Top Division Semi-finals:
United States – Finland – 8-4 (1-0, 3-1, 2-2, 2-1)
The United States will return to the gold medal game at the Inline World Championship for the first time since 2006 after defeating Finland in today’s semi-final, 8-4. The Americans won the gold medal that year, the last time the team took home hardware of any color from the championship.
The U.S. relied on a strong start to earn the berth in the golden game, pushing ahead to a 4-0 lead in the first 20 minutes. Brian Yingling opened the scoring midway through the first quarter on a rare power-play chance.
Late in the first half Santtu Valjakainen scored the first Finland goal, to send his team into the break with a bit of momentum.
In the second half, the U.S. came out of the gates fast again, putting in another two goals to climb ahead 6-1. Charles Yoder scored the second power-play goal on his team’s second power-play chance top open the half. The 6-1 lead stood until Finland’s Mikko Liukkonen put in three goals in an 11-minute span to single handedly bring Finland back in the game.
Liukkonen scored twice on the power-play with two slapshots and put in one even strength goal in his heroics. With Finland showing signs of life the Americans quickly reacted. Yingling netted the 7-4 goal one minute after Liukkonen struck, and Shawn Gawrys put in the breathing-space marker in the final minutes to bring the final to 8-4.
Last year, Finland missed the medal round for the first time in eight years, so the bronze-medal berth, while disappointing for the team, is a step in the right direction for the nation.
Germany – Sweden 6-8 (2-1, 3-3, 1-2, 0-2)
Sweden will go for the three-peat at the Inline Hockey World Championship after earning a hard-fought 8-6 semi-final win against host Germany.
It wasn’t easy for the Swedes, who played in front of more than 3,000 hostile fans against the unbeaten Germans and had to come from behind to earn the gold medal berth.
It was a classic back-and-forth battle as the German’s 1-0 lead was erased within 32 seconds by a shorthanded breakaway goal from Sweden’s Dick Axelsson. Thomas Greilinger and Florian Jung built the German lead to 3-1, only to see it cut again, this time by Jimmy Andersson.
Germany had another surge midway through the second quarter as Vitalij Aab’s 4-2 goal prompted Sweden to switch goaltenders. But just two seconds after the change, Steffen Tolzer scored off the face-off, giving Germany its biggest lead, 5-2.
But the jubilation didn’t last long as Axelsson and Henrik Hoglund scored late half goals to cut the lead to 5-4.
The margin between the teams in the second half continued to be razor thin as the see-saw continued to go back and forth. Daniel Brolin tied the game for Sweden seven minutes into the half, but less than a minute later Henrik Holscher had the answer. Axelsson struck with his third goal to tie the game at six, scoring from below the face-off circle.
Sweden took its first lead 1:40 into the fourth quarter when Linus Klausen scored on a diving shot after Germany had a big chance at the other end. Germany pressured the Sweden net through the quarter, desperate to get the game-tying goal. Despite their efforts, it was Sweden that put in the deciding goal, a Mattias Luukkonen tally, which gave Sweden the 8-6 advantage and sealed the Swede’s spot in the golden game.
Germany, which has won the bronze medal the last two seasons, will go for a three peat of its own tomorrow against Finland.
Division I Semi-Finals:
Brazil – Great Britain 3-5 (0-1, 0-2, 2-1, 1-1)
Great Britain will skate in its second straight Division I gold medal game at the Inline Hockey World Championship after downing Brazil, 5-3.
Despite being the lower seed entering the game, Great Britain came out playing like a favorite, taking a 3-0 lead by the end of the first half. Daniel Hutchinson scored bookend goals in the second quarter, one coming in the first minute and the other coming the last minute of action, to help Britain build the lead.
Richard Walsh made it’s a strong 4-0 lead with his second marker to open the second half scoring. But a late-period surge from Brazil cut the lead in half as Bruno Gomes and Pedro Raposo scored 52 seconds apart. Brazil continued to chip into the lead, getting the 4-3 goal 20 seconds into the fourth quarter, but Great Britain kept a cool head and put in one last insurance tally to secure the gold medal game berth.
The last time Great Britain won the Division I gold medal was in 2006, one of two times they took home the top prize. Brazil earned the bronze medal last year and will look to repeat tomorrow against Hungary.
Austria – Hungary 9-1 (4-0, 2-0, 2-0, 1-1)
Austria has a chance to return to the Inline top division and skate for Division I gold after easily handling Hungary, 9-1.
Austria had no problem in its semi-final game, out-shooting Hungary nearly three-to-one. The Austrians held an impressive 4-0 lead after just 7:50 of action, prompting Hungary to pull starting goaltender Attila Szoke for Tamas Kiss. Kiss managed to hold Austria scoreless for about eight minutes until Raphael Herburger put in his second goal to make it 5-0. By the halftime break, Austria owned a 6-0 lead.
The second half was much of the same. Austria continued to dominate the offensive zone, while Hungary did its best to hold off the persistent attack. Harry Lang put in his second marker of the game to make it 7-0, while Christian Dolezal and Bernd Jager closed the Austrian scoring.
Szilard Sandor spoiled the shutout for Bernhard Starkbaum late in the game, bringing the final score to 9-1.
Hungary last played in the bronze medal game in 2007, winning against Australia. Tomorrow the Hungarians will face Brazil for third place.
Top Division Placement Games:
Slovenia – Czech Republic – 6-4 (1-1, 1-1, 1-2, 3-0)
Slovenia came from behind with three goals in the last 10 minutes of regulation to earn a 6-4 win against the Czech Republic in today’s placement game.
The win saved Slovenia from the chance of being relegated to Division I. For the Czechs, the last-period loss is representative of the nation’s entire championship, which started strong and waned in the playoff round.
The teams were tied at two at halftime, and Slovenia took a 3-2 lead to open the second half. But the Czechs came back with two straight goals to take a 4-3 lead by the end of the third quarter. It took just over a minute in the fourth quarter for the Slovenians to get the tying goal and less than a minute later, Nejc Soltar put in the eventual game winner.
The win gives Slovenia a sixth-place finish, while the Czechs have to settle for seventh. The last time either team won a medal at the Inline Championship was when the Czechs took bronze in 2001. Slovenia has never won a medal at the event.
Slovakia – Canada 1-8 (1-1, 1-4, 0-1, 0-2)
Canada and Slovakia played an all-or-nothing placement game, with the loser certain to be relegated to Division I and the winner finishing at the top of the placement heap. Thanks to a strong second quarter, Canada took the ‘all’ route with an 8-1 win, avoiding relegation and finishing the tournament in fifth place.
The loss sends Slovakia to Division I next year. The relegation is a blow to the nation, which last year had an all-time high silver medal finish on home ice in Bratislava. Prior to the 2008 triumph, Slovakia typically finished between 6th and 8th place in the top division.
Canada put in four goals in a six-minute span to break the game open. Until that point, the win was up for grabs with the squads tied at one at the end of the first quarter. Adam Ross scored twice in the second period surge. Slovakia pulled their starting goaltender after the 4-1 goal, but Ross scored just three minutes after Peter Staron entered the game.
Canada put in another three goals in the second half as Slovakia lost most of its fight after Canada took the large lead before the half.
Slovakia will begin next year’s event in Division I as the top-seeded team.
Division I Placement Games:
Japan – South Africa - 9-2 (3-1, 3-0, 3-0, 0-1)
Japan will return to the Inline Hockey World Championship again next year after easily beating South Africa, 9-2, in today’s Division I placement game. The loss means that South Africa will not be at next year’s event and will have to go through a qualification process to return.
Masaku Ito and Aguri Suzuki scored twice in the Japan victory. Their team scored three goals in each of the first three quarters in the dominant win. South Africa was the first team to get on the board 8:03 into action, but after the goal it was all Japan offensively.
South Africa actually out-shot Japan in the game, but the Japanese were never really challenged as they eased up the last 15 minutes of the game, holding a 9-1 lead.
The win gives Japan a sixth place finish in the Division I group. South Africa finishes seventh out of the eight teams.
Australia – Chinese Taipei – 15-7 (5-1, 4-0, 3-1, 3-5)
It’s back to the drawing board for Chinese Taipei after suffering another lopsided loss in today’s Division I placement game. Australia relegated the Asian nation with a 15-7 win in both teams’ last game of the event. The win gives the Aussies a fifth-place finish in Division I.
Chinese Taipei took its first lead of the championship after Kai-Hsaing Chang scored on a power-play 2:17 into the game. But the moral victory was short-lived as Australia responded by rattling in nine unanswered goals. Two of the tallies came shorthanded, prompting Taipei to pull fatigued goaltender Tsung-Han Lin.
Australia put in another six goals in the second half. But to end the championship on a positive note, Chinese Taipei had their most productive quarter of the event, scoring five goals to bring the final to 15-7. Chang ended the game with a hat trick, while Australia’s Jordan Gavin and Peter Matus paced all players with two goals and two assists each.
Like South Africa, last-place Chinese Taipei will not return to next year’s Inline championship and will have to go through a qualification process to return.
Top Division Gold: USA vs. Sweden
Top Division Bronze: Finland vs. Germany
Division I Gold: Great Britain vs. Austria
Division I Bronze: Brazil vs. Hungary