Hlinka-Gretzky Cup Roundup: Russia, Slovakia Win Groups

The final four teams that will battle for medals are known, with Russia winning Group A and Slovakia coming out with a stunner to win Group B over Sweden.
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USA Finally Takes First Victory

USA's struggles were apparent in the first two games of the tournament, but Wednesday proved to be the exact opposite as the United States cruised to an easy 10-0 victory over Germany.

It wasn't enough for USA to advance to the semifinal, however, with the Americans being left to battle for fifth place in the group.

Cam Lund was the biggest star of the contest, recording four goals and an assist in the onslaught. Zam Plante also scored in the first period to give USA a 2-0 lead heading into the first break, but that's when everything went south for Germany. 

Before the game hit the halfway point, Jake Livanavage scored at 23:09 and Lund scored twice himself before getting his fourth and final goal at 41:58. Gavin Hayes, Jimmy Clark and Vinny Borgesi added goals and Livanavage scored a second to cap off the offense.

Bryant Marks stopped all 18 shots sent his way, including 10 in the first period.

Finland Takes Advantage of Penalties

Finland will play for a medal after a big 8-1 victory over Switzerland on Wednesday afternoon in the Czech Republic.

The Finns started the tournament off in a tough spot following a loss to Russia on Monday. The Finns needed points in the final two games to secure a spot and a Russian win over the Czech Republic on Wednesday, and that's exactly what helped the Finns earn a berth in the semifinal on Friday.

Penalties proved to be the difference, with two five-minute misconducts against the Swiss resulting in six goals for Finland. Joakim Kemell and Joni Nyman both scored on each man advantage, while Kasper Lundell and Otto Salin scored on the initial one. 

Otto Hokkanen potted the only even-strength goal of the first, capping off a massive 5-0 advantage for the Finns after 20 minutes of play. Mattheo Reinhard scored the only goal of the period for the Swiss to open the second period, but Aleksanteri Kaskimaki answered back for Finland's only even-strength goal to make it 6-1 before Kemell and Nyman added their second markers.

Slovakia Stuns Sweden to Win Group B

We knew this Slovakian team would be one of the best they ever had. But could anyone have expected them to win Group B against Sweden and USA? 

Probably not, but after trailing at multiple points in the contest, Slovakia managed to eke out a 4-3 win over the Swedes.

With the win, Slovakia will have a shot at winning a medal at the tournament for the first time since 1998. Slovakia has just two bronze medals to their credit, but that could change this time around.

It didn't start pretty for the Slovaks, who allowed a poor-angle shot from Linus Hemstrom at just 1:14 to find themselves down in a tough hole early. Maxim Strbak scored within the first two minutes of the second period to tie it up, but Mattias Havelid's shot at 3:52 restored Sweden's lead. 

The advantage would hold until 37:33 when Strbak directed a point shot past Hugo Havelid, tying the game up heading into the third period. 

The Slovaks looked hungry, and at 44:22, they took the lead for the first time. Simon Nemec, one of the top prospects for the 2022 draft, scored off of a wrister from the point, only to have Dalibor Dvorsky score his tournament-leading seventh goal and 11th point just 59 seconds later. 

Sweden was getting desperate, but seven minutes into the third, Filip Bystedt scored on the breakaway to make it 4-3, bringing Sweden back close once again.

Russia Wins Group A in Convincing Victory Over Czechs

Despite an early deficit in the first period, Russia showed why they're the favorites to win gold with a 7-3 victory over the Czech Republic.

Russia will finish group play with a perfect record, highlighted by a 14-goal differential over three games. 

The Czechs had the first laugh, though. Matyas Sapovaliv opened the scoring with a rebound off of a Jiri Kulich shot at 8:28, fooling Sergei Ivanov for the 1-0 goal. But four-straight goals – including ones from big guns Matvei Michkov and Ivan Miroshnichenko – helped shape the course of the period. Ilya Rogovskii scored his first of two goals to make it 3-1 and Daniil Grigoryev added one himself to make it 4-1, with all four of Russia's goals coming at even strength in the first 4:07 of the second.

Ales Cech and Dominik Petr would score goals in the second and third period, respectively, but second goals from Michkov and Rogovskii, as well as one from Ivan Demidov, sealed the deal for the Russians.

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Three Stars

1. Cam Lund, F (USA): Four goals and five points? Finally, USA's offense was awoken and Lund was the biggest catalyst. 

2. Simon Nemec, D (SVK): Had the go-ahead goal for a little bit, but you can't help but get really excited about Nemec's potential if you're a bottom-five team in the NHL this coming year.

3. Ilya Rogovskii, F (RUS): He didn't need to be a difference-maker, but he generally had a fantastic game for a strong Russian squad. It can't always be the Michkov and Miroshnichenko show.

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