World Championship Roundup: Czechs Win Comeback, Switzerland Rebounds

Sweden gave up a two-goal lead in the third period to lose to the Czech Republic, Switzerland crushed Slovakia and Finland and USA played near-perfect games. All that and more in Thursday's recap from the men's World Hockey Championship.
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IIHF men's world championship

USA's Determined Effort Enough to Beat Latvia

USA's strong tournament continues with a convincing 4-2 win over Latvia.

With the win, USA sits third in Group B with three games to go, a point behind Finland and tied with Germany. The loss saw Latvia surrender the most goals it has allowed in the tournament after two shutouts and a 3-2 loss to Kazakhstan. 

The Americans knew they didn't want to chase Latvia early, and with a goal at 1:06, USA started the game off as well as you'd hope for. Matt Tennyson's shot would go right through the legs of Matiss Kivlenieks after the goaltender lost his stick trying to poke the puck away earlier to make it 1-0. 

But it wouldn't last long, as at 5:00 on the two-man advantage, Miks Indrasis answered back after catching Cal Petersen cheating on the play, moving out of position to allow the puck fly cleanly over the glove.

The two teams would trade goals once more in the period. At 14:46, grinder Brian Boyle scored his first goal of the tournament after getting off the bench and sending a knuckle puck past Kivlenieks. who was caught off guard after not expecting the shot. Latvia responded 1:59 after when Renars Krastenbergs found himself with the loose puck after a scoring chance from Oskars Batina and roofed it over Petersen for the 2-2 goal. 

But from there, USA took over. The Americans outshot Latvia 14-4 in the second period and left the frame with a 4-2 lead that would set the tone for the rest of the game. At 31:45, USA's top line of Jason Robertson, Conor Garland and Trevor Moore all touched the puck on the play, with Moore beating Kivlenieks with a wrister to put USA back ahead. 

Two minutes later, top 2021 NHL draft prospect Matty Beniers scored his first of the tournament after getting the puck behind the net and rushing back out in front to score on his own rebound. The goal would end the scoring for the day, with both goaltenders holding their own the rest of the way.

Switzerland Cruises to Easy Win Over Slovakia

Switzerland continues its run as a medal contender after beating Slovakia 6-1 on Thursday afternoon in Riga.

With the win, Switzerland put themselves in second place in Group A with nine points, tying Slovakia, but taking the advantage based on the tie-breaker

Slovakia found themselves behind the ball early after Kristian Pospisil got a game misconduct for charging at 6:53 in the game. On the ensuing five-minute power play for Switzerland, Raphael Diaz's shot from the point beat Julius Hudacek glove side to make it 1-0, forcing Slovakia to trail a Swiss team that, for the most part, has been tough to break down.

Slovakia kept things tight thanks to good goaltending from Hudacek in the first period, but it started to get out of hand after that. Just 25 seconds into the middle stanza, Sven Andrighetto's blast on the power-play set the tone for the period, giving Switzerland a 2-0 lead. 

Five minutes later, Romain Loeffel stood at the top of the right circle and crushed a one-timer into the back of the net to make it 3-0. Gregory Hofmann would add another goal with four minutes left in the period to make it 4-0. Michal Kristof would eventually end Reto Berra's shutout in the third, but Timo Meier and Philipp Kurashev would score to make it 6-1. Hofmann and Loeffel would cap off the effort for Switzerland to make it 8-1 in the most complete effort by the Swiss.

Sweden Blows Third Period Lead, Czechs Win First Regulation Game

At one point, it didn't look like the Czechs have much to offer. Instead, the team scored four unanswered goals in a strong third-period effort to beat Sweden 4-2.

Had the won for Sweden stood, they would have had six points and fourth spot in Group A. Now, they're last in the group and the Czech Republic, with its first regulation win, is fourth.

The Swedes struck first 12 minutes in when Andreas Wingerli passed the puck back to Max Friberg at speed. Friberg deliberately shot it low so Wingerli could tap it in and it worked, beating Simon Hrubec for the 1-0 goal. Three minutes later, Rickard Rakell used extra space on the power play to make it 2-0, taking any potential momentum away from the Czechs.

It looked like Sweden was going to walk away with the win, but the third period was anything but pretty for the men in yellow. At 41:10, Jakub Vrana's hard wrist shot zipped over Swedish netminder Adam Reideborn on the power play to make it 2-1. Then, while on another power play, Jan Kovar finished off a passing play from Jiri Sekac and Dominik Kubalik to tie the game up. 

The Swedes started to get desperate, but the Czechs would take the 3-2 lead at 48:17 when Lukas Klok - who was in the box for Sweden's second goal of the night - sent a wrister of his own behind Reideborn for the 3-2 goal. Jakub Flek would score an empty netter with under two minutes to go to seal the deal, winning the first multi-goal comeback of the tournament.

Finland Shuts Out Italy

There was never really a doubt as to who the favorite to win would be, with Finland holding on for a 3-0 shuout victory over Italy to round up the action in Latvia.

The Finns moved into sole posession of first place in Group B with a 3-0-0-1 record in four games. Italy remains the only team to fail to record a point, effectively taking them out of quarter-final contention.

Tony Sund got things going with a point shot on the power play, blasting a one-timed slap shot past a screened Justin Fazio to make it 1-0 – his first national team goal. Arttu Ruotsalainen would score his first of the tournament two minutes later when, on a 2-on-1, Niko Ojamaki past the puck around a sprawling Italian defenseman, with Ruotsalainen finishing the play off with a goal near Fazio's blocker. 

The Italians scored next, but to the deflation of the bench, it wouldn't count. Luca Frigo beat Harri Sateri after deflecting Peter Spornberger's shot from the blueline, but Frigo's stick was above the crossbar and the goal was waved off. 

Sund scored his second goal a few minutes later on another laser beam of a shot to rob further salt in the wound. It was the final goal of the game, with Fazio standing tall in the Italian net with 33 saves total, but it wasn't enough to steal a victory.

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Three Stars

1. Gregory Hofmann, F (SUI): Two goals and two assists for Hofmann in one of the best international games of his career.

2. Tony Sund, D (FIN): The 25-year-old San Jose Sharks prospect scored his first two IIHF goals on absolute blasts.

3. Brian Boyle, F (USA): Not exactly known for scoring, but broke the ice and also contributed to Matty Beniers' first tournament goal.

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May 28 Schedule

Kazakhstan vs. Canada - 9:15 AM ET
Sweden vs. Great Britain - 9:15 AM ET
Denmark vs. Belarus - 1:15 PM ET
Latvia vs. Norway - 1:15 PM ET

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