IIHF Worlds: Quarterfinals Round-Up
Russia held on to their lead and outlasted Team USA (Photo: Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF IMAGES)

Russia 4-3 USA

Russia came through the group stages like a hurricane, becoming the first team to obtain a perfect record since the 2016 Finland team. Russia topped off their group run with a strong 7-4 win over Sweden, one of their main competitors for the gold medal.

Team USA finished fourth in Group A, but could have still taken first place coming into the last day. A regular-time win over Canada would have guaranteed them top spot, an overtime win second, an overtime loss third, but they ultimately ended fourth after a 3-0 loss against their neighbors to the north.

Russia went ahead after 67 seconds on the first shot of the game, Cory Schneider trying to cover the puck after a shot by Mikhail Sergachev, but Nikita Gusev got to it first and scored the opener for Russia. Johnny Gaudreau took the first penalty of the game, a two-minute minor for hooking, letting the dangerous Russian powerplay operate.

The Russian powerplay struck again, as it had many a time in this tournament, Mikhail Sergachev’s slapshot set up by Nikita Gusev deflected off of an American defenceman and past Schneider. We saw back-to-back individual brilliance from the top star of each team, Alexander Ovechkin getting a breakaway but getting poke checked by Schneider before Patrick Kane took it up the other end, skating from his own zone past three Russian players and his shot saved by Andrei Vasilevskiy. Russia dominated the first period in terms of shots 17 to 9, but this stat can be deceiving as Team USA produced many possible scoring opportunities, but were just missing the final pass, causing them to be 2-0 down after the first period.

Team USA pulled one back after two minutes and 12 seconds into the second period. Patrick Kane set up Brady Skjei, whose slapshot deflected off of a Russian player and past Andrei Vasilevski to make the score 2-1. Russia had more opportunities after the Skjei’s goal, mostly close-range rebounds, but they were unable to regain their two-goal lead in the second period.

Russia restored their two-goal lead after a minute and 31 seconds, Nikita Gusev earned his third point of the night after setting up his linemate Kirill Kaprizov on a two-on-one, Kaprizov’s one-timer find the exposed part of Schneider’s net. Noah Hanifin’s wrist shot got Team USA back to within one, placing it above Vasilevskiy’s left shoulder after an assist by Jack Hughes.

Just 69 seconds after Hanifin’s goal, Evgeni Malkin won the puck near the board, passing to the unmarked Mikhail Grigorenko, whose wrist shot beat Schneider to make it 4-2.

Team USA pulled their goaltender with more than three minutes to go, and the gamble paid off as Alex DeBrincat’s one-timer set up by Patrick Kane. Russian coach Ilya Vorobyov challenged the play for goaltender interference, but the challenge was unsuccessful and the goal stood. Team USA was down 4-3 with two minutes and 50 seconds to go. Russia kept it tight for the final stage of the game and progressed to the semifinals after a 4-3 win over the United States of America.

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Czech Republic 5-1 Germany

Czech Republic took second in Group B after solid wins over Sweden and Switzerland, finding a solid blend of NHL stars and talented players from the KHL and the Czech Extraliga. Despite their shutout loss to Russia, the Czech Republic are still strong contenders for a medal at these IIHF Worlds.

Germany have been one of the most shrewd teams in this competition, squeezing out wins over weaker opposition despite not being at their best, such as their 2-1 win over Denmark or 3-2 win over Slovakia. They also pulled off an upset to finish their group stage campaign, a 4-2 win over Finland earning them the third place in Group A.

Germany’s Marco Nowak took a high-sticking penalty two minutes into the match, but Germany’s penalty kill kept breaking the Czech attack at their blue line, resulting in the Czech powerplay rarely breaking into the offensive zone, only establishing their regular powerplay position in the final 15 seconds. Germany killed it off successfully. After 12 minutes, German superstar Leon Draisaitl found himself with a breakaway on the Czech goaltender Patrik Bartosak, whose pad save on Draisaitl had the Czech fans chanting his name. The opening period finished goalless, but the Czech Republic were heading into the second with a powerplay.

The Zohorna brothers almost opened the scoring for the Czech Republic, as they got a two-on-one shorthanded, as Hynek Zohorna could not get a one-timer away from Tomas’ centering pass. After 33 minutes, Czechs finally broke the tie, winger Jan Kovar skated the puck in from the neutral zone and then surprised Philipp Grubauer from a wrist shot from distance, breaking the German goaltender’s clean sheet with an unassisted goal.

Germany tied it up just four minutes later. Frederik Tiffels won the puck near the boards, his puck found Frank Mauer who caught out the Czechs on the change and slotted his wrist shot past Bartosak. The second period finished tied at 1-1, though Czech captain Jakub Voracek had a prime chance to send his team ahead with a one-timer after a two-on-one with ten seconds to go, but he missed the goal.

Czechs went ahead again in the third period, their first line got a three-on-one, captain Voracek carrying the puck, his wrist shot saved by Grubauer, but the winger put in his own rebound, and the Czechs had a 2-1 lead with 15 minutes to go in the game. Shortly after the goal, German second-line winger Marcus Eisenschmid suffered what seemed to be an ankle injury and had to be helped off the ice.

Dominik Kubalik doubled the Czech lead with 8:19 to go, his rocket of a slapshot hitting the top left corner of Grubauer’s goal. Less than a minute and a half later, Ondrej Palat took advantage of Grubauer’s blunder as the German goaltender mishandled the puck and the Czech winger tapped it into the exposed net, making the score 4-1.

Germans pulled their goaltender with 3:40 to go, and Dmitrij Jaskin helped them out by immediately taking a tripping penalty. Germany were 6-on-4 with three minutes to go and a three-goal deficit. After numerous attempts to kill off the game, it was the scorer of the opening goal, Jan Kovar, who made the final score 5-1 for the Czech Republic.

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Canada 3-2 Switzerland (OT)

Canada topped Group A despite a 3-1 loss to Finland in their opener. The team seemed to improve with each match, finishing their group stage with a 3-0 win over their rivals from the United States of America.

Switzerland came into the match as the fourth seed from Group B, but though they didn’t manage to beat the stronger teams in their group, they definitely gave Sweden and the Czech Republic a run for their money. The 2018 silver medalists beat Canada in the semifinals last year, which will definitely play into the minds of all players involved.

Sven Andrighetto opened the scoring with a slapshot on the powerplay, beating Matt Murray from the blue line after 18 minutes. After five minutes had gone in the second period, Mark Stone of the Vegas Golden Knights tied it up, deflecting Dante Fabbro’s blue line shot past Leonardo Genoni.

The Swiss super talent Nico Hischier sent Switzerland back into the lead with three seconds to go in the second period, assists by Lino Martschini and Nino Niederreiter.

However, at the end of the third period, Damon Severson would give Hischier a lesson in late goals, his shot trickling past Genoni with just 0.5 seconds to go in the game. The goal was reviewed to check the time, and Severson’s goal stood, the game going into overtime. Mark Stone got his second of the game 5:07 into the overtime, assisted by Pierre-Luc Dubois and Shea Theodore, putting Canada through to the semifinals.

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Finland 5-4 Sweden (OT)

Finland, the dark horse of the championships, were coming into their final match with a possibility of taking the first place fully in their hands. However, a 4-2 loss to Germany means the Suomi will have to grapple with their Scandinavian rivals from Sweden as opposed to Switzerland.

In the pursuit of the gold three-peat, Sweden have put together a very strong, NHL-heavy roster, but that roster has not had the best group stage portion of the tournament. They opened the tournament with a 5-2 loss to the Czech Republic, and Sverige went on to perform poorly in a 7-4 loss to Russia in the closing match of the group stages

Finland took the lead after exactly one minute, Harri Pesonen setting up Niko Mikkola, whose rocket of a slapshot beat Henrik Lundqvist. Sakari Manninen also contributed an assist. It was the Dallas Stars’ star defenceman, John Klingberg, that tied the game up after an assist from the points leader William Nylander and Columbus Blue Jackets’ center Alexander Wennberg.

Sweden went ahead after a goal from Patric Hornqvist just a little over three minutes with assists by captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Adam Larsson. Captain Ekman-Larsson notched another assist alongside Gabriel Landeskog as the young talent Elias Pettersson sent Sweden into a 3-1 lead just 25 seconds into the second period.

However, a pair of goals by Petteri Lindbohm and Jani Hakanpaa, both assisted by Sakari Manninen, meant that the game was tied at 3-3 after 30 minutes. With just 25 seconds to go, Erik Gustafsson sent Sweden back into the lead with a slap shot that went right back out of the goal after hitting the net camera.

Finland pulled their goaltender Kevin Lankinen with two minutes and five seconds to go and took advantage of their 6-on-5 situation, the captain Marko Anttila tied the game up at 4-4 with just 89 seconds to go. The overtime lasted just a minute and 37 seconds, after three assists, Sakari Manninen came through for his team with an overtime winner, taking his team through to the semifinals.