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Onto The Qualifying Rounds

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers

Latvia 2 – Austria 0 ::: Just days following their historic victory over Sweden, Latvia made sure they would be in the qualifying round by shutting out Austria 2-0 Wednesday.

The Latvians got on the board with 45 seconds left in the opening period as M Cipulis beat Bernd Bruckler with the shot. Cats blueliner and Latvian captain Karlis Skrastins picked up the second assist on the goal, his first point of the tournament.

That would be pretty much all the scoring for more than a period and a half as both netminders were sharp in action. Bruckler stopped 35 shots he faced while Latvia goaltender Edgars Masalskis turned away 21 Austrian shots.

Latvia ended up netting the insurance goal with 5:04 remaining in the third as G Dzerins recorded his first of the tournament.

With the shootout win by Sweden, Latvia finishes the preliminary round as the third seed for Group C and moves on to Group E where they will face Switzerland, France and Russia.

Skrastins was named Latvia’s Player Of The Game as he finished with the assist, numerous blocked shots, was a plus-1 on one shot and 19:17 of ice time. Janis Sprukts had four shots on goal in 18:20 of playing time.


Sweden 6 – USA 5 (OT) ::: Two days after falling to Latvia in the shootout, Sweden turned their fortunes in play after 60 minutes as they beat the United States 6-5 in overtime. Former Panther Kristian Huselius (Columbus) netted the game winner as his first of the tournament beat Robert Esche just 1:59 into the extra session.

While both the United States and Sweden were safely onto the next round of the tournament, the two teams faced off in one last tune-up game for seeding and to help with momentum.

They can say they’ll both take that momentum in the next round as both teams will face-off against Russia, Switzerland and France in Group E action.

Edmonton’s Patrick O’Sullivan remained on a tear, scoring his third goal of the tourney 14:11 into the first, giving the United States a 1-0 lead after one period of play.

Sweden would take the 2-1 lead thanks to two goals 1:35 apart in the second. Mattias Weinhandl (3) beat Esche with a power play tally at the 5:07 mark while Marcus Nilson scored his second of the tournament 6:42 in.

The United States would regain their lead going into the final period of play however as John Michael Liles (Colorado) scored 10 seconds into a power play 9:58 in while Ryan Shannon (Ottawa) scored on the two-man advantage with 2:34 left in the period.

Shannon’s second would give the US a two goal lead 4:06 into the third while Los Angeles defenseman Jack Johnson potted his third of the tourney 8:20 in. There was little time to celebrate as Sweden worked their way back, getting a goal back just 26 seconds after Johnson’s tally as former Panther Magnus Johansson (3) scored.

As much as the power play had helped the Americans to a three goal lead in the third, it hurt them with 7:15 left as Niklas Persson scored shorthanded to bring the score to 4-5. Then Weinhandl tied it with his second of the game with 3:41 left.

That set up Huselius’ game heroics in overtime.

Cats defenseman Keith Ballard, who skated on the third d-pair with Matt Niskanen once again finished a plus-one while being on the ice for 14:51.


Finland 4 – Czech Republic 3 ::: Another one of those games that was merely a tune-up for the next round, Finland stayed perfect in World Tournament play, handing the Czech Republic their first loss in a 4-3 affair in Kloten.

The Czech Republic will be matched in Group F play where they will take on Canada, Belarus and Slovakia. Their first game is tomorrow against one of the favorites of the tournament, Canada.

Finland jumped on the board first as Niko Kapanen recorded his fourth goal of the tournament 9:32 into the contest. But the Finnish lead didn’t last long as the Czech’s Tomas Rolinek answered 42 seconds later thanks to a botched power play for the Finns. Miroslav Blatak gave them a 2-1 lead after one period of play 3:16 later.

Ales Kotalik (Edmonton) gave the Czechs a two-goal lead as his blast beat Nashville’s Pekka Rinne on a Czech Republic power play 3:10 into the second.

Down 3-1 the Finns were certainly not out. In fact they scored almost right away. Flying in the Czechs, J Klepis was forced to take a tripping penalty. That resulted in a Ville Koistinen power play tally just 42 seconds after the Kotalik goal bringing the score to 2-3.

Then with two men in the box (high sticking and hooking), Kapanen found the scoreboard for the second time with 1:04 left in the frame.

From down 3-1 early in the second to tied after 40 minutes of play, Finland was on highs. They completed the comeback when former Panther Niklas Hagman (Toronto) scored 11:59 into the third. Rinne did the rest from there, stopping the six shots he saw.

Forward Rostislav Olesz saw action on the fourth line for the Czechs, finishing with one shot on net on 8:56 of time.

First Round (2-0)
United States (4) vs Latvia (2) - Saturday April 25
United States (6)  vs Austria (1) - Monday April 27
United States vs Sweden - Wednesday April 29

Keith Ballard - 3 GP - 1 Assist - 4 Shots - 28:12 Total Ice Time - 0 +/- Rating

First Round (2-0)
Czech Republic (5) vs Norway (0) - Saturday April 25
Czech Republic (5) vs Denmark (2) - Monday Apirl 27
Czech Republic vs Finland - Wednesday April 29

Rostislav Olesz - 3 GP - 1 Assist - 0 Shots - 22:50 Total Ice Time - 1 +/- Rating
Michael Frolik - 0 GP - Shots - Ice Time - +/- Rating

First Round (1-1)
Latvia (2) vs United States (4) - Saturday April 25
Latvia (3) vs Sweden (2) (SO) - Monday April 27
Latvia vs Austria - Wednesday April 29

Karlis Skrastins (C) - 3 GP - 1 Assist - 0 Shots - 40:48 Total Ice Time - +1 +/- Rating
Janis Sprukts - 3 GP - 1 Assist - 2 Shots - 35:14 Total Ice Time - +1 +/- Rating
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