BRNO/ZNOJMO – It was close through two periods, but the Americans finally found their legs in the third and showed why they are the defending champions, blanking Finland 4-0. In Znojmo, Sweden roared back from an early one-goal deficit to defeat Germany 8-1.
Finland – USA (0-0, 0-0, 0-4)
BRNO - After a tightly contested 40 minutes, Team USA broke out for three goals at the start of the third period, putting Finland away 4-0 in their opening game. The US closed out the Finns thanks in large part to a 21-save effort from goaltender Collin Olson, who got his first-ever shutout in an IIHF competition and earned Best Player honours.
“It’s unbelievable, definitely couldn’t have done it without the guys in the locker room though,” said Olson. “They played hard and blocked shots and I just wanted to be there in case they needed me.”
Both teams played with an edge throughout the game, but Finnish discipline broke down early in the third when Ville Pokka was called for interference only twenty seconds into the frame. On the ensuing power play, Nicolas Kerdiles got a loose puck in front of the net and jammed it through goaltender Joonas Korpisalo for the game’s first goal.
The Americans followed up with another score two minutes later. JT Compher won the puck away from Finnish defender Lehtonen in the corner and found Matt Lane, who took it to the net and made a move to beat Korpisalo and give the US the 2-0 lead. Then, with Korpisalo screened by his teammate, Quentin Shore fired a shot to the back of the net, making the score 3-0 USA less than five minutes into the third period.
Before that, the game was a close contest as both teams sought to establish themselves physically right from the opening minute. In the first period, Finnish forward Aleksi Mustonen made a one-man rush into the American zone that was quickly stuffed by USA’s Jacob Trouba, who threw a hard check on Mustonen and nearly took out his own teammate in the process.
Both goaltenders were tested early and often in the opening frame. US defenceman Pat Sieloff found himself on a breakaway midway through the period, but could not get his backhand shot over goaltender Joonas Korpisalo, who extended his pad across the crease and made a great save. On the other end, Henri Ikonen had a great chance for a backhand while sitting in front of the net, but was denied by Olson. The period ended with a string of penalties for both teams, with neither one taking advantage.
The second period saw more of the same as both teams locked up their defensive zones and gave up few chances on net. Finland survived three consecutive penalties and managed to keep the Americans at bay to go into the second intermission tied at 0-0. But following the penalty on Pokka, the USA struck early and often and put the game away.
Following Shore’s goal, the game devolved a bit as Finnish frustration boiled over and Aleksander Barkov was given a game misconduct for checking from behind. But the US got a measure of revenge back when a fourth goal, from forward Connor Carrick, rubbed salt into Finland's wounds.
"We knew it was going to be a tough game, a 60-minute battle, and I like the way the guys stayed with it," said head coach Danton Cole. "We kept our focus and remember that our goal was not to retaliate but to win the game."
The Americans will travel to Znojmo on Saturday to take on the Czech Republic next, while Finland goes to Breclav for an important game against Canada.
Germany – Sweden 1 - 8 (1-1, 0-2, 0-5)
ZNOJMO – Germany drew first blood, but Sweden closed the door on any potential upset bid with a six-goal effort en route to an 8-1 victory.
Alexander Wennberg had a hat trick and Mattias Kalin chipped in with two goals as Sweden began their 2012 championship bid in good form, hoping to return to the final after losing to the United States in Germany 2011.
Trying to follow up a 2011 campaign that saw them get to the quarter-finals on home ice, Team Germany came up with a strong early effort against the Swedes. The boys in black opened the scoring in the first period, with a goal from Denis Shevyrin, assisted by Tim Bender and Janik Moser. But with Nicolai Quinlan in the box on a holding call, Sweden tied the game up with 5:01 remaining on a power play goal from Kalin.
Sweden then managed to pull ahead 3-1 in the second period. First Wennberg skated untouched through the German blue line, then with a defender in front of him cocked his stick back and fired a low and fast shot that beat goaltender Patrick Klein to the stick side.
Germany caught a break soon after when an apparent Swedish goal was waved off when it was ruled that the player had kicked the puck in the net. But at 9:37 in the period Kalin struck again for his second goal of the game. Wennberg and Sebastian Collberg followed up with power play goals in the third period, then Wennberg iced the game with his third goal with just over seven minutes remaining in the game. Christian Djoos and Filip Forsberg rounded out the scoring as Sweden potted five goals in the final frame.
Sweden will face Switzerland on Saturday, while Germany will face a tough test against Russia in their second game.
Click here for scores and stats