Well, the scores still aren't very pretty, although we had a couple of closer calls on Monday as all four of the IIHF Division 1 and 2 tournaments were in action. What we're learning so far isn't terribly illuminating, though there have been a couple of interesting quirks. Latvia's newest international star is probably the big story, while Denmark looks poised to return to the top group with a second dominant showing. Meanwhile, in Division 2 action, Iceland pulls off a pleasant surprise, while Hungary beats China by a ridiculous amount.
Division 1, Group A in Belarus
This game might be more notable by how it wasn't a complete blowout, as Latvia clearly let up in the third period. The shots were 48-14, but in the 3rd period they were only 9-4. Sixteen year old USHL star Zegmus Girgensons combined with one of the MHL's leading scorers in Juris Upitis for four points each, with Girgensons scoring twice and Upitis once. Thomas Squires scored the only goal for Great Britain.
This battle of neighbouring countries looked close until the third period, when the hosts opened the floodgates. After two periods, the score was only 3-1, and an early Ukrainian PP goal in the 3rd seemed to set up a tense finish, but it was all for not. In the third period, Belarus outshot Ukraine 19-3 while potting the four insurance goals. Nikolai Suslo, a 6'3 centre who plays for Gomel in the Belarussian Extraleague, led the way with two goals and an assist. Artem Levsha, a late '92 birthdate currently playing in the MHL, also had two goals for Belarus. Ukraine got goals from Dymtro Khanin and Stanislav Palamarchuk.
Despite the lopsided score, the shots in this game were pretty even, with Italy marginally outshooting Japan 37-32. Mirco Presti, a nineteen year old who plays for Asiago in Italy's Serie A, scored four times, including a natural hat trick in the third period. It was an unprecedented offensive display for Presti, who hasn't scored once in eighty professional games to date. Massimo Quagliato pitched the 32 save shutout for Italy.
Tuesday's Games: Italy (1-0) vs. Great Britain (0-1); Latvia (1-0) vs. Ukraine (0-1); Belarus (1-0) vs. Japan (0-1).
Division 1, Group B in Slovenia
Kazakhstan scored first, but a four straight goals to start the second period gave Austria all the offence they needed. Markus Pock, brother of former NHLer Thomas Pock, had a goal and two assists for Austria, and forward Fabio Hofer scored twice. Both players currently play for the deep pocketed Red Bull Salzburg team, so we might see them in the Continental Cup Super Final next month as well. Anton Petrov and defensemen Nikita Mokin scored for Kazakhstan. Petrov plays in the Kazakh league, while Mokin is a Avangard Omsk prospect playing in the MHL. This was likely the most competitive and highest quality game of the day, with the shots dead even at 32, and a bit of a ruckus in the third period with four players (two on each team) getting 4 minute roughing minors.
I get the feeling Denmark could've been competitive at the championship level this year, particularly if they were put in the Americans' group. Croatia is a lightweight even at the Division 1 level, but still, outshooting a team 86-18 is freaking insane. The period splits were like this: 26-7, 37-5, and 23-6. THIRTY-SEVEN SHOTS IN A PERIOD. Patrick Russel had four goals for Denmark, while Nicolai Meyer had two goals and two assists. Both are seventeen year olds playing junior hockey in Sweden this year, but have yet to attract the attention of NHL Central Scouting. Markus Lauridsen, a defenseman who plays for Green Bay of the USHL and is headed to St. Cloud State next year, scored once and had two assists and was named the game's best player. Croatia, meanwhile, continued to get production from their top line of Mislav Blagus (1+1), Dominik Kanaet (1+1), and Borna Rendulic (1+2). All three teenagers are already on the national men's team. And poor Kresimir Tomljenovic heroically faced all 86 Danish shots!
Tuesday's Game: Slovenia (1-0) vs. Lithuania (0-1)
Division 2, Group A in Estonia
Well, I had Belgium over Iceland in this group, and this was definitely the key game for both teams in this group. Belgium will now have to try and pull of a bit of an upset against one of the better teams to avoid a one year exile to Div. 3, unless I've completely read the group wrong as a whole. Good for Iceland, though, who are a very small country (350k) with a burgeoning passion for the sport. Plus, their starting lineup is quite amazing:
Matthias Sigurdarson - Gunnar Sigurdsson - Bjorn Siguradarson; Snorri Sigurbjornsson - Hilmar Leifsson; Aevar Bjornsson
Epic. Belgium was probably mesmerized by the names. Belgium actually outshot Iceland 32-25.
Not much surprise here. I said I'd be shocked if a team came within three goals of France in this group, so Spain did well here. France outshot their southern neighbours an astounding 54-7. I guess they sacrifice some offence to play better defence than Denmark.
A rare close game on Tuesday, as the game went into the 3rd period tied at 2 and the fifth goal was an empty netter. Estonia actually outshot the Dutch but couldn't capitalize on the powerplay, going a brutal 0 for 10, including a 5 on 3 in the third period when they had just fallen behind by two goals. Sixteen year old Tony Ras got his first international goal for the Dutch, scoring the key fourth goal. Believe it or not, the Estonians actually have a NHL draft prospect on their roster, and he scored in this game: Robert Rooba, who plays in the Espoo Blues system (Finland). Espoo is a suburb of Helsinki, which is just an hour's ferry ride across the Gulf of Finland from Tallinn. So we've got an interesting player to follow at this tournament.
Tuesday's Games: France (1-0) vs. Belgium (0-1); Netherlands (1-0) vs. Spain (0-1); Estonia (0-1) vs. Iceland (1-0).
Division 2, Group B in Romania
Matthew Anderson of Australia scored four times in the second period and made it interesting, but the Aussies couldn't overcome the early deficit which saw them down 4-0 after the first period and make a goalie switch. Anderson then had an undisciplined third period, receiving three minor penalties. South Korea was led by the top line of Jimwoo Oh (2+2), Jungyun Yum (2+2) and Bong Jin Lee (1+4).
Yep, that was the final score. 20-0. Remember mean old Hungary if/when Canada does the same against Norway in two weeks. Shots were 32-1 after the first period, with the score already 11-0. Three players had hat tricks, Balazs Somogyi (4+2), Atilla Nemeth (3+1), and Tamas Farkas (3+1). Fifteen year old Balazs Sebok, who I featured in yesterday's preview, didn't play for some reason. Shots ended 71-9.
Romania may have scored first, but that was all the hometown boost they got on this day. A poor goaltending performance did them in, as Poland's Aron Chmielewski scored four goals and added one assist in a game Poland only outshot the home team 39-31.
Tuesday's Games: China (0-1) vs. Australia (0-1); Poalnd (1-0) vs. Korea (1-0); Hungary (1-0) vs. Romania (0-1).