NEW YORK-- Canada has a chance to make history at the 2014 IIHF World Championship in Minsk, Belarus.
In one of four quarterfinal games to be played Thursday, Canada will face Finland as it continues its attempt to become the second team to win Olympic and World Championship gold in the same season. The only country to do it was Sweden in 2006.
|Photo by Norm Hall. |
Canada, which is being led by Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett, went 5-1-1 in the preliminary round to win Group A and their 28 goals are the second-most in the tournament. It's a balanced offensive attack that featured six players to have scored at least two goals. Washington Capitals forward Joel Ward and forward Cody Hodgson of the Buffalo Sabres tied for the team lead with six goals, and Ward's team-best nine points are one more than Hodgson.
Defenseman Kevin Bieksa (Vancouver Canucks) leads from the back end with two goals, two assists and a team-high average of 22:25 of ice time per game.
Goaltender Ben Scrivens (Edmonton Oilers) is 3-0 with a 1.31 goals-against average and .935 save percentage in three starts. Goalie James Reimer (Toronto Maple Leafs) is 3-1 with a 2.20 GAA and .911 save percentage in four starts.
Canada's road to a rare double won't be easy. It opens the knockout round with a game against Finland, which went 4-3 in the preliminary round, but is backstopped by Pekka Rinne (Nashville Predators). He has a 1.65 GAA and two shutouts in three wins.
Russia, the only team to go undefeated in preliminary-round play (7-0-0), plays France in another quarterfinal. Russia outscored its opposition 31-7 in the opening round, with three of those goals coming from Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin. However, Ovechkin's status for the quarterfinals is unknown after he sustained an injury to his right leg during Russia's preliminary-round game against Germany. Russia general manager Andrei Safronov said an MRI revealed no damage to any knee ligaments, but Ovechkin sat out the opening-round finale against Belarus.
Former Phoenix Coyotes forward Viktor Tikhonov leads all players with seven goals and 14 points. Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (Columbus Blue Jackets) has five wins, one shutout, a 1.20 GAA and a .948 save percentage.
France is the surprise of the tournament, starting with its stunning 3-2 shootout win against Canada on the first day of the tournament. Leading the way has been forward Antoine Roussel (Dallas Stars), one of two NHL players on the roster. He has six goals and 11 points, each tied for second among all players.
The United States, which won a bronze medal last year, will continue its quest to win medals in consecutive World Championships for the first time since 1933 (gold) and 1934 (silver) when it faces the Czech Republic in a quarterfinal.
Forward Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary Flames), who made his NHL debut days after winning the Hobey Baker Award as the top NCAA player, leads the U.S. with 10 points; his eight assists are the most in the tournament.
Seth Jones (Nashville Predators) is tied for second with seven assists and his nine points lead all defensemen.
Forward Jaromir Jagr (New Jersey Devils) has been the top player for the Czechs with four goals and three assists.
Another quarterfinal will feature defending champion Sweden against host nation Belarus.
Two former NHL players have keyed Sweden offensively. Forward Joakim Lindstrom, who last played in the League with the Colorado Avalanche in 2011-12, has four goals and four assists, while forward Oscar Moller, a Los Angeles Kings draft pick, has two goals and seven points. Forward Gustav Nyquist (Detroit Red Wings) is tied with Lindstrom for the team lead with four goals.
Belarus, which never has medaled at the World Championship, has gotten outstanding goaltending from Canada-born Kevin Lalande. A 2005 Calgary Flames draft pick who never got higher than the American Hockey League, he's been playing in the Kontinental Hockey League the past four seasons.
In four games at the tournament Lalande has allowed two goals on 55 shots. His 0.66 GAA and .964 save percentage are tournament highs.
Leading Belarus offensively are forward Mikhail Grabovski (Washington Capitals) and former Nashville Predators forward Sergei Kostitsyn, who have four goals and four assists each.
The winners of the four quarterfinals will meet in the semifinals Saturday. The bronze- and gold-medal games are Sunday.