Czech Rep. 3 Quarter Finals
Thursday, January 2, 2003
USA Beats Czechs 4-3, Faces Canada Friday
Jan Holub, no points.
The United States grabbed an early lead and held on against the Czech
Republic to advance through to the semi-finals of the 2003 IIHF World
Junior Championship in Halifax. The 4-3 victory sets up a highly
anticipated showdown against Canada on Friday night for the right to
go on to the gold medal game.
"Our team battled hard tonight," said goaltender Robert Goepfert, who
stopped 22 of 25 Czech shots for the victory. "We didn't have our best
game but we toughed it out and we ended up coming out with the victory."
American Head Coach Lou Vairo echoed these sentiments after the game.
"The Czech team played very well today, but they just couldn't score.
Our goaltender was outstanding. After we got a 2-0 lead he stopped
numerous scoring chances by the Czechs that ultimately led to our
Czech Assistant Coach Jiri Kalous said that he was happy with his
team's performance, but in the end it just wasn't enough. "I think
that we played well tonight. We created lots of scoring opportunities,
but we just could not score on the United States goalkeeper."
The United States raced out to an early lead against the Czechs. Near
the halfway point of the period, a long pass from Matt Jones sent
Dwight Helminen in on a partial break. Helminen fought off a defender
while driving to the net, where he used one hand to lift the puck over
Czech goaltender Martin Falter on the short-side. Just thirty seconds
later, the Americans gained the Czech zone and fired a flurry of shots
at the net, eventually scoring as Zach Parise wired a shot between the
legs of Falter to go up 2-0.
After outshooting the Czechs 8-3 in the first period, the Americans
faced a barrage in the second, as the Czechs carried the play and
outshot the USA by a 13-5 margin. This increased pressure began to pay
dividends, as the Czechs sliced the American lead in half in the
opening moments of the period. A tick-tack-toe play from Jiri Hudler
to Jakub Klepis to Milan Michalek ended up in the back of the net when
Michalek shelved the puck high over a sprawled Goepfert.
The U.S. re-established their stranglehold on the game minutes later,
scoring a pair of goals, including a deflection goal that marked the
end of the night for Czech starter Martin Falter, who was lifted in
favor of Lukas Mensator. Before the end of the busy second period, the
Czech Republic had once again drawn to within two goals, when a point
shot by Lukas Krajicek deflected off a pair of Americans on the way
through to elude an upset Goepfert.
The third period featured great fast-paced action, as the Czechs
pushed hard for more goals. With seven minute to go the American lead
was once again reduced to one goal when a turnover behind the American
net left three Czechs all alone in front, resulting in a goal to make
the score 4-3 for the USA. The Czechs continued to press late, but
failed to equalize the score, as the Americans held on for a narrow
The loss means that for the Czech Republic, fifth place is the best
they can hope to finish in this tournament. The victory for the United
States set up a battle against border rival Canada for the right to
advance to the finals. "It's a dream come true," said Goepfert of
squaring off against Canada. "You dream about it while you're in your
backyard, or playing street hockey. You dream of facing off against
Canada. There is a big rivalry there and there always has been. It
should be exciting."
"All Americans, from hockey fans to hockey players, have a great
respect for Canada as a hockey nation," said Coach Vairo. "If we can't
win, we always cheer for Canada. Now we get a chance to advance past
them into the finals. I won't have to say much to get the guys
motivated." As he went on Coach Vairo offered but one prediction for
the Semi-Final match-up, which is scheduled for 8:10pm local time on
Friday night. With tongue firmly in cheek Vairo said, "if you believe
everything that has been said about Canada, I figure will lose by
eight or nine goals."
Game Night Reporter
Finland 6 Quarter Finals
Thursday, January 2, 2003
Fast Finns outpace Slovakia, 6-0
Bergenheim two assist
Team Finland could have fallen into the "looking ahead to Russia"
trap. Perhaps they might have taken Slovakia too lightly and allowed
the underdogs to steal a win. Didn't happen. Team Finland scored on
five of their first eight shots on their way to a 6-0 romp of
Slovakia, eliminating them from play in the World U20 Junior
Championship on Thursday night in Halifax. The top Finnish line of
Tuomo Ruutu, Tomi Maki, and Matti Aho was firing on all cylinders as
they dominated play. Slovakia was outclassed in every aspect of play,
and while the shot count remained reasonably close, the quality of
shots and chances were vastly different.
Finland's star goalie, Kari Lehtonen barely broke a sweat as
Slovakia's best chance in the first two periods came on a shot by
Lehtonen's own defenseman. The Finns got on the board early when Ruutu
carried the puck through the slot, held on to it past a sliding Michal
Vazan, and put it past Peter Sevela just 2:31 into the first.
Finnish speed paid off minutes later when Ruutu fed a streaking
Bergenheim who then backhanded a beautiful pass in front to Jussi
Jokinen. Team Finland's third goal was a soft one that trickled
through Sevela, who, after giving up three goals on three shots in
nine minutes, was relieved by Jan Chovan. He would be back.
As the game progressed, the Slovaks didn't help their cause by putting
themselves two men down in the second. Less a minute later, Jokkinen
took a hard pass from the point and made no mistake with his shot,
making it 4-0. A long, floating shot by Topi Jaakola, and another
power-play goal, this time by Immonen, rounded off the scoring, and
brought about Sevela's return.
The third period turned out to be dull as the Finns seemed content to
work on practice drills against the mismatched Slovakian side. In
fact, the loudest ovation from the crowd came as the scoreboard showed
recently-retired coach of the Detroit Red Wings, Scotty Bowman, taking
in the game.
Although this game was hardly a test for Finland, it did show that
they are much more comfortable with the small ice surface than they
were when they suffered an exhibition game loss at the hands of the Swiss.
Game Night Reporter