Three Blackhawks saw IIHF World Championship action early Friday as Team Canada opened their tournament against Slovakia in Helsinki and the Czech Republic faced Denmark in Stockholm. Duncan Keith
was named Best Player for Canada in their 3-2 victory, while Michael Frolik
contributed an assist to his country's 2-0 win.
Canada went up 1-0 late in the first period after Jamie Benn beat Slovakian goaltender Peter Hamerlik at 14:21. Captain Ryan Getzlaf and Keith were credited with assists. Nearly two minutes into the second period, Tomas Tatar netted the equalizer for Slovakia. The Canadians answered with two goals in just under three minutes from Jordan Eberle and Andrew Ladd.
The Slovakians would not go quietly, scoring early in the third period to keep the team within a goal. Team Canada goaltender Cam Ward stopped 19 of 21 shots to secure the victory.
Blackhawks forward and Team Canada alternate captain Patrick Sharp logged 16:53 of ice time and had two shots on goal, skating with John Tavares and Jeff Skinner. Keith led the Canadians with a +2 plus/minus rating and logged 21:18 of ice time in their preliminary-round debut, and received game honors after the final horn.
The Czech Republic needed the majority of two periods to break a scoreless tie against Denmark, but Ales Hemsky dented the net with 5 seconds left in the middle frame to give his team a much-needed lead after a fairly close battle.
Late in the third period, with the Czechs still protecting their 1-0 lead, Frolik entered a board battle along with teammate Tomas Plekanec. He emerged from the scrum with the puck before dishing a backhand pass to linemate Petr Tenkrat, whose one-timer beat Danish goalkeeper Frederik Andersen to ice the result. Frolik played 13:09 in his first tournament appearance, mostly at even strength, and recorded one shot on goal in addition to his primary assist.
Team Canada takes on the U.S. on May 5 in their second matchup of the tournament. The United States defeated France 7-2 in their 2012 IIHF debut. The Czechs face off against host country Sweden later on Saturday, in a matchup that pits Frolik against fellow Blackhawks Niklas Hjalmarsson, Marcus Kruger and Viktor Stalberg.
[UPDATE] 3:38 p.m.—Two Blackhawks representatives will end the day with "Best Player" honors, as Marcus Kruger took home the award after scoring the game-winning goal for Team Sweden in their 3-1 victory over Norway.
Sweden opened the scoring late in the first period on Jakob Silfverberg's power-play strike. Norway knotted the game at 1-1 just 20 seconds into the middle frame, but could not stem Sweden's potent offense, which enjoyed a 44-20 shot differential.
Kruger's tally came at 2:29 of the second period, finishing off a smooth individual play by Niklas Hjalmarsson. The Blackhawks defenseman took the puck behind the goal line, then spun away from his defender before sending a backhand pass across the crease to Kruger, who was hovering on the doorstep for a simple tap-in.
Loui Eriksson's power-play tally early in the third period sealed the victory for the hosts.
Kruger finished the game with three shots on goal in 15:25 of ice time, playing alongside Chicago teammate Viktor Stalberg—four shots, 14:52 TOI—and team captain Daniel Alfredsson. Hjalmarsson logged 20:18 in his World Championship debut.