Wednesday, May 13, 2015

2015 IIHF World Championships Update

The Preliminary Round (or Group Stage) of the 2015 IIHF World Championships taking place in both Prague and Ostrava in the Czech Republic concluded yesterday with some dramatic results.

Top Division 2015 logo photo WM.jpg

Play opened in the tournament back on Friday, May 1st with Canada announcing their intention to win Group A with a 6-1 thumping of Latvia. The host Czechs and Swedes battled to an overtime tie before Sweden won the first of a number of shootouts.


Meanwhile, in Group B, the United States had a surprisingly easy time defeating the Finland, who were ranked #2 in the IIHF World Rankings. Russia opened their tournament with an easy 6-2 win over Norway.

Saturday May 2nd saw Austria upset Switzerland 4-3 in a shootout, letting the competition know they would not be an easy mark in Group A. Germany and the Czech Republic also posted expected wins.


In Group B, Slovakia gave up a point in the standings when Denmark took them to a shootout, which was won by Slovakia. Belarus defeated Slovenia while the United States had a tough go before they prevailed 2-1 over Norway.

Sunday, May 3rd in Group A went true to form with Sweden, Canada and Switzerland all winning over Austria, Germany and France. Group B was more of the same, as Russia cruised by Slovenia, and Finland blanked Denmark with the closest game of the day proving to be Slovakia's 2-1 overtime win over Belarus.

Monday, May 4th saw Latvia drop their third straight to Sweden 8-1 and Canada pass their first tough test with a 6-3 win over the Czechs in Group A. Proving their upset win over Finland on opening day was not a fluke, the United States won 4-2 over Russia, while Finland's Pekka Rinne got his second consecutive shutout with a 5-0 win over Norway.

Tuesday in Group A featured a pair of low scoring games when the Swiss won 1-0 over Germany and France got a valuable 3 points in the standings with a 2-0 defeat of Austria, which would prove to be key later in the tournament. If there were any doubts about Belarus in Group B, they squelched that with a 5-1 romp over Denmark while Slovakia took the full 3 points from Slovenia.

Wednesday saw Latvia finally record their first points with a 2-1 overtime win over Switzerland and Canada stayed perfect with a 6-4 win over Sweden in Group A. In Group B, Russia won easily 5-2 over Denmark while Norway claimed their first points as the upset Slovakia 3-2, damaging the Slovaks chances at the Playoff Round.


Thursday's games in Group A saw the Czechs and Swedes both post wins while in Group B Belarus stunned the previously unbeaten United States 5-2 and Finland's Rinne earned his third consecutive shutout 4-0 over winless Slovakia.

The Czech Republic damaged Austria's hopes to avoid relegation with a 4-0 in in Group A on Friday, followed by Germany protect their spot in the top division with their second win, 2-1 over Latvia. Group B action saw Norway distance themselves from relegation with a vital 4-1 win over Slovenia. Meanwhile, the United States, winners over Finland and Russia, had to suffer through a nail-biter 1-0 against Denmark.

The second Saturday of the tournament, May 9th, in  Group A Canada had a 4-3 scare from France to stay undefeated, Latvia spilt the points with Austria 2-1 in overtime and Sweden was taken to overtime by Switzerland, who eventually fell 2-1. In Group B, Russia hammered Belarus 7-0 followed by another shutout for the Finns, this time 3-0 over Slovakia. Denmark picked up a valuable win over Norway 4-1 to distance themselves from winless Slovenia in the relegation battle.

Sunday saw the Czechs post their fourth win 4-2 over Germany in Group A while Canada dominated yet again, 7-2 over Switzerland, ending a run of five straight games earning at least a point in the standings for the Swiss. Group B it was the United States turn to defeat winless Slovenia 3-1 to doom them to relegation to Division I Group A for 2016, but the big news was Russia dropping a point by needing overtime to defeat Slovakia 3-2, dropping them a point back of the Americans, 15-14 for the lead in Group B.

Monday's big winner was Austria, who won 3-2 over Germany in a shootout to pass Latvia and France  to climb out of the relegation spot in Group A. Sweden strengthened it's claim to the second spot in Group A with a 4-2 win over France, leaving the French last in the group and in very real danger of being relegated. Belarus then did the United States a big favor by taking Finland to a shootout. While Finland won 3-2, the point lost in the standings put the fate of the US in their own hands heading into the final day. In a game simply for pride, relegated Slovenia got their first ever win in the top division of the IIHF World Championship and first points of the tournament when they defeated Denmark 1-0 in Matjaz Kopitar's final game as head coach.


All of that action set up yesterday's final day of the Preliminary Round, with a full slate of six games. Group A began with a 10-1 victory lap for Canada over Austria to stay perfect as the Canadians won the group with a perfect 7-0 record and a 49-14 advantage in goals. Austria was now left with 5 points, but still led Latvia's 4 and France's 3, as those two were set to faceoff in the following game.

Despite outshooting Latvia 12-2 in the first period, France trailed 1-0 after one. It was more of the same  in the second period, as Latvia extended its lead to 2-0 even though it had been outshot 22-7, which gave the Austrians hope. France rallied for a pair of goals in the third period to tie the game at 2-2, with the Austrians pulling for Latvia. Overtime passed without a winner and it all went wrong for Austria when France won the shootout 3-1 to claim the 2 points for the win. This gave France, Latvia and Austria 5 points each in the standings, but the head to head points among the three teams went in favor of France and Latvia, as Austria only managed one point versus the other two, sending Austria back to Division I Group A for 2016.

The final game in Group A was a 2-1 shootout win for the Czech Republic over Switzerland as the Czechs finished 3rd in the group with Switzerland classified 4th behind Sweden in second and the dominant Canadians in first.

Germany (7 points), France (5) and Latvia (5) all saw their tournament end, but safely clear of relegated Austria, who were 5 minutes from safety until France tied Latvia with 4:40 to go.

In Group B on the final day, less was on the line as Belarus defeated Norway 3-2, taking away any hopes of Slovakia to advance to the playoffs. The Slovaks still had an important game to play with the Group B title on the line for the United States.

Less than half a minute into the second period the US was up 3-0, but the Slovaks came roaring back to take a 4-3 lead over a stunned American team. Charlie Coyle stemmed the tide and tied the game at 4-4 heading into what would be a scoreless third period. With just 28 seconds left in overtime, Hobey Baker winner Jack Eichel won the game for the US 5-4 to give them the top spot in Group B with 17 points.


The final game of the Preliminary Round was a 3-2 shootout win for Finland over Russia, which broke the tie in the standings between the two teams in favor of the Finns (16 points), who took second place over the Russians in third with 15, with Belarus right on their heels with 14 points.

Slovakia (9), Norway (6) and Denmark (4) finished 5th through 7th and will remain in the top division for 2016, while Slovenia came in last and will return to Division I Group A for 2016.

The teams will have today off for travel and rest before the Quarterfinals on Thursday, May 14th. The teams have been cross-over seeded, and the first game will have Group B winner the United States facing Group A 4th place Switzerland. One hour later Group A winner Canada will square off against Belarus, 4th place in Group B. Sweden's reward for second place in Group B is Russia, with the winner to face the US vs Switzerland survivor. In the last Quarterfinal game, Finland gets the tough task of taking on the host Czech Republic in Prague, with the winner likely to face Canada in the Semifinals on Saturday with the bronze and gold medal games set for Sunday.

Today's featured jersey is a 2008-09 IIHF Linesman Jersey as worn during the Division I Group A tournament in Vilnius, Lithuania, which was won by Kazakhstan. The jersey features sponsorship by AJ Products, a leading supplier of office furniture, materials handling and storage solutions, a Swedish company who does business in 19 European countries.

IIHF 2008-09 Linesman jersey photo IIHF 2008-09 Linesman F jersey .jpg
IIHF 2008-09 Linesman jersey photo IIHF 2008-09 Linesman B jersey .jpg
IIHF 2008-09 Linesman jersey photo IIHF 2008-09 Linesman P jersey.jpg

The IIHF has a number of recognizable, long term sponsors, such as Skoda automobiles, now in their 23rd year as Official Main Sponsor, an officially recognized world record. Aside from their logo being featured as the center ice faceoff circle, Skoda cars also make an unavoidable appearance in the corners of every arena during every game of the World Championships, no doubt claiming some very desirable real estate as they occupy some of the best seats in the house!

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 photo Skoda IIHF car.jpg

Other recognizable sponsors at any World Championships are Tissot Swiss watches, which are awarded to each team's Man of the Match, Zepter International and, of course, Nike, who have been supplying the jerseys for the IIHF since 1996.

Not only do many of these brands appear on the boards of the rinks, they also often appear as patches on the shoulders of the players, giving the World Championships their own, unique and instantly recognizable look.

Steve Moses photo Steve Moses.jpg
Steve Moses of the United States with
this year's Skoda sponsorship patches

Today's first video is from the 20th anniversary of Skoda and their involvement with the IIHF.



Next, a look at Nike preparing all the jerseys for the 2015 IIHF World Championships. We'll take one of each please.


Finally, a promotional video from Tissot in recognition of their involvement with the IIHF.

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