CZECHS TAKE CHARGE IN GROUP A WITH VICTORY OVER CANADA
In a three-group tournament with an abridged preliminary round, one result can decide who stands atop each pool. And when it comes to Group A, the nail-biting contest between the Canadians and Czechs may very well have been the difference.
In the early going, it appeared Canada’s second game was set to go much the same as their first. With Dominik Kubalik penalized less than a minute into the game for roughing, the Canadian power play went to work and capitalized when Mason Raymond found a soft spot in the Czech coverage and tipped home a pass from Linden Vey for his first of the tournament. The early offense wasn’t a sign of things to come, though. Instead, it appeared to be just the wakeup call Czech netminder Pavel Francouz needed.
While Canada solved him once more before the period was out — Rene Bourque scored his third of the tournament on Canada’s second man advantage of the game — the Czech netminder was otherwise perfect. He stonewalled the Canadian attack through the final 40 minutes, and the Czech Republic clawed back into the game thanks to goals from Kubalik and Michal Jordan, who drew the game level a mere 25 seconds into the second frame.
The two teams would remain even for the remainder of the second and third, though the contest nearly didn’t make it to overtime, as Jiri Sekac came within an inch of ending the contest. With less than 90 seconds remaining, Sekac let a wrister fly and beat Canada’s Ben Scrivens only for the puck to draw iron.
Canada’s Mat Robinson had arguably the best chance of the extra frame. After making an excellent defensive play to break up a Czech 2-on-1, Robinson turned on the jets, broke up the ice but lost the handle on a contested breakaway. The two teams traded possession for the remainder of overtime, but a shootout was needed to solve the outing. And after Canada and the Czechs swapped goals in the second round, Jan Kovar and Francouz played hero, the former scoring the winner and the latter shutting the door — with some help from the post on Maxim Noreau’s attempt at extending the shootout.
The win moved the Czechs into first in Group A with five points, while Canada’s four points put them into second spot. The Canadians will need a regulation victory over South Korea and a Swiss victory over the Czechs to have a chance at reclaiming the top spot.
PAIR FROM KOVALCHUK, PROKHORKIN HELPS OAR SKATE BY USA
The Olympic Athletes from Russia may have struggled to find their offense in the first game of the tournament, but the star-studded side hasn't had any difficulty making up for that over the past two games. Yesterday, the Russian squad came to life with an eight-goal performance against Slovenia and they continued to find twine with regularity in their contest against Team USA, a game which decided the fate of Group B.
Four times in the contest OAR lit the lamp, beginning with a Nikolai Prokhorkin tally roughly seven minutes into the first. But despite USA keeping it close through 20 minutes, OAR was able to pull away during a penalty-filled middle frame. Two minutes into the second, Prokhorkin struck for a second time in the contest and Russia stretched its lead to three when Ilya Kovalchuk knocked home his third of the tournament with less than a second remaining in the period. Kovalchuk wasted little time putting a bow on the night, either. Just 28 seconds into the third, he scored his second of the night and Russia held firm from there.
Russia’s victory wouldn't have been as easy if not for the play of netminder Vasili Koshechkin, who turned aside everything that came his way. Team USA outshot OAR 29-26 in the contest, and Koshechkin was also forced to stand tall during five penalty kills, including a brief 5-on-3 in the second.
With the victory, OAR clinched first place in Group B with six points and advanced straight to the quarterfinal. Meanwhile, USA will now have to make it through a playoff qualification game if they’re to fight for a medal in Pyeongchang. An opponent for that contest has yet to be determined.
SLOVENIA CONTINUES TO SURPRISE WITH SHOOTOUT WIN OVER SLOVAKIA
Coming into the tournament, few would have predicted the Slovenians could keep pace in a group that included Team USA and the OAR team. But after shocking the Americans in the first game of action, Slovenia delivered another surprise in the final day of Group B action by outlasting Slovakia in a shootout.
The two sides battled to a 2-2 draw through 65 minutes. Slovenia got its goals from Blaz Gregorc and Anze Kuralt, while Slovakia drew even thanks to tallies from Milos Bubela and Marcel Hascak. But it was the goaltenders who were the big story, as neither Slovenia’s Gasper Kroselj or Czech Republic’s Branislav Konrad were willing to budge in the back half of the third or overtime. Thus, a shootout was required to find a winner, and Ziga Jeglic delivered the dagger on the final shot of the competition, rifling a wrister top shelf past Konrad to give Slovenia the win. The victory allowed Slovenia to clinch second place in Group B.
SWITZERLAND USES BIG THIRD TO DISMANTLE SOUTH KOREA
In their first game of the tournament, South Korea kept it close, falling by a score of 2-1 to the Czech Republic. They weren’t so lucky the second time out in Pyeongchang, though, as the host nation was absolutely picked apart by Switzerland.
The onslaught started midway through the first frame when Denis Hollenstein fired home the game’s first goal, and that tally was all the Swiss would need. South Korean keeper Matt Dalton did his best to keep the contest close, but the Swiss finally broke the goaltender midway through the second, stretching their lead to 3-0 on goals by Fellcien du Bois and Pius Suter. And the game got out of hand in the third, beginning with a Thomas Rufenacht tally and not ending until Dalton had been yanked and Enzo Corvi slotted home Switzerland’s eighth goal. Jonas Hiller turned aside all 25 shots he faced in the 8-0 Swiss victory.
RUSSIA, FINLAND WIN WITH EASE TO ADVANCE TO SEMIS
It was all about special teams for the Olympic Athletes from Russia in their quarterfinal matchup against the Swiss. Not just the power play, either.
Seven minutes in to the first, Anna Shokhina scored an almost unthinkable goal, finding twine with Russia on the shorthanded side of a 5-on-3. And while Switzerland bounced back to put a scare into OAR in the second, even leading 2-1 at one point near the midway mark of the game, Russia equalized on a Viktoria Kulishova marker two minutes after the Swiss pulled ahead and Liana Ganeyeva’s power play tally late in the frame put OAR out front for good. In the third, OAR got another power play goal, this time from Shokhina, before Olga Sosina iced the game with a shorthanded empty-netter as OAR skated into the semis with a 6-2 win.
In the other quarterfinal matchup, Finland got the best of rival Sweden in a blowout. Unlike the OAR-Switzerland quarterfinal, though, the result of this one was hardly in doubt. Six minutes in, Petra Nieminen put Finland ahead and the Finns stretched their lead to three before the end of the first. Finland added another before Sweden finally got one back courtesy of Emma Nordin, but it wasn’t nearly enough as the Finns added another three goals before the final horn to skate to a 7-2 victory.
The OAR and Finnish victories set up semifinal battles between Canada and Russia, while Finland has a date with USA to decide who will square off for gold in Pyeongchang.
1. Anna Shokhina (OAR): Two goals and four points as OAR advanced to semifinal.
2. Vasili Koshechkin (OAR): Blanked USA to help OAR win Group B.
3. Pius Suter (SUI): A hat trick against South Korea to give Switzerland its first win.
Saturday, Feb. 17
Norway vs. Germany (M), 10:10 p.m. ET
Korea vs. TBD (W), 10:10 p.m. ET
Sunday, Feb. 18
Japan vs. TBD (W), 7:10 a.m. ET
Switzerland vs. Czech Republic (M), 2:40 a.m. ET
South Korea vs. Canada (M), 7:10 a.m. ET
Finland vs. Sweden (M), 7:10 a.m. ET
TBD vs. TBD (W), 11:10 p.m. ET