Monday, May 6, 2013

The Giant Killers - 2013 IIHF World Championship Report

In Helsinki, Finland's Group H of the 2013 IIHF World Championships, both Russia and the United States have taken their first two games, with Russia defeating both Latvia and Germany as expected. Meanwhile, the United States has avoided any unforeseen troubles with workmanlike wins over Austria and Latvia to tie Russia with 6 points in the standings. Finland gave away a point in the standings when they opened in front of their home fans with a nervous 4-3 win in overtime against Germany and then defeated Slovakia 2-0 for 5 points.

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Host Finland was taken to overtime by Germany

Slovakia opened the competition on Friday with a 6-2 win over France, who in turn rebounded with a 3-1 defeat of Austria to equal the Slovaks with 3 points in the standings, but thanks to their win over France, Slovakia currently holds the 4th and final playoff spot.

Germany faced a tough go in their first two games by drawing Finland and then Russia, so things should be somewhat less intimidating going forward and they should be satisfied with having taken a point off of Finland. A defeat of Slovakia in their next game would go a long way toward moving up into the playoff positions and they should be favored in three of their final four games.

Both Austria and Latvia have begun their tournament with 0-2 records and their head to head meeting on Tuesday could determine which country will be relegated for 2014 if they cannot manufacture some additional points against Germany or France.

Now, if Group H has gone strictly to form, Stockholm, Sweden's Group S has been the opposite in many ways.

The first game started off innocently enough with the Czech Republic defeating Belarus 2-0, but then Switzerland shocked the home team Sweden by defeating the tournament hosts not only 3-2, but in regulation time to take the full 3 points in the standings.

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Switzerland surprised many by defeating host Sweden

Last year's breakout team, Norway, then opened play on Saturday with a 3-1 defeat of Slovenia followed by Canada earning the full 3 points in a 3-1 victory over Denmark, a game many expected to be much more lopsided. Sweden then rebounded with a 2-1 regulation win over the Czech Republic.

Sunday's action saw Belarus state their intentions to avoid relegation with a 4-3 win over Slovenia followed by Switzerland turning heads by first taking Canada to overtime and then defeating the Canadians in an epic eight round shootout as Mike Smith and former NHLer Martin Gerber dueled round after round, making 13 saves on 16 combined attempts.

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Martin Gerber held fast in the Swiss goal

Aside from Gerber, the hero for Switzerland was Reto Suri, who scored both of the Swiss goals in the shootout. Gerber meanwhile, stopped Jordan Eberle, Claude Giroux, Steven Stamkos, Matt Duchene (who had scored in the third round), Eberle again, Matt Read and finally Duchene for a second time to give Switzerland the win.

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Hopp Suisse!

The final game on Sunday saw Norway thrill their fans in attendance with a tougher than they would have liked 3-2 win over fellow Scandinavians Denmark 3-2 after the Danes scored twice within five minutes to tie the game at 2-2 before Norway got the regulation game winner with 2:32 left to play to move to a shocking lead all by themselves at the top of the group!

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Norway enjoying life at the top

Noway's two regulation wins give them the full 6 points, one more than Switzerland's 5 points, which has come against the toughest competition in Group S. Canada's 4 points see them in a strong position to advance as expected, while the Czechs and Swedes are tied with Belarus at 3 points each in the scramble for the final playoff position. Meanwhile Slovenia and Denmark are winless after two games and their head to head meeting on Tuesday could seal the fate for the losing side, as any additional points for either team will be difficult to come by at best.

Today's featured jersey is a 2004 Switzerland National Team Martin Gerber jersey as worn during the 2004 World Championships. Gerber wears he unusual for an NHL goaltender jersey #26. His career began with the SCL Tigers in first the Swiss National League B before the club was promoted to the National League A. He then spent a season in Sweden before making his NHL debut with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2002-03. He played a second season with the Mighty Ducks, one with the Carolina Hurricanes, three with the Ottawa Senators and then the Toronto Maple Leafs.

He then spent a year in the KHL with Atlant Moscow Oblast before returning to North America and spending a year in the AHL with Oklahoma City, which included 3 games with the Edmonton Oilers before spending the last two years back in Sweden's Elitserien.

Internationally, Gerber has appeared for Switzerland in now nine World Championships (with a best of 5th in 2010) and two Olympics, the highlight of which was a 2-0 shutout of Canada at the 2006 Olympics in Italy.

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2004 Switzerland jersey photo Switzerland2004WCP1.jpg

Today's video section begins with Switzerland's shock win over Canada.

Next up are highlights of what could be the Cinderella story of the 2013 Worlds, Norway and their victory over Denmark.

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