Teams Slovakia and Czech Republic both bounced back from losses over the first weekend of the 2012 IIHF World Championship to claim wins on May 7, which is pretty good news for Boston Bruins fans.
Zdeno Chara captained the Slovakian squad to its first victory in the tournament over America, a 4-2 win. Dominik Granak put one past Jimmy Howard before one minute of the game had elapsed and before NBC Sports Network was able to join the game due to technical difficulties. Then the first period was dominated by fast, end-to-end play, often with the Slovaks seizing control and getting deep into the American zone. Near the end of the first period, Branko Radivojevic gave Slovakia a 2-0 lead, but Justin Faulk cut it in half less than a minute later. Slovakia kept pushing until the end of the period, though, which paid off when Andrej Sekera made it 3-1 with mere seconds left to play.
In the second, Paul Stastny pushed it to 3-2 while Team USA was on the power play, the only production of that period. Cam Atkinson earned four minutes in the box during the third period for high-sticking Chara and drawing blood--Chara's mouthguard was bright red when he was seen on the bench shortly after the high-sticking--but America successfully killed the long penalty. Later Atkinson attempted to tie the game, but whiffed on the prime opportunity in front of Slovakian goalie Jan Laco, and former Bruin Miroslav Satan finished it off in the third with an empty net goal. Chara once again led Slovakia in ice time with 27:05 played, plus he finished the game with a +2 rating. It was also nice, as a Bruins fan, to hear the commentators talk about Chara's blasts and just generally hearing about him again--even if sometimes they seemed unsure of exactly how to pronounce his name.
While Slovakia played America in Helsinki, David Krejci and the Czech team faced Norway in Stockholm for a 4-3 shootout win. This was the first game of this tournament to go all the way to a shootout (America beat Canada in overtime). The first period was full of penalties, almost all of them on Czech players, including two consecutive infractions by Ales Hemsky. But it was Mathis Olimb for Norway who opened the scoring midway through the period. Hemsky equalized it for the Czechs before the period ended, admitting to Lucas Aykroyd that he needed to redeem himself for the penalties.
The referees swallowed their whistles and no penalties were called in the second, leaving Lars Erik Spets to put Norway ahead early in the period. That score held until Krejci equalized it late in the second. Michael Frolik gave the Czechs the lead with a third-period goal, but Norway did the equalizing this time on a goal by Jonas Holos. With nothing doing in the five-minute overtime period, Hemsky scored the only shootout goal to seize the Czech win--Krejci also went in the shootout, but Norway goalie Lars Haugen saved his shot. I was just thinking that Krejci needed to produce more than just faceoff wins. While he did well in the faceoff circle again for this game, winning 69 percent of his draws, he also took a shot per period and one of those became a goal.
Next for Slovakia is Kazakhstan on May 9. Kazakhstan has lost both of its games so far in the tournament, most recently a 6-3 defeat, and also lost player Roman Starchenko for the time being after a hit to the head by France's Sasha Treille that resulted in a four-game suspension for Treille.
Next for the Czech Republic is Latvia on May 10. Latvia's most recent game was a 3-2 win over Germany.
Check out IIHF.com for more information on the World Championship.
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- Zdeno Chara
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