Filip Novak, Defenseman, Czech Republic: Novak, registering 2 assists and an Even +/- rating through the 4 games of the preliminary round, and the Czech Republic squared off against Finland in hopes of continuing their pursuit of a Gold Medal. Finland, coming off a 4-1 beating of Team Canada, finished as the top team in the preliminary round, while the Czech Republic finished an extremely disappointing fourth in Group B with a 1-3-0 record. The game was a close one from start to finish. New Jersey Devils’ prospect Tuomas Pihlman put the Finns on the board first with 1:11 remaining in the opening period. Forward Petr Prucha notched a power play goal to tie the game for the Czechs, 7:48 seconds into the second period. The game remained tied only for about ten minutes when Finnish forward Jarkko Immonen converted a pass from defenseman Joni Pitkanen, considered one of the top 2002 eligible prospects. The game stay that way until Tomi Maki, a 4th rounder by the Calgary Flames in 2001, finished it off with an empty net goal with only nine seconds remaining. The Czech Republic outshot Finland 18 to 15, but the Finns got strong goaltending yet again from Kari Lehtonen, arguably the top goaltender available for 2002, and won the game 3-1. After winning back-to-back Gold Medals, the Czechs disappointed this time around in their own country, and now are out of contention for a medal. The highest they can finish in this tournament now would be 5th. As for Filip Novak, the swift-skating defenseman registered no points in the contest and was a -1. The Czechs face Team USA tomorrow, who also suffered a disappointing loss today.
Garth Murray, Forward, Canada and Henrik Lundqvist, Goaltender, Sweden: After the Canadians got their butts kicked by the Finns 4-1, they finished with the 2nd best record in the preliminary round, with only Finland ahead of them. There has been some speculation, whether its being made up or not, about how the Canadians could have possibly put up a lackluster effort against Finland on purpose so they could avoid having to move to the other city, Pardubice, to play their next game, which would have been against the Czech Republic if they defeated Finland. However, the only thing that matters is that Finland did win the game, and the Canadians had to face Sweden in their next game, which took place today. Sweden finished 3rd in Group A following the preliminary round, sporting a 2-0-2 record. Henrik Lundqvist, a 19 year old Goaltender drafted by the Rangers in the 7th Round of the 2000 Draft, was in goal to try and stop the Canadians. Henrik’s twin brother, Joel Lundqvist, a prospect for the Dallas Stars, got the Swedes on the board early with an even-strength goal 15:30 into the contest, which was the beginning of a scoring spree for both teams. Sweden added another goal 36 seconds later when Magnus Hedlund scored a power play goal with Scottie Upshall, another player who is a solid prospect for 22, in the box for high-sticking. It didn’t take long after that, 23 seconds to be exact, for Canada to finally get on the board. Mike Cammalleri, a 2nd rounder by the Los Angeles Kings in 2001 and the tournaments leading scorer with 9 points in 4 games, was able to finally get one by Swede goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to pull within one. Canada was back at it again two minutes and thirty seconds later as Captain Jarret Stoll, a Calgary Flames prospect, was able to put the puck in the net as Henrik Lundqvist was out of position. The game remained 2-2 as the buzzer sounded to signal the end of a very exciting first period. The Swedes came out strong in the 2nd period, but Canada was able to keep them off the scoreboard. With Joel Lundqvist off for interference, Toronto Maple Leaf’s prospect Brad Boyes was able to score his 5th goal of the tournament to put the Canadians ahead by one. That goal turned out to be the game winner as Canada never looked back. Scottie Upshall of the Kamloops Blazers (WHL) made a nice play behind the net to get the puck to Garth Murray, who burried it past Henrik Lundqvist for his 3rd goal and 5th point of the tournament. Canada added an empty net goal by Brian Sutherby with 58 seconds remaining to seal the win. Henrik Lundqvist turned away 23 of 27 shots, but wasn’t able to pull off a win for Sweden. He looked solid throughout the game, except for a few times when he looked out of position. The few times that he did make mental mistakes, the Canadians were able to capitilize. Through 5 games, Garth Murray has registered 3 goals, 2 assists, 5 points, 12 penalty minutes and a +5 rating for Canada, while Henrik Lundqvist has given up 10 goals in 5 games, and has recorded a 2.01 GAA and a .908 save percentage. The Canadians advance to play Switzerland, who they beat 6-1 in the preliminary round, while Sweden faces off against Slovakia, who they tied 2-2 earlier in the tournament.
Ryan Hollweg, Forward, Team USA, Bryce Lampman, Defenseman, Team USA, and Fedor Tyutin, Defenseman, Russia: Since the Russians were without star forward Alexander Svitov, suspended for two games for sucker-punching Swiss defenseman Beat Forster and their coach, Vladimir Plyuschev, who was suspended one game for failing to control his players during the contest, and team USA coming off an emotional 4-4 tie against Slovakia, many figured this could wind up to be an easy win for the Americans. However, not so fast. The Russians rallied without Svitov and their head coach, and were able to pound the Americans by a final score of 6-1. USA Goaltender Jason Bacashihua, a 1st rounder by the Dallas Stars in 2001, was clearly not on top of his game while Andrei Medvedev, a Calgary draft pick and goaltender for the Russians, played superb and gave his team a chance to win. Stanislav Chistov, the 5th overall selection in 2001 by Anaheim, had an excellent game, registering a goal and 2 assists in the win. As for the Rangers prospects, all three fared pretty well individually. Fedor Tyutin scored on the power play early in the second period off of a feed from Chistov to put the Russians up by a score of 2-0. That was Tyutin’s first point of the tournament, as he now has 1 goal and is a +5 through 5 games. As for the other team, Bryce Lampman had a good overall game, but was kept off the scoreboard for a 5th straight game, although he did take a holding penalty in the first period. Through the first 5 games, Lampman has no points, 6 penalty minutes and an even +/- rating. As for Ryan Hollweg, he was into the game from the get-go, registering an assist on the lone goal for the Americans, as well as 4 minutes in penalties. Hollweg is 7th in scoring on team USA with 3 points (all assists) in 5 games. Hollweg also has tacked on 31 minutes in penalties, and a +1 rating. He currently has the fourth most penalty minutes of any player in the tournament. The Russians advance to take on the feisty Finland squad, while team USA will square off against the Czech Republic. With the loss, The highest USA can finish is 5th in the tournament.
Sven Helfenstein, Forward, Switzerland: Arguably the most exciting game of the day was the one where Switzerland played Slovakia. It was a tight, hard-fought game throughout the entire contest. The game was scoreless until Patrik Bartschi of Switzerland tallied the first goal of the game a little more than half way through the second period. Marek Svatos, a dangerous offensive weapon for the Kootenay Ice of the WHL and a draft pick of the Colorado Avalanche, evened the score a little more than 2 minutes later as he notched his 7th goal of the tournament. Thibaut Monnet, an undrafted forward, put the Swiss in front by one with less than three minutes remaining the game, beating Slovak goaltender Peter Hamerlik, a Pittsburgh Penguins prospect, for an unassisted goal. However, Slovakia stormed back and tied the game with less than two minutes remaining. Defenseman Tomas Malec, drafted in the 3rd round in 2001 by the Florida Panthers, got the tying goal off assists from Peter Holecko and Igor Pohanka, a Devils’ prospect. The two teams played a rough 10 minutes of over time, which consisted of 18 minutes in penalties, but the score remained tied and the two teams decided it in a shootout. Fabian Sutter started off for the Swiss, but didn’t score on his opportunity. Tomas Kopecky of the Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL) and a Detroit Red Wings’ draft pick, scored on the first opportunity for Slovakia. No one else scored during the next four shots, as Tomas Nussli and Raeto Raffainer were stuffed for the Swiss, as well as Marek Svatos, the tournament’s leading goal scorer, and Michal Macho. Swiss captain Andreas Camenzind scored on the next shot, tying the score at 1-1. Ivan Kolozvary took the following shot for Slovakia, but was denied by Tabias Stephan, the goaltender for team Switzerland and a potential high draft pick in 2002. Sven Helfenstein, the Rangers’ 6th round draft pick in 2000 and playing in his third and last World Junior Championship, took the next shot for Switzerland. Helfenstein skated in fast, a bit left of the Slovak goaltender Peter Hamerlik, and fired a shot to the right side that found it’s way into the net. Slovakia had one final opportunity to tie the score and continue the penalty shots. Frantisek Skladany, a Colorado Avalanche prospect and the leading scorer as a sophomore for Boston University, was the chosen one to take the shot. However, Tobias Stephan came up huge again with the save and helped pull off the upset. A disappointed Slovak team left the ice as their hopes of a medal were gone. Switzerland advances to take on the mighty Canadians tomorrow, while the Slovaks will face Sweden. Oddly enough, Sven Helfenstein’s game winning goal was his first of the tournament. Through 5 games, Helfenstein has a goal and 2 assists, 2 penalty minutes and a -2 rating. The Swiss will rely on Helfenstein to come up big if they have any chance at knocking off the Canadians.