The 2017 IIHF Men’s World Championship began this morning in Cologne, Germany and Paris, France. At 10:15 AM Eastern Time, it was Sweden and Russia, as well as Finland and Belarus. At 2:15 PM, it was the USA and Canada taking on Germany and the Czech Republic respectively. Here’s a summary of the day’s events:
Sweden vs. Russia
This was a close game from the opening faceoff. Both teams perennially send strong teams to this tournament. However, Russia did not have Pavel Datsyuk, Ilya Kovalchuk, Alexander Radulov, or Slava Voynov. Additionally, their starting netminder is Andrei Vasilevskiy, instead of Sergei Bobrovsky. For Sweden, it was starting netminder [former NHLer] Viktor Fasth in goal. Fasth has had a great year playing for CSKA Moscow of the KHL.
From looking at the roster, one can assume that defense is not a problem for the Swedes. They have a back end which features John Klingberg (Dallas), Anton Stralman and Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay), Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Arizona), Alexander Edler (Vancouver), and Jonas Brodin (Minnesota). Of the Russian defenders, all but Ivan Provorov (Philadelphia) play in the KHL. The game was a defensive battle throughout and would need extra time to resolve a victory.
Edler led the physical play for Sweden with a few hard checks in the first period, while Elias Lindholm brought his team to the locker room up by a goal following a hard wrist shot. His Canes teammate Viktor Rask had the primary assist.
After an uneventful second period, Russia’s Sergei Andronov tied the game. After two players were tied up behind Fasth, Alex Barabanov quietly fed the puck to the slot where Andronov scored rather easily. Fasth anticipated the puck coming around the net, so he was looking in the complete opposite direction on the play.
In overtime, it was a furious back-and-forth affair, with a flurry of chances for both teams. Perhaps the best opportunity came when Russian star Nikita Kucherov (Tampa Bay) had a clear breakaway, but missed the net on his forehand-backhand attempt.
Finally, in the shootout, last year’s Calder Trophy recipient, Artemi Panarin (Chicago) slid the puck between the five-hole of Fasth for the game-winning goal.
Finland vs. Belarus
Finland managed to beat Belarus, but not by a comfortable margin. The Finns were the much faster team to start the first period. They led 2-0 after 5:09 on goals from Sebastian Aho (Carolina) and Oskar Osala. However, veteran coach Dave Lewis (3-time Stanley Cup winner as an assistant coach in Detroit) kept his team in the game.
Although the score showed 2-0, shots and faceoffs were nearly even. In the second, Belarus’s Yegor Sharangovich brought the underdogs to within a goal. Finnish netminder Joonas Korpisalo (Columbus) got caught behind his net, leading to an empty-net goal.
Early in the third, defenseman Roman Graborenko’s point shot was skillfully deflected by forward Yevgeni Kovyrshin, and into the net. Officials would review the play, but would still award the goal.
Unfortunately for Belarus, their comeback was halted only five minutes later, as Veli-Matti Savinainen scored on the power play to put the Finns back in the lead. Mikko Rantanen (Colorado) and Aho assisted.
The final shots were even at 24 apiece.
It was a valiant effort for Belarus, and perhaps a good sign of things to come in their tournament this year. They can rebound against the Czechs on Saturday (2:15 ET). Finland, meanwhile, has a pretty easy path, as they face France, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Norway, and Switzerland, all seemingly easy opponents, before their prelims end with Canada.
USA vs. Germany
The pair of afternoon games featured both Red Wings goalies, Jimmy Howard for USA and Petr Mrazek for the Czechs. Also with the Americans are Detroit coach Jeff Blashill, defenseman Danny DeKeyser, and forward Dylan Larkin.
Since this game was played in Cologne, the home crowd seemed to give a significant advantage for the German squad. The managed to stifle the American offense early. Tobias Rieder (Arizona) scored first for Germany, and they would hold this lead for most of the game. It was a multi-rebound goal that resulted from a lack of pressure from the U.S. defense.
In the third, Connor Murphy finally managed to get the Americans on the board. 20 seconds later, it appeared that they had scored again. However, upon further review, the puck trickling past goalie Thomas Greiss never fully crossed the goal line.
With the game remaining in a tie, Patrick Hager of the Cologne Sharks (German league) won the game in front 18,688 fans (IIHfWorlds2017.com). Dennis Seidenberg (New York Islanders) took a shot from the point, which was redirected by the stick of Hager. The puck then bounced past Howard under his glove.
Germany won despite being outshot 43-27 (20-6 in the 3rd).
USA has to play Sweden, Slovakia, and Russia (among the six remaining games) in their prelims, so something will need to change if they want to advance far in this tournament.
Canada vs. Czech Republic
Petr Mrazek would fare worse than Howard, allowing three goals in a loss to Canada.
Ryan O’Reilly (Buffalo) scored first for the tournament favorites, on a great feed from the boards to the slot by Mark Schiefele (Winnipeg). Shots were nearly even in ever period (10:10, 11:10 CZE, 8:8).
In the middle frame, defenseman Mike Matheson (Florida) scored a power play goal from the point, with the puck deflecting into the net off the glove of Mrazek.
Goalie Calvin Pickard allowed a goal with 7:19 to play. Jan Kovar hit the post on one side of the goal, and Lukas Radil scored on the other side to finish the play.
Two minutes later, Canada would seal the victory as blueliner Tyson Barrie wristed one past Mrazek to reach the final score.
Canada’s road through the prelims includes Slovakia, Belarus, France, Switzerland, Norway, and Finland.
Follow me on Twitter @KevinSporkaHOHM for continued World Championship coverage throughout the tournament.
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