THE FRIENDLY MONSTER
Team Canada didn’t waste any time solving Jonas Gustavsson, the Swedish goaltender his club coach nicknamed “The Monster.”
Martin St-Louis and Derek Roy – the shortest guys on the ice – sent lanky Gustavsson from post to post and looking at the wrong direction when Roy sent the puck past Gustavsson at 6:51.
“Those kind of plays just happen, it’s not a set play, you happen to be there,” St-Louis said. “Both their defensemen came on to me and just tried to slide it to him. I was just reacting.”
Canada controlled the game throughout, especially after Shawn Horcoff and Roy gave the team a three-goal lead going into the third period. Loui Eriksson scored one for Sweden, but that was the best the Swedes could do.
“I’m excited to be in the final, that was our goal when we got here,” said Horcoff. “(Meeting Russia) is a dream matchup and some of the guys on the team are happy to get a second crack at them.”
Added St-Louis: “You just have to overlook what happened last year, these are different teams on both sides and it’s hard to get to get a chance to be here, so why not try to win it for one another.”
Team Canada will take on Russia Sunday at 2:30 EST.
The Canadian team tapped into the veteran players’ experience while preparing themselves for the important semifinal.
“We had a meeting today, just the guys, and some of the players who’ve won this tournament talked about how the winning teams have elevated their games and what it takes to win here,” said Horcoff. “We have a lot of medals in that room so plenty of people were talking.”
Coach Lindy Ruff was happy with the team finding the strength from within.
“We have some strong leadership in the locker room, just look at Doaner and Heater, they’re two voices that have been here before, have seen it, and done it,” said Ruff, referring to Shane Doan and Dany Heatley. “You don’t get many chances like this, so you need to pick up your game.”
RUSSIA READY TO REPEAT
Russia won the it’s first game against the U.S., in the qualification round, when it scored three power play goals en route to a 4-1 win. Friday night, the Russians only got three tries. Unfortunately for the Americans, they scored one on their last attempt, with 1:47 remaining in the game, to win it 3-2.
“I thought we played very well and weren’t very lucky,” coach Ron Wilson said. “Two of their goals were shots going goal wide that hit somebody on the way. Their winning goal went off of a leg in front of the net, the second goal off a guy’s chest, going wide. I’m proud of the team, we played much better than last time against Russia.”
Team captain Dustin Brown gave Team USA a 1-0 lead via a shot through Ilya Bryzgalov’s five-hole.
Russia played with 11 forwards, double shifting Kovalchuk, who ended up playing 25:57. Alexander Radulov, second in ice time on the team, played a little more than 17 minutes.
But Bykov was right to do it. First, Kovalchuk tied the game with a one-timer past U.S. goalie Robert Esche straight off a faceoff in the offensive zone. He then set up the 2-1 goal with an end-to-end rush that saw him grab the puck in the high slot in the Russian zone, carry it through the neutral zone on the left, cut to right after the blueline and then sending a wrist shot to the front of the net where Alexander Frolov put it in.
Anybody questioning Kovalchuk’s commitment or emotions for playing for Russia got the answer right after the goal as the Russian sniper swung his arm in a true Pete Townsend-windmill-style.
“Not only Ilya Kovalchuk played well, the whole team played well,” Bykov said. “It was a tough game, but we’re happy to be in the final.”
Team USA’s Kyle Okposo had tied the game late in the second period, but just as it looked as if the game would go on overtime, Russia got the power play. Radulov took the shot with traffic in front of the net, the puck hit Konstantin Gorovikov and the US was beat.
“It wasn’t Esche’s mistake,” Wilson said. “The shot was going wide but the puck hit Gorovikov in the leg and went to the other direction. It wasn’t the goalie’s fault at all.”
WIN THE LAST GAME
The World Championship gives the semifinal losers – USA and Sweden – a way to go home as a winner: win the bronze medal game.
“There’s still a chance for us to get a medal and for the U.S., that means a lot since we don’t have that many of them,” Patrick O’Sullivan said. “That’s something to play for and that’s how we look at it.”
The first U.S.-Sweden game in the tournament was a memorable one. The Americans outplayed the Swedes through two periods and had a 5-2 lead with 12 minutes remaining in the game, only to see the Swedes rally back and win the game in OT.
“I guess we learned that we shouldn’t get a 5-2 lead,” Ron Hainsey said. “We backed up a little; as a young team maybe we were a little nervous. We’ll try to play a similar game, but will just hold onto the lead this time.”
BY THE WAY
Only one American player has ever been voted to the tournament all-star team since 1961: Goalie Carl Wetzel in 1967.
As expected, the Swedish and Finnish federations announced they will co-host the 2012 and 2013 tournaments. Finland will be the main host – and the location of the medal games – in 2012 and Sweden the year after.
“This gives us a better chance to make sponsorship deals over a two-year period,” said Christer Englund, chairman of the Swedish federation.
The 2010 World Championship will be played in Germany and the 2011 tournament in Slovakia. Belarus will host the 2014 tournament.
THN’s European correspondant Risto Pakarinen is at the World Championship in Switzerland and will be filing reports regularly throughout the tournament.
Risto Pakarinen is a Finnish freelance writer, based in Stockholm, Sweden who also writes for NHL.com and IIHF.com. When not writing about European hockey on THN, he’s probably writing about hockey at ristopakarinen.com/hockey as Puckarinen. You can email him at [email protected]pakarinen.com.
Go to THN’s World Championship Central HERE.