Saturday, January 1, 2005
USA trounces Sweden, will face Russia
GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Phil Kessel scored three goals and added an assist to help the United States advance to the semifinals of the World Junior Championship with an 8-2 victory over Sweden on Saturday night.
Kevin Porter, Drew Stafford, Robbie Schremp, Ryan Suter and Tim Hensick also scored for the defending champions, who will face Russia on Sunday (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2). In the other semifinal, tournament favorite Canada will play the Czech Republic.
Stafford, a University of North Dakota foward playing on home ice at Ralph Engelstad Arena, scored his fourth goal of the tournament in giving the U.S. a 2-1 lead in the second period. The 17-year-old Kessel made it 3-1, taking a loose puck coast-to-coast and beating a defenseman and goalie David Rautio Berguv for an unassisted goal.
Sweden's Loui Eriksson closed the gap to 3-2 late in the second period with his second goal. Kessel scored his second goal to open the third period, putting the Americans ahead a 4-2. He put the game away three minutes later with his third goal.
"I thought we got better as the game went on,'' said Scott Sandelin, coach of the American team, which is 3-2. "Thank God for Phil Kessel. He was definitely the difference for us tonight.''
Kevin Porter, Drew Stafford, Robbie Schremp, Ryan Suter and Tim Hensick also scored for the defending gold medalists.
Al Montoya made 29 saves, allowing only Ericksson's two goals.
"We still want to win the gold medal and we still have a chance, it's just a longer route," Montoya said. "To be the best you have to play the best."
The Czech Republic advanced with a 3-0 victory over Finland. Marek Schwarz made 21 saves for his first shutout of the tournament, and Petr Vrana, Rostislav Olesz and Roman Cervenka scored goals.
"We're very happy with the win,'' said Schwarz, the 17th pick overall by the St. Louis Blues in the 2004 National Hockey League draft. "I've seen Canada play, they are very good. We're playing very well. I think we're ready to play them now.''
The Czechs converted on their fourth power play opportunity when Vrana slid a shot past Finland goalie Rask Tuukka with about three minutes left in the second period.
Finland had stymied the Czech Republic until then, killing off a two-man disadvantage and getting 29 saves from Tuukka in the first 36 minutes of the game.
On offense, however, Finland -- hamstrung by killing more than nine minutes of penalties -- managed just a single shot on goal in the second period.
In the third, Finland gave up a shorthanded goal when Rostislav Olesz kept a clearing attempt in Finland's end and fired a wrist short that beat Tuukka over his left shoulder.
Finland had good scoring chances in the third, including a point-blank shot by Filip Riska that was stopped by Schwarz, but could not convert.
Roman Cervenka scored for the Czechs with two minutes left to seal the win.
"We started badly with some tough penalties,'' Czech Republic coach Alois Hadamczik said. "But we skated hard in the second and third period and created some chances.''
In relegation play Saturday, Victor Stancescu scored twice to lead Switzerland to a 5-0 win over Germany.
Rafael Diaz opened the scoring for the Swiss (2-3) midway through the second period when he took a pass from Daniel Schnyder, broke down the right side and sent a wrist shot between the legs of Germany goalie Youri Ziffzer.
Marco Kaser banked a centering pass off Germany defenseman Benedikt Schopper and into the net on a Switzerland power play less than four minutes later, putting the Swiss up 2-0.
Schuler also scored for Switzerland in the second period, moving in on Ziffzer and beating him on the left side for his first goal of the tournament.
Both of Stancescu's goals came in the third period.
With the win, Switzerland keeps its hopes alive of being among the top eight teams in the tournament and automatically being part of the field for next year's event.
Germany (0-5), the only winless team in this year's tournament, was outshot 46-19 by Switzerland.