Slovakia, Czech Republic Seize Quarterfinal Berths at World Championship

By Emma Harger

The preliminary round at the 2012 IIHF Hockey World Championship has ended and there’s good news for both Zdeno Chara and David Krejci‘s teams–they’re bound for the quarterfinals.

Slovakia denied France the ability to complete le upset by beating them 5-4. France was in a position to possibly swipe fourth place in Group S away from Slovakia after narrowly beating Belarus in their penultimate preliminary game. They needed a regulation win against Slovakia to seal the deal, but Slovakia persevered and it’s au revoir France.

Not that France went quietly into the night: they came from behind to tie up the game three separate times, including ties before both intermissions. Chara did his part by contributing on the power play, sending one of his famous slap shots towards the net, where Michal Handzus deflected it in and made it 3-2 at the time. He also played nearly 25 minutes in this victory and surely must be pleased to see his team’s success after a lousy start to the tournament.

Better yet, a goal Slovakia had coming into Worlds was achieved. They have now secured a spot at the Sochi Olympics in 2014. (Other teams definitely set for Sochi include both Worlds hosts Finland and Sweden, plus Canada, the United States, Russia, Norway, Switzerland and the Czech Republic.) But with a quarterfinal match against Canada looming on May 17, it might be time for Slovakia to set some more goals–like maybe a 2012 medal?

The Czech Republic rebounded from their 2-0 shutout, and Krejci’s lack of production, to defeat Germany 8-1. Krejci, who was left off the score sheet entirely last time, turned around and had a three-point game, assisting on goals by Martin Erat and Miroslav Blatak while also scoring his own. He was also given a penalty shot when Christoph Schubert threw his stick–like when Alexander Ovechkin tried to befuddle Matt Duchene during the 2011 All-Star Game with his stick–but was denied. At that point, though, it didn’t matter: the Czechs already had all eight goals on the board.

The Czechs scored at even strength. They scored on the power play (four times). They scored shorthanded (once, Krejci’s goal). They showed that they’re hungry to earn another medal this year. Last year they had to settle for bronze, but maybe this year their sights are set a little higher. Now they face Sweden on May 17.

These games are going to proceed much, much faster than the preliminary round. All four quarterfinal games will be played on the same day. That night, we’ll know who’s going on to the two semifinal games on May 19. From there, the turnaround before the medal games isn’t much–May 20 will decide what teams get the medals and who will go home with fourth place.

Slovakia’s quarterfinal game will be shown on NBC Sports Network, although at 6 a.m. Eastern. Later on that day, they will also show America’s game with Finland. They have also promised to show at least one semifinal game, plus the medal games.

Read more articles from Emma Harger here.

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