KARLSTAD – The 2010 Inline Hockey World Championship kicked off today in Sweden and had a little bit of everything for everyone. For those who love upsets, Australia and Czech Republic delivered. People who like blowouts were happy with Slovakia and the U.S. and for those who like close calls, there was Brazil’s shootout win against Japan.
Finland – Slovenia 7-3 (0-0, 2-1, 3-1, 2-1)
Finland overcame a sluggish start in its opening game and clawed its way to a 7-3 victory against Slovenia.
It took awhile for the Finns to find their rhythm, and they had to rely on five, second-half goals to power through to the win. Tobias Kauppanen sparked the Finnish offense in, putting in a pair of goals in a five-minute span to give Finland its first substantial lead, a 4-1 advantage, in the 31st minute.
“Of course we were happy to get the win, but we know that if we don’t improve in the next game that we won’t be so lucky,” said Finland team leader Teemu Vanhala.
After a scoreless first quarter, Ziga Jeglic gave Slovenia the surprising 1-0 lead 35 seconds into the second quarter. Finland was rattled by the goal, but couldn’t put the equalizer in until seven minutes later when Sami Markkanen struck. Finland took its first lead when Markkanen put in his second marker two minutes later with a back-handed shot. The 2-1 lead stood until Kauppanen came to life in the second half, putting the game out of reach for the Slovenians.
Slovenia’s two second-half goals were on the power-play. Finland will play newly promoted Austria tomorrow, while Slovenia will face defending champion and host, Sweden.
Germany – Czech Republic 8-9 (1-3, 3-1, 2-2, 1-3)
The Czech Republic netted the first upset win in the top division after topping defending bronze medalist Germany, 9-8, in an epic back-and-forth battle.
The Czech Republic stormed out to a 3-1 lead in the first quarter with the bulk of the offense coming on breakout efforts. The Germans spent most of the quarter pressuring the Czech net, but it mattered little as the Czechs kept finding the back of the net.
It wasn’t until the second quarter, buoyed by Czech penalty troubles, that the Germans found their offensive touch putting in three extra-man markers in a four-minute span to take its first lead. Thomas Grelinger had the natural hat trick in the first half, pacing the Germans in their comeback. Germany was close to holding the 4-3 lead at the half, but the Czech Republic’s Jan Rudolvsky scored a late goal to make it 4-4 before the break.
The second half turned into a see-saw battle as the teams exchanged rapid fire goals. Again, the Czechs were all about the breakaway efforts, while the Germany cycled in the offensive zone. In the first four minutes of the half, the teams combined for four goals, bumping the score to a 6-6 deadlock.
The Czechs eventually broke the game open after Jan Besser put in a blooper goal that trickled in over the shoulder of German goaltender Jochen Vollmer. The goal paved the way for another two Czech goals, including a point-blank effort from Patrik Sebek on the power play, to give the Czechs a solid 9-7 advantage with six minutes left. Germany cut the lead to one goal, but couldn’t put in the equalizer and lost, 9-8.
For the three-time defending bronze medalist Germany, the loss is a tough start to the championship, especially since they have both the Americans and Canadians left to play in the preliminary round group.
Canada – United States 2-7 (0-3, 0-1, 2-3, 0-0)
Today’s inline meeting between North American rivals Canada and USA was a far cry from the ice hockey rivalry that defines the two countries as the Americans rolled all over the Canadians in a 7-2 win.
The Canadians generated no offense in the first half and were had very few scoring chances as the U.S. controlled the puck for most of the half. The U.S. trio of Patrick Lee, Kyle Kraemer and Jauquin Chavira was a dangerous combination for the Canadians as they produced many of the best U.S. scoring chances and was responsible for two of first half goals. At the break, the U.S. owned a 4-0 lead.
Canada attempted a comeback in the second half, but fell well short of threatening the Americans, scoring only two goals in the bid. The U.S. put in another three tallies to bring the final to 7-2. Five different U.S. players scored in the win with Kraemer and Anthony Miner being the only double scorers.
Tomorrow, the U.S. will take on the Czech Republic, which is also unbeaten. Canada will play Germany in what will be a key game to avoid Thursday’s cross over game.
Austria – Sweden 4-13 (0-2, 1-5, 2-5, 1-1)
Host Sweden kicked off its Inline Worlds title defense in grand fashion with a lopsided 13-4 win against Austria. The Austrians, who earned the promotion back to the elite level after winning the Division I gold last year, had no chance against the stronger and faster Swedes.
In the first half alone, Sweden out-shot the Austrians more than three-to-one with a 26-8 shots advantage. The result could be seen on the scoreboard as Sweden held a hefty 7-1 lead at the break. Despite having several strong individuals, the scoresheet was balanced in the first half with six different players finding the back of the net. Only Simon Olsson scored twice in the half.
It took just 39 seconds for Sweden to build on its lead in the second half when Daniel Wessner scored on the power play. Detroit Red Wings prospect Dick Axelsson put in the 9-1 goal five minutes later and from there the Swedes continued to roll. Axelsson put in his second of the night, while the other big name on the Sweden team Rickard Wallin also put in his second goal in the flurry. In total, Sweden put in six second half goals bringing the final to a hefty 13-4.
Sweden has its next test tomorrow against Slovenia, while Austria will look to regroup against the Finns.
Hungary – Australia 2-5 (0-1, 1-2, 0-1, 1-1)
Thanks to a strong start and a solid performance from Sean Jones, Australia won its opening game at the Inline Hockey World Championship with a 5-2 decision against Hungary. The win was big for the Australians, who traditionally have a tough time against the stingy Hungarian defense.
Jones finished the game with three goals, including the first two markers of the game. The lead bumped up to 3-0 when Lee McLauchlan struck at the 18:29 mark. Hungary finally scored just before the break with a power-play effort.
Australia was clearly the better team as they controlled the puck and pace throughout regulation. Hungary, which has been plagued by slow starts at the Inline Worlds in the past, generated few scoring chances.
Things slowed down a bit in the second half, Australia got two early-quarter goals, while Hungary put in one late tally to bring the final to 5-2. It was head coach Michael Flaherty’s first win behind the bench for Australia. He was previously in a management role with the team and made the move to coaching this season.
Australia will have a tougher test tomorrow when it takes on Slovakia, which was demoted from the top division last season. Meanwhile, Hungary will hope to find its legs against newly-promoted Croatia.
Brazil – Japan 6-5 (0-0, 1-2, 3-1, 1-2)
Japan went the distance against Brazil, but came up just short of pulling off the upset, losing 6-5 in a shootout. It was a true battle between the two speedy teams who were surprisingly evenly matched. Brazil has earned a medal each of the last four years, while Japan has always missed the podium during that span.
But history meant little today as Japan climbed out to a 2-0 lead in the first half. A late power-play goal by Brazil’s Jose Guilardi cut into the lead and was the lone first-half offense for the South American nation.
Japan’s Shohei Kobayashi quickly struck after the break to make it 3-1 as the Japanese were well in control of the game. But a late-quarter comeback by Brazil that saw three goals scored in a six-minute span turned the game around, giving the Brazilians a 4-3 advantage heading in the fourth quarter.
Japan tied the game at four, only to fall behind again three minutes later. Kobayashi again had the answer for Japan, putting in the 5-5 goal with just over two minutes left in regulation to send the game into overtime and the eventual shootout, where Brazil’s Decio Silva put in the game-winning shot that eluded Japanese goaltender Mitsuhiro Oue.
Croatia – Slovakia 2-13 (0-3, 1-5, 0-3, 1-2)
It was clear which is the top-seeded team and which is the lowest-seeded team in Division I action today as Slovakia dominated Croatia 13-2.
From the first whistle, Croatia had no chance against Slovakia, which normally plays in the top division, but was relegated after finishing in last place among the elite nations last year. The Slovaks held a 3-0 lead by the end of the first quarter and extended the lead to 5-0 in the opening moments of the second quarter.
The fifth goal was the end of the road for Croatian goaltender Matija Djakovic who was replaced by Tihomir Filipec. Filipec fared a little better, giving up three goals for the rest of the half to make it an 8-1 Slovakia advantage.
The Slovakia goal parade continued in the second half as they team put in another five goals. Five Slovakian players scored at least twice, with Henrich Ruckay leading the way with four goals. Mario Novak and Trpimir Piragic were the Croatian scorers.
Winless Croatia will face also-winless Hungary tomorrow, while winners Slovakia and Australia will face-off in the other group game.
Argentina – Great Britain 3-13 (1-2, 1-2, 1-6, 0-3)
Led by hat tricks from Daniel Hutchinson and Alex Pearman, Great Britain easily topped newly-promoted Argentina, 13-3.
Argentina kept the Brits in check through the first half, trailing only 4-2. Three of the four first-half Britain goals came on the power-play as they proved to be potent with the extra skater.
After the break, Great Britain came out fired up and ready to play, pouring in six goals in a 6:50 span. A power-play goal and a shorthanded tally sparked the British offense to life. It was clear after the 7-2 shorthanded goal from Pearman that Argentina could no longer stave off the traditionally strong Division I British team. The worn-out defense, started surrendering goals a quick clip, allowing nine goals in total in the second half attack.
Miguel de Achaval provided the only bright spot for Argentina in the second half when he scored late in the third quarter.
Day 1 Fun Fact: Australia, which had to travel halfway around the world to play at the World Championship, held a five-day training camp in Finland to prepare and get acclimated to the massive time change. While in Finland, the Aussies played games against local inline clubs and capped off the journey with a game against the top division Finns, which Australia dubbed ‘a learning experience.’ The Aussies must have left quite an impression as today they had an impressive Finnish fan club cheering them on in the second rink against Hungay. Australia went on to win the game, 5-2.