FARGO-MOORHEAD, USA – In World U18 action, the Czech Republic rebounded from a tough opening-day loss to Sweden, thumping Switzerland 6-2. In Friday's other Preliminary Round clash, Slovakia tallied three second-period goals and beat Norway 5-2.
Switzerland – Czech Republic 2-6 (0-1, 2-4, 0-1)
When the Czech Republic was relegated to Division I in 2007 at the IIHF World U18 Championship in Finland, it was a huge blow to the country's junior development program. It was therefore vital for this year's freshly promoted Czechs to respond with a win versus Switzerland after losing 7-0 to Sweden to start the 2009 tournament.
The Czechs came through with a 6-2 victory in Moorhead, but it wasn't a model of artistic perfection. After Antonin Honejsek gave his team a 1-0 lead in the first period, Switzerland's Gaetan Haas tied it up early in the second on a two-man advantage.
No sooner had the Czechs regained the lead on Jakub Jerabek's shorthanded marker at 6:19 than they took two back-to-back minors for too many players on the ice. During the first of those Swiss power plays, Tristan Scherwey made it 2-2.
The Czechs pulled away after that, with Adam Polasek scoring the eventual game-winner with 4:31 left in the second period. They led 5-2 heading into the third period, and Roman Horak added one more at 2:25 of the final stanza.
However, the Czechs finished the game in undisciplined fashion, taking five consecutive two-minute penalties for an overall total of 12 minors, the same number as versus Sweden. It's an issue that will have to be addressed if this team plans to challenge for a medal.
Previously, the Czechs have won three bronze medals at this event (2002, 2004, 2006). They face Germany on Sunday, while Switzerland will confront the defending champions from Canada on Saturday.
Slovakia – Norway 5-2 (0-0, 3-0, 2-2)
Although the Norwegians played better than in their opening 8-0 loss to the USA, it wasn't enough to save them versus the more-talented Slovaks.
After a scoreless first period, Andrej Stastny gave Slovakia the game-winning goal late in the middle frame, and also added an assist. Marek Hrivik and Dalibor Bortnak had a goal and an assist apiece as well. The other Slovakia scorers were Peter Sisovsky and Michael Vandas.
The Norwegians made it interesting when Sondre Olden and Magnus Lindahl scored in the first half of the third period to cut the Slovak lead to 3-2. But Vandas put the Slovaks up 4-2 with 5:56 left, and then Bortnak sealed the victory with an empty-netter.
Slovakia outshot Norway 42-20. Slovakia's next game is versus Russia on Saturday, and the Norwegians will take on Russia on Sunday.
(Nathan also is a writer for Maineiacs Post to Post and the Maine Hockey Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com)