Monday, May 12, 2014

2014 IIHF World Championships Update

The second round of games of the 2014 IIHf World Championships have now been completed and with some unexpected results.

In Group A, Norway sits atop the group with 2 outright wins for 6 points highlighted by Per-Åge Skrøder's penalty shot goal against Denmark in the Norwegian's 4-3 win over Denmark. This follows Norway's opening 3-0 shutout win over Italy thanks to Lars Haugen's 15 saves in goal.

Lars Haugen Norway photo LarsHaugenNorway.jpg
Lars Haugen

Right behind Norway is Sweden with 5 points following their blanking of Denmark followed by a resilient win over the Czech Republic, as Sweden had to come from behind three times, never having led in regulation until prevailing in a shootout.

Canada is third with 4 points, having suffered a shocking loss to France in a shootout on opening day. With the current World Championship format having two groups of eight teams playing seven games each, it does allow for teams to absorb a bad loss, as there are many more games in the group stage than previously, when an upset such as this would have much more impact. Canada rebounded strongly with a convincing 4-1 win over Slovakia to take the full 3 points.

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Jonathan Huberdeau of Canada

The Czech Republic currently sits in the final place to advance to the Playoff Round, fourth. The Czechs defeated their rivals Slovakia in overtime for 2 points on opening day and then took away another point while losing to Sweden in a shootout yesterday for a total of 3.

The Czechs have a goal differential of zero, which places them higher in the standings than Italy's 3 points, which they gained by defeating France 2-1 in regulation following their opening loss to Norway.

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Italy celebrates their win over France

France is in sixth place with 2 points from their stunning win over Canada thanks to the performance of former NHLer Cristobal Huet in goal after being outshot 36-29, but must be kicking themselves by throwing away the momentum gained from their upset victory by laying an egg against Italy, who are six places behind France in the IIHF World Rankings. France would have done themselves a big favor by at least making it to overtime and taking a point from the game but gave up the winning goal with under a minute to play in regulation.

Cristobal Huet France photo CristobalHuetFrance.jpg
Cristobal Huet of France stymies Canada

Slovakia has gotten off to a rough start by losing to the Czech Republic 3-2 in overtime and then having to face a resolute Canada in their second game, a 4-1 defeat, and now sit seventh with a single point. With the lower ranked teams in the group still remaining on their schedule, Slovakia will be looking to move up into the top four by the end of the Preliminary Round.

Denmark trails the group with no points following regulation losses to Norway and Sweden. The Danes will be hoping for good results against France and Italy to avoid relegation while hoping to steal points from a couple of the top clubs, as the wins for France and Italy have put them at a quick disadvantage.

Denmark photo FrederikStorm9celebrateswithPatrickBjorkstrand.jpg
Frederik Storm of Denmark celebrates with Patrick Bjorkstrand

Over in Group B, Russia has gotten off to a dominant start with two regulation wins over Switzerland and Finland for the maximum 6 points.

Ovechkin and Zaripov Russia photo AlexanderOvechkin8andDanisZaripov.jpg
Russia's Alexander Ovechkin celebrates with Danis Zaripov

The United States has kept pace with two outright wins thanks to a pair of close offsides calls which negated goals for Switzerland. With that result going the way of the US, they slot in second behind Russia as they trail in goal differential by 1, 7-6 thanks to an opening day 6-1 win over hosts Belarus.

Germany is a surprising third place at 5 points thanks to Thomas Oppenheimer's heroics, as he scored the deciding shootout goal in the Germans opening game vs. Kazakhstan and then repeated the feat with a regulation penalty shot goal with less than five minutes to play against Latvia.

Thomas Oppenheimer Germany photo ThomasOppenheimerGermany-1.jpg
Thomas Oppenheimer wins the shootout for Germany

Latvia's 3-2 come-from-behind upset win to open play over Finland and NHL goaltender Pekka Rinne earned them three points, but, like France, they were coming off a terrific upset win over the Finns, only to lose their next game in regulation to Germany, taking away their unexpected momentum. Still, their fans are recognized as the most passionate and with the tournament being held in neighboring Belarus, the Latvians can expect home ice-like support for all of their remaining games.

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Latvia's Edgar Masalskis got the win over Finland

Hosts Belarus are fifth in Group B. While the festive opening day was damped with a 6-1 defeat at the hands of the United States, they rebounded with a solid 4-1 win over Kazakhstan to undue some of the damage the US game did to their goal differential.

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Mikhail Grabovski of the Washington Capitals leads host Belarus

Kazakhstan currently sits in sixth position, having secured a point in their 2-1 shootout loss to Germany. After their 4-1 loss to Belarus, things look bleak for the 17th ranked Kazakhs, as their remaining games are against the teams ranked 2nd, 4th, 6th, 7th and 10th in the world.

Behind Kazakhstan, but only temporarily, are Finland, with a 3-2 loss to Latvia and a 4-2 loss to Russia, and Switzerland, who have also lost their two opening games, 5-0 at the hands of the Russians and their controversial 3-2 loss to the United States. Look for both Finland and Switzerland to right their ships and begin to accumulate points in the standings in short order. With five games remaining, it's not out of the question for both teams to reach the Playoff Round when the standings become final on May 20th.

Reto Barra Switzerland photo RetoBerra.jpg
Reto Berra of the Colorado Avalanche will be relied on
to turn Switzerland's fortunes around

The stories so far have been the upset wins by France and Latvia, who then both proceeded to lose to lesser opponents, the dominating start by Russia, keen to make some amends for their performance at the Olympics in February, and the quick starts for Germany and Group A leading Norway.

For fans of jerseys, the World Championships have many new jerseys making their debut, as the 2014 Olympic field was just 12 teams, while the World Championships consist of 16 clubs. Those debuting new jerseys are then Denmark, France, Italy, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Additionally, the Russians have a new home white jersey, as pictured above, which is quite different than the one worn in Sochi. Finland also has a new, more traditional white jersey, ditching the "wrapped in the flag" look of Sochi and has made some detail changes to their away blue jerseys, having taken away the flag on the sleeve and red coat of arms patch on the front.

Canada is not wearing either of it's Sochi jerseys either, reverting to the ones used at the 2013 World Championships with the crest of Hockey Canada, which is not allowed at the Olympics. Same goes for the United States, which is wearing the same jersey as in Sochi, only now with it's striking USA Hockey crest which is not allowed under Olympic rules on commercialism.

Finally, the German men were not part of the 2014 Olympics, but their black jersey was worn by their women's team in Sochi so it did not receive much exposure and may be new to many. Additionally, the men's World Championship home jersey is now white rather than the gold that the women wore in Sochi.

Games today include Switzerland trying to get on track against Belarus and Slovakia facing off against France in the early games, while the late games have Canada taking on the Czech Republic and Jaromir Jagr, while the United States and Russia, led by Alexander Ovechkin, battle to stay undefeated atop Group B. The late games both start at 1:30 PM eastern time, with the USA game on the NBC Sports Network in the United States with TSN showing the Canadian game and TSN2 carrying the USA vs Russia game in Canada.

Today's featured jersey is a 1999 Norway Per-Åge Skrøder jersey. When we acquired this jersey we were especially happy to get a name with the Norwegian "ø" character as part of it only to discover when it arrived that it has a standard "O" with an "I" glued diagonally over the top of it!

The Vår sponsorship logos are a heavy rather rubbery silkscreening. In addition, the Nike logos are also printed on the jersey as well, while the numbers are all sewn on. Also worth noting is the fairly large Norway Ice Hockey Federation crest on the front, which is blue screened onto white twill which was then sewn onto the jersey.

Skrøder began his professional hockey career in Norway in 1994 before moving to the Swedish Elitserien in 1998. He has played for FrölundaLinköpings, HV 71, where he won a championship in 2004 and Södertälje before moving to MoDo in 2006 where he won a second championship in 2007 and the league scoring title in 2009. He was named Noway's Player of the Year in 2002.

Additionally, Skrøder has competed for Norway in the European Junior Championships in 1995, the World Junior Championships in 1997, the World Championships at both Division 1 and the Top Division 13 times and the Olympics in 2010 and 2014.

A very striking and colorful jersey with some excellent details that make it unique and definitely a favorite, especially when combined with the ongoing accomplishments of the player who wore it.

1999 Norway jersey photo Norway1999F.jpg
1999 Norway jersey photo Norway1999B.jpg

Today's video section begins with France's unlikely upset win over Canada.

Speaking of upsets, here are highlights of Latvia defeating Finland.

Finally, the United States controversial win over Switzerland.

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