Kralj cracks Canada

InLine: Finland, Slovenia upset favourites; Czechs, USA score high

19.06.2011
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Slovenia started well with a 6-4 win over Canada. Matic Kralj (right) was the man of the match with four goals. Photo: Ivana Hoskova

PARDUBICE – Slovenia edged Canada 6-4 thanks to Matic Kralj’s four goals in the first game of the Top Division, which continued with another surprise as Finland defeated Sweden 10-4. The Czechs (9-1 vs. Germany) and Team USA (12-3 vs. Slovakia) faced fewer problems. Great Britain, Hungary, Austria and Croatia won their first games in Division I.

Top Division

Slovakia vs. USA 3-12 (1-2, 1-2, 0-3, 1-5) Game Sheet

Reigning champion United States had an easy start into the 2011 IIHF InLine Hockey World Championship. Slovakia was only able to challenge the Americans in the beginning of the game.

Tyler Walser and Kyle Kraemer both scored a hat trick in Team USA’s 12-3 win.

“We started off well in the second half. I had three goals myself on my debut, which made me happy,” Walser said. “We definitely will have a shot at the gold medal if we give it all.”

Walser had to play without his linemate Itan Chavira, who followed the game from the bench, but thinks this will change tomorrow.

“Chavira came in late, that’s why he didn’t play,” Walser commented. “I hope he’ll be back tomorrow as he’s my linemate.”

With the first attack after just 19 seconds of play Walser scored his first goal, and the first one for Team USA.

At 2:09 Miroslav Kristin surprised USA goalie Troy Redmann with a rebound after a shot from Filip Novak to tie the game.

Slovakia even enjoyed a power play some minutes later. But instead of the Slovaks scoring another surprising goal, the Americans got chances for breakaways. Nathan Sigmund capitalized on one of them to regain the lead at 7:11.

At 3:08 of the second period the Americans extended the lead when Charles Yoder capitalized on the first power play, but one minute later Kristin cut the lead on a counter attack.

It was only 3-2 for Team USA, but the Americans started to become stronger and to outskate their opponents. Rafael Rodriguez scored the 4-2 goal before the halftime break.

After the intermission the Americans clearly dominated the remainder of the game and didn’t allow the Slovaks to come back.

The Americans added three more goals from Walser, Shawn Gawrys and Sigmund in the third period. Jose Junior Cadiz, Walser and three times Kraemer scored five more goals for Team USA in the last period while Martin Galik added a Slovak goal for the 12-3 score.

Germany vs. Czech Republic 1-9 (0-1, 0-2, 0-5, 1-1) Game Sheet Photos

The Czech Republic opened the 2011 IIHF InLine Hockey World Championship on home ice in Pardubice in great fashion by defeating Germany.

Normally the geographic neighbour is also one in the standings, but this time it was a little different as the Czechs won 9-1.

There have surely been better days for the German team. Only one year ago in Karlstad, Sweden, they opened the tournament with another loss against the Czechs, although it ended with a tight 9-8 score. Two years ago they even won the bronze medals.

This time they were simply totally outdone by a great and highly motivated Czech team that wanted to show its medal ambitions in front of 2,000 fans at the CEZ Arena.

“We didn’t know what to expect from Germany, but of course we’re happy that it was so easy for us in the end,” Karel Rachunek said after the game.

Both teams exchanged a couple of shots before Petr Tenkrat scored the first Czech goal at 9:15 of the first period. In the second span the puck went in only behind German netminder Jochen Vollmer again when Pavel Strycek and Ludek Broz made it 3-0 before the halftime break.

German coach Georg Holzmann replaced Vollmer with Thomas Ower during the intermission, but no effect of this change was visible – or at least not a positive one.

The Czechs tic-tac-toed the puck towards a helpless German defence close to perfection. Martin Vozdecky, Tomas Mojzis, Vladimir Kames, Rachunek and Broz with his second marker scored five goals in the third period. Although only Kames’ goal was on a man advantage, the Czechs seemed to have a power play for the whole 12 minutes.

“Some of our players had their first game in an InLine Hockey World Championship and the Czechs were simply better,” Holzmann said and gave lots of praise to the home side. “They were faster and more skilled than us in any situation. This team was the best opponent I have seen in the last few years.”

Jiri Polansky added the ninth goal at 1:19 of the last period shorthanded before Thomas Greilinger scored Germany’s consolation goal for the final score of 9-1.

Sweden vs. Finland 4-10 (1-1, 2-1, 1-2, 0-6) Game Sheet Photos

The classic Nordic rivalry continued at the InLine Worlds only five weeks after the Finns had won the ice hockey world title in Bratislava in a 6-1 gold medal game win against Sweden.

The first game for both teams in Pardubice had quite some parallels with the Bratislava final. The DJ played an electro remix of the Finnish TV commentator when Mikael Granlund scored his phenomenal lacrosse-style goal in the semi-finals against Russia – and there were no less than ten Finnish goals to play this goal song.

Finland won 10-4 with a Markus Jokinen hat trick and two goals each from Jesse Saarinen and Sami Markkanen. Kristian Luukkonen scored two goals for the Swedish side.

“It’s quite a big win for us. It was kind of the same feeling like in the ice hockey final, although it was not the final. It’s always great to win against Sweden,” Jokinen said.

The high score with lots of Finnish goals in the last period reminded on the last clash of the ice hockey national teams same as Sweden opening the score with a goal from Luukkonen.

Also the second goal reminded on Finland’s big moment when Tobias Kauppinen tied the game in the last minute of the first period with two seconds left on a power play.

From then on it was another story of a game the puck – and the score – went back and forth for the first three quarters before Finland opened the gap.

Anders Myren regained the lead for Sweden with a power-play goal from the face-off circle four minutes into the second period, but at 8:55 the Finns tied the game again. Saarinen made it 2-2 with a wrist shot from a short distance before Luukkonen shot the puck into the net on the other side one minute later for the 3-2 marker.

The lead again didn’t stay long. Six minutes into the third period Jokinen made it 3-3. It was the beginning of the Jokinen show and sweet revenge for the 22-year-old, who plays for second-tier team LeKi Lempäälä.

“It was a tough start because they got the lead and it was tough for our line too,” he said. Before his first goal it was Jokinen’s line that conceded all three Swedish goals. “In the second half of the game we played better, had more puck possession and got the goals we needed.”

At 8:49 during a power play Finland got its first lead when Saarinen scored his second goal, but ten seconds before the intermission Simon Olsson tied it at four with a hard shot.

1:36 into the fourth period the next goal was scored and this time it was the Finns that went ahead thanks to Jokinen’s shorthander. Less than two minutes later Suomi became the first team to hold a two-goal lead in this game when Markkanen scored the 6-4 goal on a rebound after a shot from Pat Ahosilta.

Sweden took a time-out, but just 99 seconds later it was 7-4 for Finland after Mikko Palotie had scored another Finnish goal, and at 6:21 Markkanen made it 8-4.

Sebastian Idoff saved a shot from Ahosilta one minute later, but Jouni Aalto was in front of the net to wrist the puck over the Swedish goalkeeper. Two minutes later Jokinen scored another shorthander to crack the ten-goal mark. His hat trick was the last highlight of a game that ended with a 10-4 win for the Finns.

It’s a win that comes as a surprise. Finland hasn’t finished the inline worlds in a better position than Sweden since winning the 2003 event and ending with silver in 2004.

Canada vs. Slovenia 4-6 (2-0, 0-4, 2-1, 0-1) Game Sheet Photos

Canada vs. Slovenia might not be a very equally looking pairing in ice hockey, but those two teams were a perfect and entertaining match for the first Top Division game of the 2011 IIHF InLine Hockey World Championship in Pardubice, Czech Republic.

The big difference maker was Slovenian forward Matic Kralj, who scored four goals in his team’s 6-4 victory.

“We were looking for a start like this,” the 28-year-old said. “We wanted to work hard to win the game and we worked well, although we pulled back a little bit in the second half of the game.”

Canada seemed to have the better start, but Slovenian goalkeeper Gasper Kroselj didn’t allow a goal until David Hammond brought Canada on the scoreboard with 46 seconds left in the first period. Thomas Woods even managed to double the score only 26 seconds later.

The Slovenes bounced back very quickly after the nightmarish ending of the first stanza. Kralj scored on a power play 36 seconds after the puck drop and he became the driving force in the second stage of the game. At 2:14 Kralj scored again to tie it up and one minute later he completed his hat trick by gaining the 3-2 lead for Slovenia. At 9:45 Domen Vedlin became the second Slovene to score a goal for the 4-2 lead halfway through the game.

The Canadians took over the initiative in the third period when Adam Ross cut the Slovenian lead after 67 seconds. He skated by two Slovenes to defeat Kroselj for the 4-3 goal.

Defenceman Jimmy Carter missed the equalizer just a minute later when he received a pass just in front of the net. At 5:25 of the third period the Canadians eventually succeeded when David Hammond tied the score at four, but it took the Slovenes only 83 seconds to regain the lead.

Kralj, who transfers from French club Morzine-Avoriaz to British team Coventry Blaze for the upcoming season, definitely became the man of the match when his fourth marker became the game winning goal.

“I’m happy with the game I played, but tomorrow is a new day with a new game,” he said when asked about his four-goal performance. “We have to work as hard as today.”

Ales Remar widened the margin to two goals at 2:21 of the fourth period with a breakaway after coming out from the penalty box. The 6-4 goal remained the last one in a perfect start for Slovenia.

Division I

New Zealand vs. Croatia 1-7 (0-3, 0-1, 0-2, 1-1) Game Sheet Photos

Croatia opened its Division I campaign with a 7-1 win against qualifier New Zealand.

Tomislav Grozaj, Igor Jacmenjak and Tomislav Cunko scored three goals within a 4:12 minute span to decide the game already in the first period. Mario Novak in the second period and power play goals from Mario Sertic and Grozaj in the third stanza broke the hopes for the New Zealanders.

Daniel Garrow scored the lone goal for the Kiwis at 4:26 of the third period while Novak added his second goal for the 7-1 score less than one minute later.

South Africa vs. Austria 1-10 (0-3, 0-1, 0-4, 1-2) Game Sheet Photos

South Africa was no challenge for an Austrian team that aims for promotion back to the Top Division. Andre Niec scored the first Austrian goal after three minutes, Youssef Riemer made it 2-0 with the first power play coming to an end, and with one second left in the first period Riener scored his second goal on another power play.

The Austrians continued to dominate the game in the following two periods. Niec scored his second goal while the other six Austrian markers came from six different players. Andre Marais became the only South African to score a goal with the 8-1 marker on a power play in the last period.

Hungary vs. Argentina 4-2 (1-0, 1-0, 2-0, 0-2) Game Sheet Photos

Hungary won its first game against underdogs Argentina 4-2. The Hungarians had more puck possession and capitalized on their chances for a 4-0 lead after three periods and goals from four different players: Arnold Feil, Marton Bontovics, Akos Kiss and Gergely Borbas.

Argentine coach Roberto Villagra replaced goalkeeper Lucas Marcolongo with Federico Fernandez for the last 12 minutes and the signal seemed to reach his team. Facundo Vadra scored two goals to give his team the chance to come back into the game, but with two-and-a-half minutes left to play it was too late.

Australia vs. Great Britain 1-6 (0-1, 0-2, 0-1, 1-2) Game Sheet Photos

Great Britain was ranked behind Australia after 2010, but in this year’s opening game the Brits ruled from the beginning. Although they played shorthanded three times in the first period and had only one shot on goal, Kurt Waller made use of it to put his team on the scoreboard with a shorthander at 3:34.

The Brits had more puck possession in the second period with goals from John Dolan and on the power play Richard Walsh, and Nathan Finney made it 4-0. In the end Great Britain won 6-1 despite shots on goal favouring Australia, 40-22.

MARTIN MERK

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