WJC game reports

By Joeri Loonen

Game report from Switzerland vs. Canada 12-29-03

With Switzerland holding a 0-0-14 record against Canada in WJC history, their 15th encounter did not give them more success. Canada once again proved that the junior hockey in North America has an edge over the Swiss junior system in almost every aspect of the game. As 2004 draft eligible Swiss forward Peter Guggisberg summarized after the game, “They played so much faster and more physical than we are used to, it is very hard to keep up with.”

Things did look different at the start though. Despite being pushed back into their own zone Switzerland did take the lead on their first shot taken on an outstanding Marc-Andre Fleury when Gianni Ehrensperger released a screened wrist shot that flew in behind the Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender. It was the third goal of the tournament for the player that has come through the great youth ranks of Kloten Flyers led by coach Vladimir Jursinov.

However Canada was not to be denied by the unexpected goal. With the pressure mounting on Carolina Hurricanes prospect Daniel Manzato, the Swiss netminder saw no other option than to throw his stick to stop the puck from being shot into an empty net with a penalty shot the expected call.

“I was out of position and saw the net was wide open. I threw my stick and hoped the referee would not see it, but it was a right call”, said Manzato, who is likely to head back to Switzerland after this tournament. Canadian Mike Richards did not waste this golden opportunity to tie the game up and put Canada in a perfect position to keep up their perfect record.

Canada opened up a four-goal gap thanks to goals of Braydon Coburn, Andrew Stewart and twice Ryan Getzlaf before Ehrensperger struck again with a goal that must have put his name in some NHL scouts’ notebook. He capped an individual effort with a precise wrist shot in the far top corner. After that goal Canada put the game finally beyond Switzerland by goals of Andrew Stewart and Sydney Crosby. With his goal, Crosby became one of the youngest players ever to score a goal at the World Juniors.

A comfortable 7-2 win put Canada in a perfect position to finish the group stage ranked first and avoid playing the cross-finals, while Switzerland will need to come up with a result against either the Czech Republic on Tuesday or in their final group match against the hosts Finland.

Game report on Russia vs. Sweden 12-29-03

The other matchup in Helsinki between Russia and Sweden turned out to become a real thriller. Although on paper it was the reigning champions against last year’s worst team not relegating, things showed different on the ice this time. Initially it did seem to become a big Russian show, with Russia’s agility proving too much for Sweden to handle. Sweden was handed six unmatched penalties by the referee causing their short handed lines having to work overtime. Russia managed to score twice on these opportunities to take a comfortable 2-0 lead into the locker room.

The second period however brought a different Sweden on the ice. More disciplined, more spirit and more powerful. For a large part of the game they did push Russia back in its own zone and thus it wasn’t a surprise Sweden did tie the game up after the second period thanks to goals of Johan Andersson and Monir Kalgoum.

This caused a very interesting third period to start with two equally strong teams on the ice. Russia stepped up its game a notch and it caused Sweden to face yet another deficit. Sergei Anshakov’s shot flew in high over the shoulder of Joakim Lundstrom who was having a fine game at that point, to restore Russian’s lead.

Sweden however showed grit and determination and crawled back into the game again when Robert Nilsson was given time to shoot from the point on a power play situation to tie the game at 3 all. Russia looked a bit helpless after that goal and Sweden was now in control. In a wide open game Sweden did get chances to add a fourth goal but some good goaltending of Konstantin Barulin and some questionable non-calls by the referee denied Sweden. And it was inevitably it were the Russians who ran away with the game when Sergei Anshakov scored his second of the game out of the blue to light up the Russian bench. Quebec Remparts forward Andrei Shkotov put more salt in the fresh wounds by adding an empty net goal with only one second remaining in the game to put a 5-3 score on the scoreboard.

This result was a very harsh one to Sweden who at least deserved to get a point from this game. After the game Swedish coach Torgny Bendelin was furious at the officials. Nevertheless he can be proud of his players’ performance and it surely gives hope for the remaining games in which Sweden will need a win against either Slovakia or the USA in order to avoid ending up in yet another relegation series. Russia, on the other end, managed to stay unbeaten so far, despite playing under par again. The two points gained mean they are almost qualified for the next round, but it will take more to take a third consecutive gold medal home from Finland.

Game report from Switzerland vs. Ukraine 12-28-03

Calgary Flames prospect Emanuel Peter hit an unusual hat trick for Team Switzerland en route to a 11-0 trashing of Ukraine. What makes Peter’s performance even more remarkable, other than the fact that he isn’t known for his scoring abilities, is that he managed to score his three goals on just three shots taken.

Having overcome a recently tough first 10 minutes, Switzerland broke loose for the remainder of the game, giving them a kick start to this WJC. Ukraine on the other hand will now face the difficult task having to play Canada and Finland before meeting Austria which is more of their standards. A current goal difference of minus 19 and no goals scored yet, is not a real confidence booster for them.

A frantic 5-goal period was in between two three-goal periods. Other than Emanuel Peter’s goals, Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Patrick Bärtschi had 1 goal and 2 assists. His lone goal came off a one-timer that flew in the net hard past a helpless Ukranian goaltender while Switzerland was enjoying a 5 on 3 situation.

The Calgary Flames must not just have been happy to see Peter perform so well this game, also their 2003 second round draft pick Tim Ramholt capped a fine game with 2 assists and 3 points.

With this result Switzerland now leads its group and will face a tough challenge in order to hold that lead tomorrow when they’ll meet Canada. For sure Carolina Hurricanes prospect Daniel Manzato is expected to face more traffic than he did in the tournament opener for Switzerland.