QUEBEC CITY Ė France took a step closer to the 2009 World Championships in Switzerland when it took a 3-2 win over Italy on Friday night. It didn't always look pretty but that didnít matter tonight.
The only thing that mattered was the win. Or, not losing.
"You don't want to focus on the negative side of the equation, the fear of losing. You have to stay positive all the time," said French defenseman Baptiste Amar after the game.
France seemed to be the better prepared team as it took command of the game in the first two shifts. Maybe the importance of the game had got to the French players, as they drew three penalties in short succession. Just as Yorick Treille was back on the ice, Antoine Lussier was sent off for tripping. And just 52 seconds after the French had killed off that penalty, Yorick Treille was back in the box.
This time, the Italians didnít waste any time. Giorgio De Bettin and Christian Borgatello zigzagged the puck through the French box to Jonathan Pittis who sent the puck behind Cristobal Huet in the French goal.
Michele Strazzabosco got a tripping penalty 37 seconds later, giving the French their first powerplay of the night. It took France just 32 seconds to get the puck to Carter Trevisani who took a wrist shot from the point. The puck found its way through the traffic, and Gunther Hell was beat.
The second period was a carbon copy of the first, with each team taking a hold of the game on powerplay in an otherwise surprisingly wide open game.
"It's a game of mistakes and whoever makes most mistakes tends to lose. Tonight, both teams had a lot of turnovers, but France took their chances on powerplay," said Pittis.
Cristobal Huet had a scare with 5:21 remaining in the period when a loose rebound bounced right back to an Italian forward whose shot Huet saved with a high kick.
"We were really excited to get Huet to the team and he's been outstanding in every game, but that save was highlight reel material," said Baptiste Amar, who France's coach Dave Henderson relied heavily on.
France's his first line center, Sebastien Bordeleau, and the two defensemen behind the first line, Vincent Bachet and Amar, logged over 23 minutes each, and Amar almost half the game, 27 minutes.
Amar proved him right by getting the important 2-1 goal with only 30 seconds remaining in the second period, when he took a pass from Joathan Zwikel from behind the net and one-timed it behind Hell.
"It won't be a problem to play tomorrow," said Amar. "The pace wasn't that high today. Besides, it's the same for them."
"Yes, the coach was yelling my name a lot tonight," said former NHLer Bordeleau, grinning. "It was fun, it's fun to play a lot, and I'm used to playing back-to-back games in SC Bern where I play lot, too."
Italy's chances of getting back into the game vanished with ten minutes remaining in the game when Luca Ansoldi got a penalty for tripping. Just 40 seconds into the French powerplay, Amar took a shot from the blueline, Hell dropped it, and Bordeleau lifted the rebound to the net for 3-1.
"We had good traffic in front of the net, and the goalie didn't see anything. The puck came straight to me, and all I had to do was shoot it in," said Bordeleau.
Italy pulled Hell with 30 seconds remaining, and Armin Helfer scored the 3-2 goal with 7.4 seconds remaining. That wasn't enough and now Italy must win tomorrow if they wish to stay in the top division.
"We'll get our rest now, and fight back tomorrow. We will play on Tuesday," said Jonathan Pittis.