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WJC NOTES - December 29, 2004

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

NYR World Junior Championship Coverage >>

Trailing 4-1 to start the third period, Finland exploded for four unanswered goals, including a power play tally from Lauri Korpikoski (right), en route to a wild 5-4 comeback win over Sweden on Wednesday.

In the most shocking final of the tournament so far, Belarus entered the game at 0-3-0, only to skate to its first-ever WJC win over Team USA, 5-3. In other WJC action on Wednesday, Jakub Petruzalek collected an assist as the Czech Republic skated to a 5-2 win over Switzerland, while Ivan Baranka and Slovakia cruised to a 5-0 win over Germany.

Ryan Callahan ... Notched an assist for Team USA in its 5-3 loss to Belarus ... Has registered one goal and one assist in three games.

Lauri Korpikoski ... Tallied a power play goal and collected two penalty minutes in Finland's 5-4 win ... Has now posted two goals in three games.

Al Montoya ... Replaced Cory Schneider between the Team USA pipes in the second period vs. Belarus and turned aside 16 shots in relief ... Suffered the loss and is now 2-1-0 in the tournament.

Jakub Petruzalek ... Collected an assist in the Czech Republic victory over Switzerland ... Has recorded one goal and one assist in three games. RECAPS: December 29, 2004 >>

Finland 5, Sweden 4
In sensational and unprecedented comeback, Finland stunned Sweden with four unanswered goals in third period to earn a dramatic 5-4 win on Wednesday afternoon in Thief River Falls.

Finland's comeback, which spanned just over 12 minutes, started when they took advantage of a high-sticking and game misconduct penalty on Sweden's Nicklas Grossman in the opening moments of the third period. At the time of the penalty, Sweden led, 4-1. Finland scored twice on the ensuing five-minute power play as Lauri Korpikoski sparked the offense with first tally 2:26 into the period. Jesse Joensuu followed 10 seconds later, pulling the Finns to within one.

Sweden recovered for the next 10 minutes, halting the Finnish offense, and it looked for a while like they might hang on for the one-goal win. But Finland found another burst of momentum when Iivo Hokkanen tied the game with 5:50 left. The stunned Swedes then surrendered the game-winner 37 seconds later. Lauri Tukonen was the hero for the Finns with the unassisted even-strength goal.

Sweden was shell shocked by the loss after having the game in control for the first 40 minutes. A pair of goals 1:22 apart midway through the first period gave Sweden the early 2-0 lead and seemed to deflate Finland. By the end of the second period, Sweden held a commanding 4-1 lead after Carl Soderberg and Johannes Salmonssen scored.

But ultimately, it was untimely penalties that doomed Sweden. The squad was whistled for 47 minutes in penalties compared with Finland's six minutes. Overall, Finland scored three of its five goals with the extra man.

Five different Finns and four different Swedes scored in the 5-4 game. However, despite the loss, Sweden outshot the Finns nearly 38-26.

For international hockey fans the win was reminiscent of Sweden's comeback against Finland in the men's World Championship in 2003 in Helsinki when the Tre Kronor came back from a 5-1 deficit to defeat the hosts in the quarterfinals.

Czech Republic 5, Switzerland 2
It was a battle of two lines in Wednesday afternoon's game between Switzerland and the Czech Republic, but in the end Peter Vrana's Czech line got the better of Stefan Hurlimann's Swiss line in a 5-2 win in Grand Forks.

Hurlimann finished the game scoring both of Switzerland's goals, while Vrana had a goal and an assist, which helped his team pull away for the win. Vrana's linemate Rostislav Olesz also had one goal and two assists in the win.

Although the Czechs never trailed during the game, the Swiss put steady pressure on last year's fourth-place finishers. It looked like it would be a long night for the Swiss when Milan Hluchy scored just over five minutes into the game, but Switzerland's defense recovered and didn't allow another goal for nearly 30 minutes.

During that span, Hurlimann tied the game at one at the 13:27 mark of the second period, only to see the Czechs regain the lead 42 seconds later on a Michal Frolik tally. Two minutes later Vrana extended the Czech lead to 3-1and then assisted on a Marek Kvapil goal 6:02 into the third period that made it a 4-1 game. But Hurlimann was there for the Swiss again to cut into the lead just 43 seconds later.

Olesz put the finishing touches on the win in the waning moments of the game as the Czechs skated to the 5-2 win.

With today's win, the Czechs have put themselves in a position to win the A Group with a victory tomorrow against the United States. The Czech Republic is 2-0-1. Meanwhile, Switzerland (1-0-2) still has a chance to avoid the relegation round with a win against Russia tomorrow.

United States 3, Belarus 5
Maybe the United States should have asked Sweden how dangerous of an opponent Belarus can be. It was Belarus that spoiled Sweden's 2002 Olympic hopes, and it was Belarus that today put a damper on the United States' hopes for a repeat gold at the U20 World Championship.

The United States has been living on the edge throughout this year's championship, and on Wednesday evening in Grand Forks, Belarus gave them a push. In the biggest upset of the championship, Belarus not only beat the U.S., they dominated them, in a 5-3 victory.

At the end of the first period, the defending champions trailed 2-1 by the end of the second the damage for the hosts was 5-2.

Despite three power-play opportunities, the U.S. found itself down, 2-0, in the first 15 minutes after Belarus netted a shorthanded and even-strength goal. Alexi Efimenko and Vadzim Karaha scored for the underdogs.

It wasn't until the 17:47 mark that the U.S. scored when Phil Kessel got his team back on track with a shorthanded goal. But Belarus was boistered by its lead and came out swinging in the second period, climbing ahead to a 3-1 lead in the first 2:10 of the period. The goal prompted a U.S. goalie change from Cory Schneider to Al Montoya.

Just over a minute after the switch, Siarhei Kukushkin continued to stun the American crowd when he made it 4-1 with a long-distance wrist shot. Andrei Kastsitsyn made it an enormous 5-1 lead midway through the period after capatalizing on a turnover deep in the U.S. zone.

It was only when Drew Stafford scored a power-play goal with less than a minute left in the second period that both the crowd and the team showed signs of life. The U.S. rode the momentum into the third when Mike Brown pulled his team to within two 2:11 into the third. But it was too little, too late as the U.S. fell in the most surprising outcome yet.

While the loss is a blow to the United States (2-0-1), the team can still finish in first place in the A Group with a win tomorrow. Russia and the Czech Republic also each have one loss, and the U.S. has the head-to-head advantage against Russia. But the game adds more pressure to tomorrow's match-up against the Czechs. Belarus closes out the preliminary round with a 1-0-3 record.

Slovakia 5, Germany 0
The Germans might be seeing the number 23 in their sleep. It was the Slovak player, Stefan Ruzicka, who wears jersey 23 that sealed the German's fate in the first period with a natural hat trick that gave Slovakia the momentum it needed to earn its second win of the championship in a 5-0 win.

Ruzicka set the tone a mere 47 seconds into the game, less than seven minutes later he doubled the score and added a power-play goal at the 13:50 mark for the rare natural hat trick.

The Ruzicka outburst proved to be important for Slovakia, which failed to score for the next 27 minutes, but had the three-goal pad thanks to the first period. But the Slovak offense stalled in the second period as it failed to take advantage of four power-play opportunities.

It was Andrej Meszaros who got the Slovaks back on track in the third period, with two goals to seal the win. Meszaros, wasted no time scoring as his first of two goals came 47 seconds into the period. His second came eight minutes later, and closed the scoring.

Germany, which scored only one goal in its four preliminary round games, is bound for the relegation round with a 0-0-4 record. Meanwhile, Slovakia (2-0-1) has a key match-up against Sweden tomorrow in the final day of the preliminary round.
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