Friday, 5 May 2017

First Upset

With the IIHF World Championship kicking off today, there were some familiar teams winning their opening games as Russia downed Sweden in a shootout, Canada prevailed over the Czech Republic, Finland downed Belarus, and... wait, Germany beat the USA? That would certainly qualify as an upset as the German team features a few NHL players, but not anywhere close to the roster that the Americans boast. The Germans relied on goaltending and timely goals to upend the Americans, but this win on home ice in Cologne, Germany gave the fans a major boost in seeing their team start the tournament off with a big win.

The game started off with an early Johnny Gaudreau breakaway that tested Thomas Greiss early, but the shot would find Greiss' right pad. Soon after, it was the Americans who dinged a puck off the goalpost, but the puck would remain out of the German net once more. The Americans got a shock when Tobias Rieder took advantage of a horrible defensive play in front of the American net and beat Jimmy Howard just 10:50 into the game to put the crazed German fans into a frenzy. That goal seemed to only refocus the Americans as they continued to pepper Greiss, but found themselves down 1-0 on the scoreboard and 15-11 in shots after one period.

If you're an American hockey fan, you have to love the line of Gaudreau, Anders Lee, and Jack Eichel for all of the offence they generated in this game. All three players are amazingly gifted when it comes to offensive talent, and they certainly put that talent on display in the second period as they generated a ton of shots against Greiss both at even-strength and on the power-play. The issue, however, is that this line was on the ice for the initial German goal, but couldn't generate a goal of their own despite throwing 22 shots at Greiss on this night! Despite not recording a point on this night, this line looks like one of the best in this tournament!

For the final two periods, the Americans outshot the Germans by a 32-12 margin, and it appeared they were toying with the Germans at times as they passed the puck around only to be thwarted by a deflection, a block, or Greiss once more. The Americans had a pair of power-plays in the middle frame, but couldn't solve the plucky New York Islanders goaltender, only increasing the crowd's appreciation of their team's efforts. Despite a couple of good chances by the Eichel line and another goalpost scarred by an Andrew Copp shot, the score remained 1-0 through 40 minutes of play.

The third period began with the same American pressure as they continued to test Greiss, but were turned away in kind. It wasn't until the 11-minute mark that the Americans could celebrate. Connor Murphy's rather innocent-looking wrist shot from the top of the face-off circle found room past Greiss, and we had a 1-1 game with nine minutes to play.

It looked like Anders Lee had put the Americans up 2-1 just twenty seconds later to put the Americans up, but the official was in the right spot to waive the goal off as Frank Hordler swept the puck off the goal line for the Germans before it had fully crossed. Hordler's play kept the game knotted at 1-1, but it wouldn't take long to find another goal. Danny DeKeyser would commit a hooking penalty 2:26 later to put the Germans on the power-play, and they would make the Americans pay for the indiscretion. Patrick Hagar deflected Dennis Seidenberg's point shot down to the ice which skipped past Jimmy Howard with 6:02 to play as the crowd erupted on the 2-1 goal.

The Americans continued to pepper Greiss with shots over the final six minutes, but the Germans simply would not break as they downed USA by the 2-1 score. Despite being outshot 43-27 and out-chanced what felt like a 3:1 ratio, the Germans sent their fans home happy in Cologne with a major win in this tournament to really help them out in a big way. Germany wasn't given much of a chance in this tournament to medal, so getting three points early against a team that is favored to make a run at a medal is a big push.

Here are the highlights of the game.

The Germans will meet Sweden on Saturday while the Americans will square off with Denmark on Sunday. As stated above, the Russians used the shootout to down the Swedes, so this game will have big meaning for both the Germans and Swedes as a German win will really put pressure on Sweden's shot at a medal while a Swedish win would certainly help the Tre Kronor get back on track while slowing the Germans' run through this pool.

While there may be NHL Stanley Cup Playoff action happening on this continent, you'd be wise to keep an eye on the happenings going on over in Paris and Cologne where the action is just as intense!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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