Thursday, 16 April 2009

Bronze Preview - USA vs. Russia

Well, it's the very last round-robin game at the 2009 World Deaf Hockey Championships, so I better update what I missed in order to bring you up to date. I was at work the last two days, so I missed a total of three games, all of which had implications on the standings. Canada played Russia on Wednesday in the early game while the Slovaks and Americans tangled in the evening. Earlier today, the Finns and Canadians squared off, and I'm back for this evening's game between the Russians and the Americans. It needs to be said that I am still very impressed with the organizers and volunteers of the 2009 World Deaf Ice Hockey and Curling Championships. They have been extremely hospitable, overly helpful, and accommodating in every way. If you needed an example of how to run a world-class event, this event would be it. I can't say enough thanks to everyone who has helped me throughout the week.

This is just a short paragraph about Wednesday because, as stated above, I wasn't at the St. James Civic Centre for those games. According to the gamesheets, Canada absolutely throttled Russia by a 17-1 score. From what I gather from the scoresheet, Canada simply hit them into submission before putting the game way out of reach. That gave Canada a 3-0 record while the Russians fell to 1-2.

In the US-Slovakia game, the Americans outskated the Slovaks to a 9-1 victory. With the loss, Slovakia dropped to 0-4 for the tournament, while the Americans improved to 1-2. That win by the US squad set up two all-important matchups for Thursday's games as Finland (3-0) would play Canada (3-0) in a gold medal game preview, while the Russians (1-2) and Americans (1-2) would square off in a bronze medal game preview.

Canada was the designated visiting team this afternoon in their contest against the Finns, so they took to the ice in their black jerseys while Finland skated in white. I'm not sure if this was a chance to work his backup goalie against a good Canadian team, but head coach Pekka Laakari started Arttu Liikamaa over Pauli Kitula. With nothing on the line but a win-loss record, the risk of having Kitula start and possibly get hurt might have played into the decision to start Liikamaa.

Canada responded with Ryan Armitage as they wanted home-ice advantage in the gold medal game. Canada came out blazing, jumping out to a 3-0 lead by the 11:51 mark of the first period. #16 Brent Pinch opened the scoring with a shorthanded marker at 4:08. That was followed by an even-strength goal scored by #5 David Garbacz. Pinch tallied his second of the game on the powerplay at 11:51. Finland responded when #24 Janne Yrjola notched a goal at the 12:02 mark, but Canada restored the three-goal lead at 14:28 when Brent Pinch added his hat-trick goal. Yrjola scored 57 seconds later on the powerplay to cut the deficit to two goals once more, but Canada added two more before the period would end. #25 Scott Savard scored at 16:30, and #17 Mark Howitt added his goal at 18:58 to give Canada a 6-2 lead after the first period.

If you didn't think this game was rough, there were 12 minor penalties called in the first period by referee Patrick Gagnon. Canada had eight of those with the majority being stick infractions. The second period only saw one goal as Canada increased its lead on a tally by #16 Brent Pinch, his fourth of the game. What is of some concern to Canadian fans is the health of goaltender Ryan Armitage. Armitage was reportedly slew-footed behind the net, causing him to fall backwards and strike his head on the ice. He was taken to the hospital for precautionary reasons, but it is worth noting that Canada cannot afford to lose another goaltender.

The two teams traded goals in the third period as #7 Marko Liimatainen scored on the powerplay for Finland at 10:07 while Canada's goal came from #16 Brent Pinch. Pinch's five goals in one game are a career-best for the forward. Canada earns home ice advantage Saturday with an 8-3 victory over Finland.

To make the news even better, I just got word that Armitage is ok, and should be able to dress for Saturday's rematch in the gold medal game. That's a big relief as Canada doesn't have a third goaltender listed on its roster.

On to tonight's game where the Americans, in their road blues, will face Russia, who is wearing white. Both teams have little to play for aside from having the last change in the bronze medal game, so this will be interesting to see how both teams come out. There are probably 150-200 fans here for this game, so it looks like we'll have a good crowd on hand for his one!

Here are your highlights from tonight's game!

  • Just over a minute in, and the Americans are a little more physical than the Russians so far. Both teams appear to want to out-deke the other team rather than out-hit them.
  • With 18:10 to go, #7 Doug Hyde rips a shot off the crossbar behind Russian goaltender #20 Alexander Trofimov. Still no score, but the Americans are pressing.
  • Trofimov has given up a couple of fat rebounds that the Americans just haven't been able to corral. If he keeps this up, the US team may have a big day on the scoresheet.
  • The Americans strike first at 15:33. #15 Miles Gates pockets a goal behind Trofimov to give the US squad the all-important first goal. USA leads 1-0.
  • The Americans have pinned Russia in their own zone for the last two minutes with some excellent puck control and cycling. They've blocked two or three clearing attempts, and their hard work pays off. At 12:31 of the first, #21 James Crane, the captain of the American team, taps home a rebound from in front of the cage. USA leads 2-0.
  • #4 Garrett Hepperly cruises down the left wing with 11:10 remaining in the first, and rips home a wrist shot. USA leads 3-0.
  • The first good Russian scoring chance comes with 9:35 remaining in the first as #15 Sergey Kargin rips a shot off a tap-pass. Goaltender David Rancourt is equal to the task, however, and it remains 3-0 for the US.
  • Tony McGaughey deposits another American goal with 11:56 remaining. It seems as though the Russians are sleepwalking out there as McGaughey had all the time in the world to put that puck home. USA leads 4-0.
  • With three minutes to play in the first, it has been all USA thus far. They are skating harder and really controlling the play.
With the Americans up 4-0, there hasn't been any real panic from the Russians. I'm not sure if they are saving themselves in order to prevent injury or they are tired, but they have not even been close to matching the American squad's intensity. Again, with nothing to play for except last changes on Saturday, I'm guessing they may be holding back.

On to the second period!
  • With a hooking call 34 seconds into the second period against the Americans, Russia has a five-on-three opportunity. If they want back into this game, now is their chance.
  • No dice on the Russian powerplay as the Americans are back to full-strength.
  • With 16:51 remaining, the Americans score again. #8 Mike Wosnoski pots his first of the game to open up a five-goal cushion for the Americans. USA leads 5-0.
  • With 13:25 left, some pushing and shoving in front of the Russian net leads to the zebras getting in the middle. Cooler heads prevail, however.
  • In a footrace for the puck with 11:05 to go, a Russian forward turns away from the puck as he and an American defenceman come together. I believe that the Russians don't like getting hit, especially by bigger players.
  • Phenomenal defensive play with 8:04 to play as #24 Peter Gentoli streaks back to strip the streaking Russian forward of the puck. #14 Sergey Osipov had a step or two on Gentoli, but Gentoli's hustle is worth noting.
  • With 6:41 remaining, #16 Aleksey Ikohnikov fires a puck past Rancourt to put the Russians on the board. USA leads 5-1.
  • With 5:53 remaining, there is a stoppage in play as a goal is being reviewed. The Americans are claiming to have scored. Moments after referee Brett Montsion discusses with the linesmen and goal judge, he points to center ice. #7 Doug Hyde is credited with the goal. USA leads 6-1.
  • With 4:13 remaining, a weird goal is scored. #39 Jason Kitchen fires a puck towards the net from center as he begins the dump-and-chase. The problem? Trefimov misplays it badly, and it finds the back of the net. USA leads 7-1.
  • #17 Robert Ruef adds to the American lead with 2:49 to go in the second. His move out of the corner to the front of the net finds space under #20's pads for a goal. USA leads 8-1.
  • #7 Doug Hyde and #21 Konstantin Bobov have words in the Russian end as the play continues up ice at the 2:26 mark. It ends with Hyde in a headlock, and Bobov being held back by a linesman. I'm not sure what happened, but these two had a bit of battle going on in front of the American net just seconds earlier. Looks like a little bad blood might be creeping into these two teams.
  • Wow... the resulting penalties are stiff. Bobov gets four minutes for spearing, four minutes for roughing, and a ten-minute misconduct. Hyde gets two minutes for roughing. The result? A six-minute American powerplay. Ouch.
Nothing comes of the powerplay in the remaining few minutes of the second, but the Americans will still have 3:34 in the third to get their powerplay units rolling. The Americans are really playing a much more disciplined game tonight, and have worked effectively to get under the skin of the Russian team. This is how I expected the Americans to play all tournament, and it looks like they might be peaking at the right time, especially with medals on the line.
  • After I got cut off from the internet for about five minutes, I'm back to report that the Americans scored in that time. #19 Andy Howard was the goal scorer. USA leads 9-1.
  • On a great individual effort to cause a turnover, #27 Tony McGaughey slides home a backhander to add the American total. Hard work has not been lost on the American squad. USA leads 10-1.
  • I just noticed that the Russians have #1 Iskander Latypov in net. I guess they made the change to start the third period. As I write this, Joe Lingle comes off the bench to replace David Rancourt in the American net with just under eleven minutes to play.
  • #4 Garrett Hepperly steps into the high slot, and rips a wrist shot that gets between Latypov's arm and body. USA leads 11-1.
  • With 6:02 remaining, the Russians have begun to play with a lot more physicality. And it seems to be working as they are mounting regular pressure in the American zone. If this is a preview of how the bronze medal game will be on Saturday, I much prefer this hockey to the passive hockey the Russians were playing in the previous 54 minutes.
  • Twice tonight the Russians have been caught sleeping as the linesman has blown the play in and dropped the puck in front of an American centerman with no Russian in the faceoff circle. Both times have resulted in the Russians taking a penalty as they try to recover. With 2:53 remaining, the Russians are penalized for slashing after missing a draw.
With the final buzzer, we have an 11-1 victory for the American squad to even their record at 2-2, giving them home-ice advantage over the Russians, who drop to 1-3, on Saturday when they compete for the bronze medal. The last seven minutes of the game is how I expect both teams to play on the weekend - hard, fast, and physical.

Player Of The Game - Russia: #15 Sergey Kargin.
Player Of The Game - USA: #4 Garrett Hepperly.

That will close the round-robin portion of the tournament. The final standings are as follows:

Canada (4-0)
Finland (3-1)
USA (2-2)
Russia (1-3)
Slovakia (0-4)

No games tomorrow as all the teams will be preparing for Saturday. Except Slovakia. I will say this about the Slovaks: for a first year team who has only been together six months, they never gave up and they never backed down. That shows some great heart, and they can certainly build on that foundation.

Medal Saturday is the last day of the World Deaf Hockey Championships, so if you're in or around the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, come on down to see some fabulous hockey action. Tickets are a miniscule $15, and you can take in a gold medal game at 1:00pm!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

No comments: