Thursday, September 02, 2004

Swedes edge Czechs, remain unbeaten!

Game two for Team Sweden was a bit more of a challenge than the ice breaker was. With the Czech Republic as the opponent the Swedes needed to get their much vaunted offence off and running quickly. While the Czechs took game one off with a very uninterested approach, they managed to put on a better display on Wednesday in Stockholm. Out shooting the Swedes by a total of 40-20, 18-2 in the third period alone, they turned things on in the final frame, clawing their way back into a game that seemed destined to be Sweden’s for an easy taking.

Stories persist that the Czech camp is not a happy place these days, grousing about conditions, time of the tournament and lack of application seemingly the work ethic of the Czechs. Coach Vladimir Ruzicka took the drastic move of benching Milan Hejduk and Radek Dvorak for game two in order to get a message across. And for a team that hasn't played very well for the first five periods of the tournament it seems the discord is taking its toll.

The Swedes controlled the first two periods scoring on Tomas Vokoun four times in the first fourty minutes. Marking goals for the Three Crowns included Fredrik Modin, Peter Forsberg, Mattias Ohlund and Henrik Zetterberg. Captain Mats Sundin came close to icing the game for the Swedes with an empty net goal, but it deflected just wide as the final period was winding down. While they were doubled in shots by the Czechs they made the most out of the shots they did take. The Swedes did their best in keeping Vokoun hopping for the first two periods.

With two quick goals Martin Rucinsky and Marek Zidlicky scored two minutes apart early in the third, setting the stage for an exciting finale to the game. Patrick Elias pulled the Czechs even closer with a shot that beat Swedish goaltender Michael Tellqvist at 14.25. A wild last six minutes saw the Czechs pull their goaltender with two minutes remaining, an exciting show but to no avail in the end.

Tellqvist stood tall for Sweden, holding the fort and securing the Swedes second straight win with some timely saves. Surprisingly NHL all star Jaromir Jagr has been held pointless thus far in the tournament, though he was far more involved in Wednesday’s game than in the opening night game.

For Sweden a third period slowdown nearly cost them dearly, but in the end it’s the final score that makes all the difference and on this night the 4-3 final would be the margin of victory. Swedish head coach Hardy Nillson admitted that the Swedes got sloppy and allowed the Czechs back into the game, but was still happy with the final result. With the win, the Swedes hold home ice advantage in the quarter finals. If the now 0 and 2 Czech Republic doesn’t get a better grip on the scoreboard in its remaining games, the quarter finals won’t be something they need to terribly concern themselves with.

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