Wednesday’s quarterfinals.

They’ll need to be a whole lot better if Canada’s going to play for a medal in Beijing.

In other qualification-round matchups, Slovakia beat Germany 4-0, Denmark topped Latvia 3-2, and Switzerland got past the Czech Republic 4-2.

Slovakia will take on the U.S. in the quarters, while Denmark faces off against the Russian Olympic Committee, and Finland meets Switzerland.

China’s team at the 2022 Winter Olympics was composed of Kunlun Red Star, a Beijing-based KHL club that finished last this season. Of the country’s 25 players, 18 were born or grew up in North America, including 11 with ties to Canada, while one is Russian.

Vancouver native and former NHL winger Brandon Yip, who has Chinese heritage through three of his four grandparents, served as the team’s captain. But others like Smith and Jake Chelios, the son of Hall of Famer Chris Chelios, had no ties to the country before signing contracts with Kunlun.

The International Ice Hockey Federation, which contemplated replacing China with Norway because of competitive imbalance, ruled players in that category met residency requirements despite the fact Kunlun relocated to the Moscow area because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tomkins started a second straight game for Canada, while Edward Pasquale, who got the nod in the first two contests, served as the backup.

Devon Levi, the MVP of the 2021 world junior hockey championship putting up eye-popping numbers in the NCAA this season, was once again in street clothes after dressing for the first time in China as Tomkins’ understudy Sunday.

The Canadians opened with a great first shift, but were on their heels after that. Tomkins was forced to make a save on a Tyler Wong breakaway and a Spencer Foo penalty shot after he was slashed by Morgan Ellis.

Canada settled down and went up 1-0 at 6:57 when Weal scored on a power play after Tambellini hit the post.

China got into more penalty trouble, and Weal, who played for head coach Claude Julien with the Montreal Canadiens, buried another on a 5-on-3 man advantage at 9:55.

China got back within one at 15:32 when Cory Kane stole the puck from an under-pressure Owen Power – the No. 1 pick at the 2021 NHL draft by the Buffalo Sabres – and roofed a backhand on Tomkins.

The Canadian goaltender stopped Foo, a native of St. Albert, Alta., on a couple of shots on a power play before disaster struck for China at the other end in the period’s dying seconds.

Smith, who played 10 games with the Colorado Avalanche in 2016-17, stretched to make a save and crumpled to the ice in agony. The American-born netminder had to be helped off without putting any weight on his left leg inside a quiet National Indoor Stadium.

That opened the door for O’Brien, originally from Coquitlam, B.C., to step into the spotlight a second time after stopping 39 shots in Canada’s 5-0 victory Sunday.

The 21-year-old made some nice saves following the intermission, but was fooled by a weak Tambellini one-timer on another power play that ticked off Chelios in front at 6:36.

The son of former Edmonton Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini was then hooked on a break by Chelios, and buried the ensuing penalty shot low on O’Brien at 8:39.

O’Dell stretched the lead to 5-1 at 12:05 by deflecting a Jason Demers point shot.

China got a 5-on-3 man advantage for a full two minutes late in the second when Ellis was assessed a major for elbowing and Tyler Wotherspoon then went off for holding. Kane, a native of Irvine, Calif., banged home a loose puck on a scramble to give China a little life with 59 seconds left in the period.

Tomkins had to be sharp on a Yip chance and the followup rebound nine minutes into the third, but China didn’t really threaten from there before Staal and McBain scored late as Canada advanced in unconvincing fashion.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 15, 2022.

Swiss avenge group stage loss, advance to QF

By  Andy Potts –

Team Switzerland picked the perfect time for its first win in Beijing. Tuesday’s 4-2 verdict over Czechia puts the Swiss into a quarter final against Finland and sent the Czechs home. Veteran Andres Ambuhl, playing in his fifth Games, got his first Olympic goal to tie the scores in the first period and after that, his team never looked back, grabbing swift revenge for a shoot-out loss against this opposition in Group B play. That was the only point Switzerland achieved in the group stage, suffering losses against Denmark and ROC, but the qualification round offered a reprieve that was eagerly accepted.

Swiss captain Raphael Diaz summed up how things had changed. “The first two games in the group, I think it was okay but we couldn’t get it done,” he said. “We made some good plays but we couldn’t score, and everybody knew we needed more. We needed more defence, especially after the last game … as a group that was unacceptable.

“Today, we played really tight defensively, everybody came back, we blocked shots, we boxed them out, we won puck battles. [Leonardo] Genoni had a hell of a game – he always stopped the first shot and we cleared the rebounds. I think it was a good, strong effort from the whole team.”

For the Czechs, it’s yet more big tournament frustration. Without a medal in Olympic or World Championship play since 2012, Czechia produced a memorable 6-5 OT victory over Team ROC here, but also suffered a shock defeat in its opening game against unheralded Denmark. 

“We had our chances but we didn’t score. That was our problem,” said Roman Cervenka, Czechia’s captain. “It was a tough game. We started well but they scored two quick goals which gave them wings. It was hard for us after that.

“We were feeling good, but then 13 seconds later we’re losing.”

Switzerland was limited to just 18 shots at Simon Hrubec in the Czech net, but came up with four goals. However, Gaetan Haas dismissed any suggestion that fortune favoured the Swiss. “We did everything we had to do to win the game. I think we deserve this one,” he said. “We played hard for 60 minutes and, in the end, we got the result.

“The turning point came when we took the lead. Then they had to open the game and we were able to play tough defence, and in the end we won. That’s the only thing that matters.”

The early stages of this game were cagey, with both teams aware how tight that previous meeting was. But the action began to heat up midway through the frame. Czechia got the puck in the net when Lukas Sedlak stuffed home from close range, but the whistle had gone some time before the Traktor Chelyabinsk forward snaffled a loose puck. David Krejci had made contact with Swiss goalie Genoni when he looked to convert Sedlak’s feed from behind the net.

Soon afterwards, the Czechs had a legitimate goal. Defenceman Lukas Klok broke the deadlock with a thunderous shot from the point after good work from Cervenka and Klok’s Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk clubmate Ronald Knot in the Swiss zone.

Jan Kovar played a big part on Klok’s goal, screening Genoni as the shot came in. But the EV Zug forward became the villain of the piece in the 15th minute when he took the game’s first penalty for boarding on Yannick Weber. It was a needless offensive zone foul, and the power play brought Switzerland level. Enzo Corvi’s feed was tipped against the foot of the post by Calvin Thurkauf and the rebound fell perfectly for Ambuhl to fire into a wide open net.

That was Ambuhl’s first goal in Olympic play – a surprising stat for a man at his fifth Games. At 38, the Swiss veteran is the oldest player here in Beijing. He’s not the oldest player to score at the Olympics for the first time – Swedish defenceman Borje Salming scored four goals at the age of 40 in 1992 – but he is the first man to score his debut Olympic goal at his fifth Olympic tournament.

“It’s nice to score my first goal at Olympics but it was great especially for the team,” Ambuhl said. “We somehow didn’t manage to bury the pucks before and today they bounced our way. Nobody was happy with the preliminary round so we wanted to show that we can play hockey and win too. We wanted to show this reaction. Now we have to continue like that without getting over excited.”

Personal landmarks aside, the Swiss alternate captain had more to celebrate just 13 seconds later as his team went ahead. Straight from the face-off, play went back to the Czech zone and Dennis Hollenstein’s shot deflected off a defender’s skate for Killian Mottet to pounce from in front of the net.

A Czech power play at the start of the second period saw Krejci force a good save out of Genoni. Then, just as Michael Fora returned to the ice, Jiri Smejkal had a great chance to tie the scores. His initial shot was well saved, but the Finnish-based 25-year-old collected the rebound out wide and fired the puck dangerously across the face of the net. Swiss captain Diaz had to be alert avoid steering it into his own goal.

Switzerland’s power play then struck again as Denis Malgin increased the lead midway through the game, exchanging passes with Santeri Alatalo before rifling home a one-timer from the left-hand circle.

“We have always known that we can score,” said Malgin, who plays his hockey for the ZSC Lions. “Before, the pucks just didn’t go in or we didn’t have the luck. But we know what we’re able to do and today we showed it.”

Kovar was gracious in defeat. “It was a tough game,” the Czech centre said. “They play tough, the play well. They have a good team over there. They were better today.”

And Cervenka added: “We didn’t play badly, I think we were ready for this game. It’s hard to say what went wrong right now.”

The third period saw plenty of opportunities at both ends and that two-goal advantage looked vulnerable at times. However, in the 55th minute Switzerland took control. More typically strong forechecking from Sven Andrighetto keep an attack alive and set up Diaz at the right point to smash a shot past Hrubec.

“I just closed my eyes and shot,” laughed the Swiss captain. “Sometimes that’s the best thing to do! It went in to make it 4-1 but we knew they were going to come at us. We took the penalty and they made it 4-2 but at the end I think it was a real good team effort and we’re really proud to get our first win here.”

Now, the Czechs had too much to do, despite a brave effort. Head coach Filip Pesan called a time-out and pulled goalie Hrubec with more than four minutes to play. There was an immediate reward with a power play, which led to a goal from Cervenka. He’s another veteran forward, and he currently plays in the Swiss League. But even his experience and knowledge of the opposition was not enough to trigger an improbable fightback as Switzerland celebrates a return to the quarter-finals for the first time since 2010.

Denmark advances over Latvia

By  Lucas Aykroyd –

Denmark’s magical ride as an Olympic first-timer continues. The Danes edged Latvia 3-2 on Tuesday in the lone qualification playoff game at Beijing’s Wukesong Sports Centre and will face the ROC team in the quarter-finals.

“We’ve come a long way ever since we’ve been in the top division [of the IIHF World Championship] and now we’re in the quarter-finals of the Olympics,” said assistant captain Frans Nielsen. “It’s been a great journey over the last 20 years.”

Of facing ROC, Danish head coach Heinz Ehlers said: “I see them as one of the favourites to win the tournament, but we gave them a good battle in the first round. We played them [hard] and hopefully we can show up with the same energy and be ready to compete with them.”

This was a gritty, physical affair with plenty of pain dished out on both sides.

Markus Lauridsen scored the go-ahead goal on an early third-period power play. Morten Poulsen and Julian Jakobsen got their first Olympic goals for Denmark, which outshot Latvia 31-27.

Danish starting goalie Sebastian Dahm was strong with 25 saves. He was busy early as the Latvians peppered him with shots and made several game-saving stops as things progressed.

“I think the difference was our goalie,” said Ehlers. “He played a huge role tonight. We were not as good as we hoped we would be. I think Latvia played really well, and it was a really tough game for us.”

Captain Lauris Darzins scored twice for Latvia. After the game, the 37-year-old Dinamo Riga veteran announced his retirement from the Latvian national team. Renars Krastenbergs, the leading Latvian scorer, added two assists.

“If you want to win games, you’ve got to score goals,” said Darzins. “We were up 2-1 and we had pretty huge chances. We didn’t capitalize and we ended up short. It’s a game of scoring goals and our opponent came up better today in that area.”

“It’s disappointing,” Latvia’s Rodrigo Abols admitted. “It’s not like we didn’t do enough to deserve the win today. I think our problem the whole tournament was that we tried to play too pretty. If you look at how other teams scored on us, [they’d] get a shot through, get some people out there, and get the puck in the net. I think we were lacking that in the whole tournament.”

This victory is a huge moment for Danish hockey. The best Denmark has ever done at an IIHF World Championship is eighth place (2010, 2016). With this performance on international hockey’s biggest stage in Beijing, the Nordic nation of 5.8 million has a reason to get excited.

The Danes overachieved in Group B with wins over Czechia (2-1) and Switzerland and a narrow loss to the ROC team (2-0). Now they have another chance to upset the powerful squad of Russians, featuring seven returnees from the OAR team that won gold in PyeongChang 2018.

“It’s going to be anyone’s tournament,” Nielsen said. “Germany did it last time. I don’t know if we expected to be in the quarter-finals, but now we’re here and we’ve got everything to win. [The ROC team] has got everything to lose, so we’ve just got to go back at it tomorrow.”

The Latvians exit the Olympics with four straight losses.

For Latvia, Janis Kalnins got the start in net, but head coach Harijs Vitolins unusually pulled the Vaxjo Lakers goalie just 7:47 in – apparently due to an injury – and put in Ivars Punnenovs. During the Olympic qualification tournament Latvia won in Riga, Punnenovs allowed just one goal in three games.

The Danes picked up their tempo and Poulsen opened the scoring on a bad-angle rebound from the goal line at 12:02. The 33-year-old role forward, a nine-time IIHF World Championship participant, roared with joy.

“We kind of put pressure on the Ds and we got it up to the Ds around with some traffic,” said Jakobsen. “Morten [Poulsen] made a good play. I think it bounced off the goalie.”

Darzins returned to the Latvian lineup after missing the 5-2 loss to Slovakia. The three-time Olympian got hurt when falling into the door to the Finnish bench in the game before that, but he looked fully recovered when he tallied the equalizer at 16:23.

Darzins got a breakaway on a stretch pass from Krastenbergs, fought off defender Emil Kristensen’s stick check, and deked to the forehand to beat Dahm. It was an impressive display in his 150th and final game with the Latvian national team.

Moments later, Abols, who wore the “C” when Darzins was out, dumped Denmark’s Nicklas Jensen into the boards on a heavy hit, and the Jokerit sniper was shaken up. However, Jensen would continue.

Defensive lapses plagued the Danes in the second period. In the opening minute, Krastenbergs and Darzins nearly connected again on a 2-on-1, but blueliner Matias Lassen was alert to break it up as they entered the Danish zone.

Latvia’s power play has been one of its more effective weapons, and Darzins gave his team a 2-1 lead at 2:33, stepping into the right faceoff circle and zinging one past Dahm. Latvia would finish 4-for-11 with the man advantage in Beijing.

The Latvians kept pressing. Riharts Bukarts got loose on another breakaway, but his backhand flew high and wide as Dahm stretched out. The Danish goalie came up huge on a 2-on-0 break as Andris Dzerins and Nikolajs Jelisejevs were unable to beat him.

“Sebastian had some really big saves for us in the second period that kept us in the game and it felt a little bit like they ran out of steam,” Nielsen said.

Jakobsen delivered the 2-2 equalizer with 3:03 left in the middle frame. The older brother of Danish women’s national team captain Josefine Jakobsen caught the Latvians at the end of a long shift, whipping home a high shot from the right faceoff circle.

“It was a good play by Nicolai Meyer,” said Jakobsen. “He was working hard in the corner and he’s a really skilled playmaker. He found me in the slot and I just tried to get it quick to the net and luckily it went in.”

Denmark’s Frederik Storm, who shone with three points against Switzerland, had a great opportunity on an odd-man rush in the dying moments of the period. But Storm elected to pass instead of shoot, and it fizzled.

To open the third period, Darzins took an untimely interference penalty in open ice. Denmark capitalized for a 3-2 lead at 1:45. Markus Lauridsen bulged the twine with a long shot through traffic. Assists went to Nielsen and Mikkel Boedker, who, in Danish NHL history, rank first (473 points) and fourth (327 points) in scoring respectively.

“We did a good job of getting the puck in and we moved it around a little bit,” Nielsen said. “It was a great shot by Markus and good screen by the guys in the front.”

Shortly afterwards, Dahm was sharp to stymie Bukarts and Martins Dzierkals on back-to-back opportunities to maintain the lead.

With under four minutes left, Latvia got its second power play of the third period with Nicholas B. Jensen sent off for slashing. But the Danes checked tenaciously and denied their opponents the tying goal. With half a minute remaining, a slashing penalty to Krastenbergs ended Latvia’s hopes in Beijing.

“It’s the Olympics, it’s a huge stage and everybody wants to be here,” Darzins said. “We went out, did our best. I know we’re going to feel bad about ourselves today. Some time will pass by and I know I will remember with a smile all this experience.”

This was the third time Latvia has appeared in an Olympic qualification playoff game. When the current playoff format debuted in Vancouver in 2010, the Latvians got a brilliant outing from netminder Edgars Masalskis as they were outshot 50-26 by the Czechs. They scored two late goals to tie it up. However, Latvia lost 3-2 on David Krejci’s overtime goal.

In 2014 in Sochi, Latvia advanced with a 3-1 win over Switzerland on the strength of two Darzins goals, including the power-play winner in the first period. After a dramatic 2-1 quarter-final loss to eventual champion Canada, Latvia earned its best Olympic finish with eighth place.

Latvia’s World Championship peak is seventh place (1997, 2004, 2009). The small Baltic country’s next shot at IIHF glory will come at the 2022 IIHF World Championship in Tampere and Helsinki (13 to 29 May).

Slovakia on to quarter-finals

Slovakia’s Michal Kristoff #19 passes the puck while Germany’s Moritz Muller #91 and Frederik Tiffels #95 defend.

By Derek O’Brien –

Slovakia got goals from four different sources and two points each from Marek Hrivik, Peter Cehlarik and Martin Gernat to beat Germany 4-0 in the Qualification Round of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

“I think that’s one of the best 60-minutes games that I’ve ever coached,” said Slovak coach Craig Ramsay. “I think we put a lot of pressure on them with our speed and didn’t allow them to be as physical as they normally are, because they’re so strong and they get on you but tonight, our speed gave us a little bit of an advantage.”

“Of course we’re disappointed. We couldn’t really find our game and Slovakia deserved to win today,” said German forward Tom Kunhackl. “They played very aggressive all over the ice – on the forecheck, in the D zone – they were hard on us, they won more battles and that’s how you win hockey games. We just didn’t do it consistently enough throughout the game.”

With the win, Slovakia moves on to meet the USA in tomorrow’s quarter-final. It marks the Slovaks’ first appearance among the elite eight since 2010, when they finished fourth. For the Germans, there will be no repeat of their silver-medal performance from 2018.

Playing for the third time in these Games, Patrik Rybar made 21 saves, becoming the first Slovak goalie to post a shutout at the Olympics since Jaroslav Halak in 2010 in Vancouver. Rybar’s 0.76 goals-against average and 96.49 save percentage both lead all goalies in the tournament. Playing his third game for Germany, Mathias Niederberger stopped 29 of 32.

“It’s very nice that it came in this important game, but I have to give credit to the guys for playing well defensively, blocking shots and playing structured,” Rybar said of the shutout. As for his own progression during the tournament, he said: “The KHL shut down in January and it was hard to prepare, but now I’m feeling more comfortable after an exhibition game and three more in the Olympics.”

This game was a match-up between the eighth- and ninth-ranked teams after the group stage, with both teams finishing third in their respective groups. Slovakia lost its first two Group C games with losses to Finland and Sweden before finishing up with a 5-2 win over Latvia. Germany had losses to Canada and the USA sandwiched around a 3-2 victory over host China in Group A.

Slovakia’s Peter Zuzin had the game’s first good chance less than five minutes in but Niederberger denied him with a pad save from point blank. Germany only had five shots on goal in the first period but Nicolas Krammer had two of them, and they were both good chances that Rybar had to be sharp on.

Slovakia got a lucky bounce on the opening goal. Just past the 11-minute mark, Libor Hudacek took a pass from Kristian Pospisil and took a low wrist shot through a crowd. The puck hit the skate of German defenceman Jonas Muller and bounced through the legs of Niederberger, who was moving the wrong way. The puck slowly dribbled to the goal line, with Pospisil arriving on the scene to make sure it went in, taking a whack at the puck after it had already crossed the line, making it Hudacek’s goal.

The Slovaks were the faster of the two teams in the first period and really used that to their advantage in the second and took control of the game with two goals 1:44 apart.

The 2-0 goal came at 27:01 with teams skating 4-on-4, with Cehlarik taking a pass from Hrivik, then perfectly working a give-and-go with Gernat to get Niederberger moving laterally and beat him five-hole. Then it was 19-year-old Samuel Knazko with a nice pass to set up a Michal Kristof one-timer.

“It was 4-on-4 with more space on the ice. Hrivik was really good on the forecheck there. He won the puck back and we had time to make the play there with ‘Gery’,” Cehlarik said about his goal.

“It was big to extend the lead. I think in the second period we controlled the game well. We can still work on our power play – it could be better – but our PK was huge today and our goalie played well.”

They kept coming and could have had more. Juraj Slavkovsky has four goals so far and almost got his first assist when he tried to make a backdoor pass to Hrivik on a rush but the Slovak captain backhanded it just wide of the post.

Germany’s chance to get back into it was a pair of power plays early in the third period, but Rybar and Slovakia’s penalty-killing were equal to the task. Niederberger did all he could to keep his team alive, stopping Pavol Regenda on a clear-cut breakaway with just over six minutes to play, then a few more shots on power play with Slovakia looking for the knock-out punch.

“We just couldn’t find our game on the small ice throughout the whole tournament,” said German defenceman Korbinian Holzer. “The only game were we kind of played north-south hockey was against the US, where we really created some offence and put them on their heels. Today was just different again. We couldn’t play up to our strengths. We gave up some easy goals, we didn’t get enough shots, we didn’t put enough pressure on their D, and that cost us. At the end of the day, we’re going home and it’s deserved.”

With Germany back at full strength, coach Toni Soderholm pulled Niederberger for a sixth attacker with around four minutes to go, but that just resulted in Hrivik’s empty-netter with 2:04 to play. After an altercation led to the expulsion of David Wolf, the Slovaks played the rest of the game on the power play and was easily able to preserve Rybar’s shutout and the win to put them in the quarters.

“Today was a great team game for us,” said forward Marko Dano. “Everybody was doing their job. Our goalie played well and we helped him a lot. With every game we’ve played better, and hopefully tomorrow we can play as a team again.

Looking ahead to the USA tomorrow, Dano said: “They have a young team as well and they’re good skaters, but we’ve just got to play our game, keep it simple, gets some shots to the net and play a responsible game.”

Team USA Punches Ticket to Women’s Ice Hockey Gold Medal Game

Team USA is headed back to the championship game to defend their gold medal.

The United States women’s ice hockey team defeated Finland 4-1 in their semifinal matchup to clinch their spot in the gold medal game. The team now has a date with rival Canada in a rematch of the previous two gold medal matches at the Winter Olympics.

Hilary Knight and Cayla Barnes each recorded a goal and an assist while Alex Cavallini made 25 saves in the win.

The United States peppered Anni Keisala with 42 shots and the Finnish goaltender kept her team in it for as long as possible. But the U.S. controlled play and limited the amount of chances for Finland, taking down the team for the second time at these Games.

Finland nearly struck in the final minute of the first period, but Cavallini made a huge glove stop on Michelle Karvinen.

After a scoreless first, Barnes found the back of the net for the Americans with a goal on the power play early in the middle frame.

Hannah Brandt had the puck along the goal line and found a wide open Barnes cutting in on the back side for the goal.

Less than two minutes left in the second period, Knight found a loose puck in front of the net and beat Keisala blocker-side to double the U.S.’ lead.

In the third period, the U.S. got a late insurance goal from Hayley Scamurra to give the Americans a 3-0 lead with less than five minutes left in the contest. Scamurra deflected a shot from Barnes for her first career Olympic goal.

Finland broke the shutout with 26 seconds left, as Susanna Tapani jammed in a rebound in front of the net. But the U.S. answered with an empty-net goal by Abby Roque, sealing a 4-1 victory.

Up next is another matchup with Canada, the other half of the two women’s ice hockey powerhouses. The Canadians made easy work of Switzerland in the semifinals, cruising to a 10-3 win.

Canada thrashes Swiss in semis

By Lucas Aykroyd –

There was never any doubt. Canada scored five first-period goals and kept on rolling in a 10-3 semi-final rout of Switzerland. The reigning World Champions outshot the Swiss 61-13. Canada faces the winner of the U.S.-Finland semi-final in Thursday’s gold medal game.

​Canada has reached all seven Olympic finals since the inaugural 1998 women’s tournament in Nagano. The Canadians won four straight Olympic gold medals from 2002 to 2014. They lost the 2018 final to the U.S. in a 3-2 shootout heartbreaker and are clearly ravenous to regain their title.

“Today was a great game for us,” said four-time Canadian Olympian Rebecca Johnston. “Every game there’s a stepping stone in the right direction. You want to improve each game so you’re ready for that final. Today, we just made sure we focused on us, focused on the little things.”

Coach Troy Ryan’s team kept up its balanced attack with nine different goal-scorers. Captain Marie-Philip Poulin stepped up with two goals and Sarah Nurse totalled four assists. Claire Thompson also starred with a goal and two assists. Her D-partner Erin Ambrose added a goal and an assist, as did assistant captain Blayre Turnbull.

Jamie Lee Rattray, Renata Fast, Emma Maltais, and Brianne Jenner scored a goal apiece, while Johnston had three helpers.

“You can’t give them a five-goal advantage because they’re like sharks when they taste blood,” said Swiss coach Colin Muller.

Nurse now leads the Olympics with 16 points (4+12=16), two ahead of Poulin (4+10=14). Hayley Wickenheiser’s single-tournament points record (17) from 2006 could fall in the final.

This semi-final certainly impacted the record books. Jenner tied the single-tournament record of nine goals set in 2010 by Canada’s Meghan Agosta and Switzerland’s Stefanie Marty. Nurse has tied Wickenheiser’s 2006 single-tournament assists record (12). And Thompson’s single-tournament scoring record for defenders currently stands at 12 points.

“I’m so surprised,” Thompson said. “I never thought I would be close to that. We have generated a lot of offence throughout the tournament. There are also other defenders quite close to me, so maybe somebody else will take it from me. Erin [Ambrose] is quite close to me [with nine points].”

For Switzerland, captain Lara Stalder scored two power-play goals and added an assist. Alina Muller had a goal and a helper. It’s the first time the Swiss have ever gotten more than one goal against Canada in Olympic or Women’s Worlds play.

The Swiss will take on the U.S.-Finland loser in Wednesday’s bronze medal game.

“There are good things we can take with us,” Stalder said. “Especially in the second period, we battled well and just lost 3-1. There are learning points out there and some positives for the next game.”

Canada’s Melodie Daoust, the MVP of the 2018 Olympics and 2021 Women’s Worlds, made her long-awaited return to the lineup. Daoust played just 6:53 in the opening 12-1 romp over Switzerland before getting injured on an illegal hit from Sarah Forster. Here, she slotted back in between Spooner and Sarah Fillier.

No non-North American team has ever equalled Sweden’s surprising 2006 silver medal, and advancing just wasn’t in the cards for Switzerland. The Canadians dominated as expected, entering this game with the tournament’s top seven scorers after demolishing Sweden 11-0 in the quarter-finals.

Swiss starting goalie Andrea Braendli faced a slew of high danger scoring chances early on. Thompson’s lightning wrister ricocheted in off her blocker-side post to open the scoring at 7:16. Thompson, an Olympic rookie and former Princeton captain, had her third goal of these Olympics, and the effervescent Canadian bench was buzzing.

Rattray made it 2-0 at 8:28, going to the net picking up a deflection off a Swiss skate, and roofing it home.

It was 3-0 just 36 seconds later. Thompson dipsy-doodled past Swiss forward Noemi Rhyner and sent a slick pass through Nadine Hofstetter’s skates to Turnbull, who backhanded the puck into the gaping cage.

Colin Muller called his timeout to try to halt Canada’s momentum, but the Canadians still scored again 17 seconds later. Nurse fired a shot from the half wall that a pinching Fast tipped home right in front.

The Swiss coach next changed his goalie, inserting Saskia Maurer after Braendli had allowed four goals on 18 shots. Yet the onslaught continued. Ambrose scored Canada’s fifth goal through traffic at 10:40, with Daoust registering her first point of these Olympics with the assist.

On a late first-period Swiss power play, Maurer made a fantastic glove grab on Fast’s shorthanded attempt off the rush. The Swiss finally got something to cheer about when Stalder zipped a high shot from the left faceoff circle to spoil Canadian netminder Ann-Renee Desbien’s shutout bid at 18:37.

In the second period, the Canadians besieged Maurer’s net early, but she held her ground. Stalder found Muller rushing to the net and she beat Desbiens high to the stick side to cut the deficit to 5-2 at 4:59.

“I don’t think it was us losing our focus,” Jenner said. “There were some breakdowns that we’re going to learn from, but we approach every game the same way.”

Canada promptly killed the faint dream of a Swiss comeback. At 7:52, Poulin one-timed home Nurse’s set-up from the top of the faceoff circle. Just 11 seconds later, Johnston circled the Swiss net and located Clark out front for a 7-2 lead.

Fast raved about Poulin’s scoring touch: “Even our coaches were like, ‘How does she shoot the puck like that?’ It’s just incredible, the number of times in practices and games that Pou scores a goal like that and our jaws are just on the floor.”

Showing no quit, the Swiss made it 7-3 when Stalder capitalized on a Canadian defensive zone turnover and popped it through Desbiens’ pads at 9:44 on the power play. It marked the first time Canada has allowed more than two goals in Beijing.

“They’re such an awesome team that it’s fun to play against them,” said five-time Swiss Olympian Nicole Bullo. “It’s good for us that we scored three goals.”

On Poulin’s second goal, the Canadian superstar stripped blueliner Nicole Vallario of the puck in the neutral zone, cut in from the left stickhandling, and elevated a backhand over Maurer at 13:27.

At 3:13 of the third period, Maltais hopped up and down with old-school Mike Foligno-like glee after notching her first Olympic goal. Jenner blew a slap shot off the rush past Maurer for her record-tying ninth goal at 18:11 to round out the scoring at 10-3.

Realistically, the Swiss only had so much left in their gas tank here after their dramatic 4-2 quarter-final win over the ROC team, keyed by Alina Muller’s two late goals. Muller, 23, also led the 2018 Olympics with seven goals and 10 points and was named Best Forward and an all-star.

Canada has now scored a whopping 54 goals in six games, surpassing the Olympic peak (48 in five games) set in Vancouver in 2010.

Ryan said he would still like to see improvement on special teams: “The big thing was on the penalty kill we didn’t get our clears down the ice. We’ve gotta get those clears 200 feet if we’re gonna be successful.”

Still, right now, it’s hard to believe Canada slumped to an IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship bronze medal for the first time in history in 2019. The Canadians have been even more spectacular in Beijing than they were en route to their first Women’s Worlds gold medal in nine years in Calgary in 2021.

The Americans and Finns both pose different challenges as potential gold-medal opponents. The U.S., of course, is Canada’s greatest rival and nemesis, and every showdown is a must-see. Finland, however, beat Canada 4-2 in the 2019 semi-final, making it the only European nation ever to register an IIHF playoff win over the motherland of hockey at an Olympic women’s ice hockey tournament or the Women’s Worlds.

Meanwhile, the Swiss will be overjoyed if they can achieve their second Olympic bronze medal. In 2014, they made history with a 4-3 win over Sweden to earn bronze in Sochi. The only other two Olympic medals in Swiss ice hockey history were won by the men long ago and were also bronze (1928, 1948).

“You want to win every game, and right now we’re a little disappointed,” said Alina Muller, who was 15 in Sochi. “But I’m still excited to compete for a medal and we’ll be ready to go.”

Still, right now, it’s hard to believe Canada slumped to an IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship bronze medal for the first time in history in 2019. The Canadians have been even more spectacular in Beijing than they were en route to their first Women’s Worlds gold medal in nine years in Calgary in 2021.

The Americans and Finns both pose different challenges as potential gold-medal opponents. The U.S., of course, is Canada’s greatest rival and nemesis, and every showdown is a must-see. Finland, however, beat Canada 4-2 in the 2019 semi-final, making it the only European nation ever to register an IIHF playoff win over the motherland of hockey at an Olympic women’s ice hockey tournament or the Women’s Worlds.

Meanwhile, the Swiss will be overjoyed if they can achieve their second Olympic bronze medal. In 2014, they made history with a 4-3 win over Sweden to earn bronze in Sochi. The only other two Olympic medals in Swiss ice hockey history were won by the men long ago and were also bronze (1928, 1948).

“You want to win every game, and right now we’re a little disappointed,” said Alina Muller, who was 15 in Sochi. “But I’m still excited to compete for a medal and we’ll be ready to go.”

USA top Group A after win over Germany


The United States men claimed top spot in Group A after a narrow 3-2 win over Germany, 

Needing a win or to force overtime to win Group A, Team USA rose to the occasion.

They made it three wins out of three although they conceded the opening goal and had to hold on at the end.

PyeongChang 2018 silver medallists Germany stuck first and early off a powerplay goal by Patrick Hager after just two minutes, a familiar position for the Americans who trailed early against Canada in their previous game.

But just as in that encounter, the U.S. squad responded quickly with Steven Kampfer scoring the equaliser at 4:26.

Early in the second period, Matt Knies scored to put USA in front.

“Honestly, they’re a fast team, if we can keep up to that pace and play around with them, play physical, I think we can take it to them and eventually win this game,” said Knies in the break prior to the final period on U.S. broadcaster NBC.

That’s exactly what Team USA did with Nathan Smith scoring at 42:47 to make it 3-1.

Tom Kuhnhackl pulled one back with two and a half minutes remaining, but Germany could not score the tying goal to force overtime.

Canada cruises past China in Olympic men’s hockey, will meet again in knockout round

Forward Eric O’Dell, left, celebrates his first-period goal with teammates Kent Johnson, who would also go on to score, and Josh Ho-Sang during Canada’s 5-0 win over China on Sunday in Beijing.

Joshua Clipperton – The Canadian Press 

Kent Johnson and Eric O’Dell had a goal and an assist each as Canada beat China 5-0 in men’s hockey on Sunday at the Beijing Olympics.

Ben Street, Adam Tambellini and Corban Knight also scored for the Canadians (2-1), who got 26 saves from Matt Tomkins. Tyler Wotherspoon and Josh Ho-Sang both added two assists.

Paris O’Brien stopped 39 shots for China, which is taking part of the tournament for the first time. The hosts were outscored a combined 16-2 through three round-robin games, but did keep things close in Saturday’s 3-2 loss to Germany.

And while Canada’s roster of non-NHLers had a significant territorial advantage in a game that was never really in doubt, the hosts didn’t have to deal with the likes of Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar after the league withdrew from the Games because of COVID-19 concerns.

The Canadians, who beat Germany 5-1 on Thursday before losing to the United States 4-2 on Saturday, finished second in Group A.

“We played pretty well [against the U.S.], we didn’t really score on our chances and we hit a couple of posts. Tonight we played an all-around good game,” said O’Dell. “I think we need to build off that and just look through to the next game, where I hear that we will play them again. We need to play the same way then.”

Despite the victory Sunday night, Canada will now play in the tournament’s qualification round as the No. 5 seed in a rematch against China on Tuesday for a spot in the quarter-finals after Finland beat Sweden 4-3 in overtime and the U.S. downed Germany 3-2.

“At the end of the day, whatever happens, you’ve got to look at it in a positive way,” said Canada head coach Claude Julien.

“Playing in a qualification round gives us the opportunity to play another game and to improve as a team. You’ve got to remember that we had no pre-tournament games. This is basically our third game and the more you play the better you get as a team, so hopefully this plays to our advantage.”

The U.S., Russian Olympic Committee and Finland automatically advanced to the quarters as group winners, while Sweden also moved on with the best record among the eight remaining countries.

“About all we could accomplish up to this point, we’ve done it,” U.S. head coach David Quinn said. “There’s a swagger to us, and there’s a believability that’s gone here over the last week and it’s put us in this position, but we haven’t really accomplished anything that we want to accomplish.”

Canada-infused China squad

Of the 25 players representing China at the Beijing Games, 18 were born or grew up in North America, including 11 with strong ties to Canada, while one is Russian. The team is made up of the roster from state-owned Kunlun Red Star of the Russian-based KHL, a franchise created to boost the country’s shallow pool of hockey talent ahead of the Olympics.

Vancouver native and former NHLer Brandon Yip, who had three grandparents born in China and is known as Jinguang Ye at the Olympics, is the captain.

But other players, including American defenceman Jake Chelios, son of Hall of Famer Chris Chelios, and Canadian forward Ethan Werek, had no ties to the country before signing with Kunlun.

The International Ice Hockey Federation, which contemplated replacing China with Norway at the Olympics, ruled players in that category met residency requirements despite the fact Kunlun was forced to relocate to the Moscow area the last two seasons because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tomkins, an Edmonton native playing in Sweden’s top league, started for Canada in the second of a back-to-back after Edward Pasquale got the nod against Germany and the U.S.

Devon Levi, who was named MVP of the 2021 world junior hockey championship and has put up incredible numbers in the NCAA this season, dressed for the first time in Beijing as the backup.

O’Brien, a Coquitlam, B.C., product with a 1-6-0 record in the KHL this season, got the start in place of American-born netminder Jeremy Smith for China, which took the ice to tepid applause from a few hundred fans at Beijing’s National Indoor Stadium

Canada went up 1-0 just over two minutes into the first when Street banged a loose puck home after Johnson took the puck hard to the net.

Tambellini doubled the lead on a breakaway, and O’Dell made it 3-0 midway through the period off a sweet feed from Ho-Sang.

Demoted from the top line with Eric Staal and Mason McTavish to the 13th forward, Ho-Sang was pressed into action after Jordan Weal suffered a cut to his right ear that needed repairs in the locker room after getting hit into the boards.

There was a strange moment at the start of the second when O’Brien skated to the wrong crease, scraped up the ice and then realized it wasn’t his net. A confused Tomkins arrived on the scene and asked one of the officials for an explanation.

The Chinese came close to getting on the board on a power play once the action resumed, but hit two posts, including on a Parker Foo deflection.

Canada wasn’t all that crisp in its execution, but Johnson made it 4-0 with 1:57 left in the period when he came off the bench and took a pass from Jason Demers before firing a quick shot past O’Brien.

Knight made it 5-0 in the third period, tipping Owen Power’s shot through the Canadian-born netminder on a power play.

The assist was the first point of the Olympics for the 19-year-old Power, who was selected first overall by the Buffalo Sabres at the 2021 NHL draft.

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