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Cats Players Get Under Way At World Championships

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers

Panthers defenseman Keith Ballard (USA) skates with the puck as Cats prospect Janis Sprukts (Latvia) applies the pressure in an IIHF World Championship game on Saturday. (Getty Images)
By Glenn Odebralski for

The first game is usually a warm up game, at least for the favorites in this tournament. But for the United States, it was anything but in their first game of the World Championships against Latvia.

The American’s found themselves trailing two different times in the contest, but fought back to take a 4-2 victory as Cats defensemen Keith Ballard and Karlis Skrastins squared off Saturday morning.

It was a great start for the underdogs and the pro-Latvian crowd as they jumped on the board first as H  Vasiljevs beat US netminder Robert Esche with a power play goal just 4:40 into the contest to send the crowd into a frenzy.

Los Angeles defenseman Jack Johnson answered for the US however, knotting the score at one 6:35 later.

The Latvians garnered their second lead of the game when M Karsums scored 6:39 into the second as Panthers prospect Janis Sprukts picked up the second assist on the goal. Ballard was on the ice for the goal, giving Latvia a 2-1 lead.

But the US potted two goals to take a lead heading into the final period of play. Buffalo’s Drew Stafford responded to the Latvian goal 4:34 later on an unassisted tally. Johnson then recorded his second of the night and the eventual game-winner with 4:21 left in the period on another unassisted play.

The Americans received the insurance goal 6:03 into the third on their fourth even-strength goal of the contest as Patrick O’Sullivan (Edmonton) beat Edgars Masalskis, giving the United States a 4-2 lead.

Ballard, who skated with Dallas’ Matt Niskanen as part of the third d’ pairing, finished -1 with two shots on net and 15:18 of ice time. Skrastins, Latvia’s captain for the tournament, was on Latvia’s first d-pair, finished plus-1 on 18:55 of ice time. Sprukts was also a plus-1 with the assist and a shot on net on 18:29 of ice time.


It wasn’t a close game as the Czech Republic walked all over Denmark in the teams’ first IIHF championship game as the Czechs earned the 5-0 shutout Saturday afternoon in Kloten.

The game was close in the first 20 minutes of play and the Czech Republic held a 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission thanks to Jaroslav Hlinka’s goal 6:09 into the contest.

That would actually be all they need as Jakub Stepanek posted the shut out by stopping all 21 shots Denmark would throw at him. But the Czechs put the game away with three goals in the second and another in the third for the final score.

It was a close game for about the first half the game. But the Czechs pulled away with three goals in a matter of 6:17. Jan Marek gave the Czech Republic a two goal lead with a power play goal 11:07 into the middle period. They then added their second straight goal power play goal thanks to Petr Cajanek at the 15:18 mark. The Czechs then finished out the hat trick in terms of power play goals as Edmonton’s Ales Hemsky connected with 2:36 left in the second.

NHL great Jaromir Jagr added the fifth Czech Republic goal with the Czech’s fourth power play goal of the game 10:46 into the third.

Cats forward Rostislav Olesz skated on the Czech’s fourth line and had 11:41 of ice time. Michael Frolik was not on the Czechs roster for the game.

First Round (1-0)
United States (4) vs Latvia (2) - Saturday April 25
United States vs Austria - Monday April 27 (10:15AM ET)
United States vs Sweden - Wednesday April 29 (2:15PM ET)

Keith Ballard - 1 GP - 2 Shots - 15:18 Ice Time - -1 +/- Rating

First Round (1-0)
Czech Republic (5)  vs Denmark (0) - Saturday April 25
Czech Republic vs Norway - Monday Apirl 27 (10:15AM ET)
Czech Republic vs Finland - Wednesday April 29 (2:15PM ET)

Rostislav Olesz - 1 GP - 0 Shots - 11:41 Ice Time - +/- Rating
Michael Frolik - 0 GP - Shots - Ice Time - +/- Rating

First Round (0-1)
Latvia (2) vs United States (4) - Saturday April 25
Latvia vs Sweden - Monday April 27 (2:15PM ET)
Latvia vs Austria - Wednesday April 29 (10:15AM ET)

Karlis Skrastins (C) - 1 GP - 0 Shots - 18:55 Ice Time - +1 +/- Rating
Janis Sprukts - 1 GP - 1 Assist - 1 Shot - 18:29 Ice Time - +1 +/- Rating
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