Qualifications in the books; Great day of Quarterfinals ahead!
Going into yesterday's set of games in Vancouver, not many people expected Norway, Belarus, Germany or Latvia to beat their opponents and advance to the quarterfinal round of the tournament. Canada, Switzerland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic are simply way too good for those other four growing hockey nations.
Surely enough, we sit here on the day of the Quarters and the four teams expected to advance are lining up to face the teams that received qualification byes after the group stage. But other than Canada's 8-2 romping of the Germans, the other match-ups left us guessing until the very end.
With the matches below done and in the books, we're all set for four incredible matches to decide who goes to the medal round, and who plays in the loser games.
Who will make it to the Semi finals? Who will go home? Leave your predicitons in the comment section below!
The first game of the day was the closest, both before and after the game was completed. While Switzerland isn't exactly a hockey powerhouse, they've made great strides in the past decade. With the emergence of Mark Streit as an elite defenseman, Jonas Hiller as a #1 goaltender, this team isn't exactly full of NHL names, but definitely poses a risk to any team they face. As for the Belorussians, with two of their best players (Grabovski and Andrei Kostitsyn) out with injuries and with Sergei Kostitsyn their only notable player in North America, things were looking pretty grim.
And despite Swiss dominance in the shot department (42-22), the game went back and forth, first with Belarus going up 1-0, then with the Swiss rallying and taking a 2-1 lead, and finally with Belarus tying it back up and battling their way to a shootout. Two goals from Switzerland in the shootout and a miss by 3rd shooter Sergei Kostitsyn means that Hiller, Streit and the rest of this underrated Swiss group will play the Americans today and look for revenge after team USA beat them 3-1 in the group stage.
The game is set for 12PM Vancouver time, 3PM Eastern time.
The Czechs' road to their quarterfinal game against the Finns was supposed to be an easy one. The Latvians were arguably the worst team of the group stage, going 0-3 and surrendering 19 goals, while scoring only 4. In fact, the last time the Czechs faced Latvia, they beat them 5-2.
This time, it wouldn't be so easy, as the Latvians brought in the game that really counted, taking the Czechs to the brink of elimination in a nail biting 3-2 overtime Czech victory. With Jaromir Jagr leaving the game in the 2nd period with a shoulder injury, and the Latvians rallying from a 2-0 deficit, it took a David Krejci overtime goal to advance the Czechs. Latvian goaltender Masalskis made 47 saves to Tomas Vokoun's 24 in the game.
What's next is a Finland-Czech Republic game set up for tonight at 10PM Eastern time at the UBC Thunderbird Arena, in what should be an equally thrilling game.
In as big a surprise as the Czech game, the seemingly lowly Norwegians managed to beat Jaroslav Halak 3 times and take the Slovaks to the brink of elimination in a 4-3 game. Norway, who was paired up with the Swiss, Canadians and Americans in the group stage, gave up 19 goals in that round while only scoring 4, and despite managing to take the Swiss to overtime, finished with only 1 point and a 0-1-1 record.
In this game, however, they brought everything they had against the Slovaks, rallying from a 2 goal deficit in the second period to tie the game 3-3. But one of their best players, Ole Kristian Tollefsen, destroyed Slovakia's Lubos Bartecko in what can only be described as a "Dirty hit. Dirty hit" by Slovakian captain Zdeno Chara. Tollefsen was ejected from the game, leaving the Norwegians a man down. Bartecko, who left a pool of blood on the ice, left the game on a stretcher, and was diagnosed with a severe concussion, but is in stable condition.
Tollefsen is the only NHLer amongst the Norwegians. The loss of the Red Wings defenseman allowed the Slovaks to go up 3-1 in the first period. But the Norwegians used a partisan crowd to rally to a 3-3 tie, as mentioned above. Still, the Slovaks were too much for this underdog team, as Miro Satan scored in the 3rd period to put the Slovaks up 4-3 once and for all.
Despite going 0-4 in the tournament, the Norwegians had a fairly good showing in their Olympic debut, and "can go home with our heads high," according to Tore Vikingstad, who had 4 of Norway's 8 total goals.
What comes next for Slovakia is 2006 Olympic champs Sweden in the quarterfinals. If this now underdog team stands any chance of making the semis, Jaroslav Halak is going to have to be much better than the 3 goals on 19 shots he allowed last night against a team that shouldn't be scoring any goals, and Zdeno Chara is going to have to play the game of his career to shut down a stacked Swedish group, which includes the Sedins, Henrik Zetterberg, and many others.
Many expected Canada's qualification match against the Germans to be a cakewalk, a gimme game, a glorified practice. And it was. Nevertheless, this blogger believed that Germany was one of the more underrated teams in the tournament, with 6 good NHLers on their team and a respectable showing in the group stage. Eight goals and complete domination told another story last night, as Canada lit the lamp.
Predators forward Marcel Goc and Manuel Klinge were the goalscorers for Germany, while Canada's goalscorers included a two goal performance from Jarome Iginla (his 4th and 5th of the tournament), a rare Joe Thornton goal, a rare Scott Neidermayer breakaway goal, and a weird Shea Weber goal that went into the net and through the mesh. Rick Nash, Mike Richards, and Sidney Crosby also scored for Canada. Eric Staal had 3 assists and defenseman Duncan Keith had 2 in a team-leading 19 minutes of ice time.
Canada now puts Germany behind them and looks ahead to tonight's primetime game against the Russians. This is the second Olympics in a row that Canada will face Russia in a non-medal round. Needless to say, many were hoping that these two teams would face off in the gold medal game. But we'll get the most anticipated game of the tournament in the quarter finals this year. There is way too much to be said about this game than just a paragraph in a recap article, so I'll leave the game previews to my colleagues .
It's a fun day of hockey ahead, and you can bet that at from 3PM to 3AM tonight, a lot of Canadians will be glued to their TV sets in what might be 4 of the best games to be televised in a long time.
Leave your predictions and thoughts below!