PORT ALBERNI, BC ? One night after a nail-biting win over Quebec, the United States made sure there would no such excitement on Thursday afternoon at the 2009 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
The 2008 silver medalists booked a spot in Saturday?s semifinals as Emerson Etem scored a pair of goals and set up another in a 6-1 win over Slovakia at the Alberni Valley Multiplex.
The Americans also got a pair of goals from Nick Shore and singles from Michael Mersch and Matthew Nieto in wrapping up a final four spot for the third straight World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and seventh time in the last eight.
Matej Bene scored the lone goal for the Slovakians, converting on a shorthanded breakaway early in the first period. The European side, which was outshot 48-13 overall, is winless in three preliminary round games and is in danger of going 0-4 in the prelims for the second year in a row.
The 3-0 Americans will face 3-0 West on Friday night at Oceanside Place in Parksville (7 p.m. PST) in a battle for first place in Group B. Slovakia wraps up its preliminary round schedule with an afternoon contest at the Alberni Valley Multiplex against Finland (2 p.m. PST).
GERMANY 1 – ONTARIO 5
COURTENAY, BC ? The defending champs will have another opportunity to go for gold at the 2009 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
Ryan Spooner had a goal and two assists as Ontario clinched a semifinal spot with a 5-1 victory over Germany on Thursday afternoon at the Comox Valley Sports Centre. The Ontarians will finish either first or second in Group A, based on the results of the last two days of preliminary-round play.
Nathan Chiarlitti, Steven Shipley, Tyler Seguin and Gregg Sutch scored the other goals for Ontario, who scored three times in the second period to break open a 1-1 game. Mark Visentin got his first start of the tournament between the pipes for the Canadian side and made 26 saves for the win.
Cory Mapes had the lone goal for Germany, who have just a single point from three games in Group A play thus far and are in danger of playing in the ninth-place game for the sixth consecutive U17 event.
Ontario will look to wrap up first place in its group when it faces Pacific at the Alberni Valley Multiplex on Friday night (7 p.m. PST), while the Germans will travel to Parksville to face Russia (2 p.m. PST), trying to avoid a winless preliminary round.
QUEBEC 9 – FINLAND 4
COURTENAY, BC ? He just keeps scoring, and scoring, and scoring.
Guillaume Asselin recorded his second hat trick in three days, giving him a tournament-co-leading six goals, as Quebec clinched third place in Group B with a 9-4 win over Finland. The win means the Canadian side will play in Saturday morning?s fifth-place game in Port Alberni.
Asselin scored twice in the second period ? highlighting a four-goal frame by Quebec that turned a tight 2-1 game into a 6-1 runaway ? and once more in the third to lead the way. Yoan Pinette added a pair of goals in the win and was joined on the scoresheet by Christopher Giroux, Stefan Fournier, Maximilien Le Sieur and Michael Beaudry. Cedrick Henley pitched in with four assists.
Teemu Pulkkinen, Jose Sneck, Teemu Rautianien and Eetu Koski scored the goals for Finland, which dropped to 0-3 and must win its final game to avoid its first winless preliminary round since the 2002 tournament in Selkirk, MB.
Quebec is off Friday, and will see action next in the fifth-place game on Saturday at the Alberni Valley Multiplex (11 a.m. PST). The Finns will wrap up their preliminary round schedule on Friday afternoon, taking on Slovakia in Port Alberni. (2 p.m. PST).
ATLANTIC 3– PACIFIC 4 (OT)
PORT ALBERNI, BC ? Bring on Ontario!
Troy Rutkowski?s goal 1:46 into overtime capped a third-period comeback and earned Pacific a hard-fought 4-3 win over Atlantic in an all-Canadian battle on Thursday night at the Alberni Valley Multiplex. The win sets up a match-up between Ontario and Pacific on Friday night, with first place in Group A on the line.
Brendan Ranford and Alex Theriau scored 93 seconds apart early in the third period to erase a 3-1 Atlantic lead and eventually force the extra period. Brendan Gallagher also scored for Pacific, which will play in Saturday?s semifinals, regardless of the outcome of Friday night?s game.
Brandon Gormley, Sean Couturier and Brandon Hynes ? the top three picks in the 2008 QMJHL Entry Draft ? scored the goals for Atlantic, which was looking for its second overtime win in as many nights. Hynes and Gormley added assists to go along with their goals.
The Pacific-Ontario battle for first place is set the Alberni Valley Multiplex on Friday night (7 p.m. PST), while Atlantic ? which finished with an overtime win and overtime loss in four games ? will await the results of Friday?s games to determine when and where they will play on Saturday.
(Nathan also is a writer for Maineiacs Post to Post and the Maine Hockey Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com)