BRATISLAVA - Today was the final day of action in the preliminary round at the InLine Hockey World Championship as four teams will gear up for tomorrow's qualification round. The other 12 teams will have the day off and await the playoff round.
United States – Czech Republic 7-6 (4-1, 1-1, 1-4, 1-0)
The battle for first place in Group B between the Americans and Czechs did not disappoint as the teams entertained the fans in a hard fought game. Ultimately, USA earned the bragging rights after a rollercoaster 7-6 win. The U.S. jumped out to a quick start, netting four goals in the first quarter to climb out to a 4-1 lead. Four different U.S. players scored in the surge. The teams exchanged goals in the second period making it a 5-2 U.S. lead at the half. The Czechs turned the tables in the second half, out-scoring the Americans 4-1 in the third quarter and tying the game at six. Kyle Gouge’s goal at the 40:01 mark broke the deadlock and gave the Americans the 7-6 victory, and more importantly first place in the group. The U.S. will await the winner of the tomorrow’s qualification round game in the quarterfinals on Friday. With the loss, the Czechs finish the preliminary round group in second place.
Finland – Germany: 5-4: 0-2, 0-0, 4-0. 0-2, 0-0, 1-0)
Finland won when it mattered most, upending Germany, 5-4 in a dramatic shootout and avoiding last place in the preliminary round group. The loss could have huge implications for the winless Germans, which now must play in tomorrow’s qualification game against an extremely strong Canadian team. The loser of the game will play the rest of the tournament, and start the 2009 championship in Division I. If Canada wins tomorrow's game, it will be the first time ever that a Division I team has made the jump to the top division since the new format was introduced in 2003.
Germany wasted no time taking a lead, netting two goals in the first 3:56 of the game. The lead stood through the rest of the first half, which got chippy in the second quarter. Finland staged its comeback when Tuomas Valosaari scored two goals less than two minutes apart to open the second half with a flurry and even the game at two. Ossi Pellinen gave Finland its first lead at the 35-minute mark and 39 seconds later the Finns doubled their lead, making it a 4-2 affair. But Germany was far from finished as it scored two goals, including the game-tying goal by Michael Wolf with 16 seconds left in regulation. But after a scoreless overtime, Germany ran out of luck as the Finns were simply too strong in the shootout. Valosaari netted the game-winner in the shootout.
Slovenia – Slovakia: 4-3 (1-0, 1-1, 1-0, 1-2)
Slovenia rolled into the top spot in Group A and is still undefeated after earning a 4-3 win against host Slovakia. Nejc Sotlar was the hero of the game for Slovenia, putting in three of Slovenia’s four goals. The first half of the game was a low-scoring affair as Slovenia held a slim 2-1 lead at the break. Slovenia had many power-play chances, especially in the second quarter, but couldn’t find its scoring touch with the extra man. Sotlar gave Slovenia a 3-1 lead with the only goal of the third quarter and teams exchanged goals in the fourth. Slovakia added one last goal with 31 seconds left but it was too little, too late as Slovenia hung on for the close 4-3 win.
Sweden – Austria 8-2 (3-0, 0-1, 3-1, 2-0)
Austria will have to play in tomorrow’s qualification game against Great Britain after suffering a 8-2 loss against Sweden. The loss gave the Austrians a last-place finish in the preliminary round sending them to tomorrow’s game to defend their place in the top division. Sweden set the tone in the first quarter jumping ahead to a 3-0 lead on the strength of two power-play goals. Austria managed to stop the bleeding in the second quarter, and even ate into the lead scoring the only goal of the quarter. But Sweden came back strong in the second half, netting another three goals in the third quarter. Sweden’s special teams was potent in the game, scoring four power-play goals and adding a shorthanded tally. With the game well in hand, the Swedes put in another two goals in the final quarter to cruise to the 8-2 win.
Japan – Canada 1-12: (0-3, 1-2, 0-3, 0-4)
After a 10-year absence, Canada has returned to the IIHF InLine Hockey World Championship in top form, cruising to its third double-digit win in as many games and earning the right to play in tomorrow’s cross-over game to earn a berth into the Top Division.
Today’s victim was Japan, which fell 12-1. Once again, Canada built up a solid lead in the first half as Cory Conacher scored two of his three goals in the first quarter, pacing Canada to a 5-1 lead after 24 minutes. Canada continued to dominate after the halftime break, out-shooting Japan, 11-1 in the third quarter alone. In total, Canada poured in another seven goals in the second half. Three Canadians, Jonathon Clelow, Kirk French and Conacher had four points each in the win. Canada will take on the loser of tonight’s Finland-Germany game in the qualification round. The winner will play the rest of the championship in the top division, while the loser will compete in Division I.
Great Britain – Bulgaria: 8-1: (1-0, 1-0, 4-0, 2-1)
Great Britain earned a place in tomorrow’s qualification after earning an easy 8-1 win against Bulgaria. The win propelled Britain into first place in group and gave them the right to try to earn a berth in the top division tomorrow in a game against either Slovakia or Austria. On paper, today’s game was a mere formality as Great Britain held the top spot compared with Bulgaria’s bottom place. Bulgaria did its best to keep things close in the first half, allowing Britain to score just twice. Unfortunately for Bulgaria, they failed to produce any offense and had to settle for a 2-0 deficit at the end of the first two quarters.
Britain found its scoring touch in the third quarter, netting four unanswered goals in a 2:37 span to take a strong 6-0 lead. After that, Bulgaria was deflated, while Britain looked to conserve energy for tomorrow’s key game, adding just a pair of power-play goals to bring the final to 8-1. Ben Schofield had the shutout until the final 16 seconds when Stanislav Muhachov scored.
New Zealand - Hungary: 4-11 (1-1, 2-3, 0-3, 1-4)
Hungary beat New Zealand, 11-4, in a battle to avoid a last-place finish in the preliminary round. After a tight first half, Hungary held a slim 4-3 lead. But the Hungarians pulled away in the third quarter on the strength of three unanswered goals. They rode the momentum into the final stanza, netting another four goals, while allowing New Zealand to only score once. Szilard Sandor and Zoltan Revak each finished with two goals and an assist for Hungary. Both teams have the day off tomorrow to prepare for the next round of games.
Brazil – Australia 8-3 (2-0, 0-0, 5-2, 1-1)
Entering today’s Brazil and Australia looked very even on paper. Each team entered the game with a win and a loss and were playing for second place in the preliminary round group. In the end, it was Brazil that came out on top of the 8-3 decision. Brazil’s win was largely thanks to a quick start, which saw two goals in the first 4:11 of the game, including a tally just 40 seconds into action. After the quick start, the game stayed scoreless until Brazil made it a 3-0 affair 1:27 into the second half. Australia quickly countered with its first goal of the game, but it seemed to only wake up Brazilian offense, which poured in four more goals in a 3:26 span, including two from Henrique Degani that made it a clear 7-1 Brazilian lead. There was little Australia could do to overcome the third period surge as they tried their best to chip away at the lead, but couldn’t erase the huge six-goal deficit.