|05-12-2005, 09:26 PM||#1|
lets go partner
Join Date: Oct 2004
Vokoun Denies Roach: Czechs edge USA in shootout
By Lucas Aykroyd
Just like last year's quarter-final, it came down to a one-on-one confrontation between Czech goalie Tomas Vokoun and USA defenseman Andy Roach. This time, however, Vokoun won the battle, and his Czech team grabbed a 3-2 shootout victory that puts them into the semi-finals.
Martin Rucinsky was the sole player to score during the shootout, overtime having settled nothing.
"We set our goal this year: we want to go to the finals," said Vokoun. "[The Americans] knocked us out at home last year. It's always sweet when you win a close game. It sometimes feels better than winning 5-1. It was a great feeling for us."
The Czechs hope to carry their momentum into a Saturday meeting in Vienna with the winner of the Sweden-Switzerland quarter-final.
Tears for Tomas Vokoun in 2004...triumph in 2005
"Roach takes penalty shots all year long in the leagues he plays in," said USA Head Coach Peter Laviolette. "That was a consideration. When you're good at penalty shots, you take what's given to you as you approach the goal. It didn't happen for Andy today."
"Whenever it goes to a shootout, anything can happen," said Roach. "With the ice the way it was today, the shootout percentages are definitely in favor of the goaltender. I knew the move I made last year [on Vokoun] wouldn't work this year."
In the first two periods, the Czechs often dominated play but never seemed to hit their full stride. The Americans, meanwhile, played smart, defensive, opportunistic hockey and forced the Czechs to rev it up in the final 20 minutes to come back from a 2-0 deficit.
Doug Weight and his USA teammates listen dejectedly to the Czech anthem
It was an intense, emotional contest, with the Czechs outshooting the USA 53-27.
Rick DiPietro got the start in goal for the USA, despite Ty Conklin's big wins in last year's Final Round run to the bronze, but the 23-year-old from the New York Islanders performed heroically to keep his team in the game. The ongoing physical battle between the two giants, Czech superstar Jaromir Jagr and USA defenseman Hal Gill, was another saga to behold.
Mike Modano and Mark Parrish opened up the lead for the USA in the first and second period respectively before Marek Zidlicky and Jaroslav Spacek replied for the Czechs in the third.
"A 2-0 lead is a tough lead to keep," said Modano. "Vokoun played well. He made some great saves. We had some opportunities. [The Czechs] are patient and they kind of stick with their game plan."
In the opening seconds, Jagr blitzed down right wing, accepting a pass from Prospal on a 2-on-1 and zinging a hard wrister off DiPietro's blocker. The USA pressured deep in the Czech zone but didn't seriously inconvenience Vokoun.
In the fourth minute, Jagr had another beautiful chance, carrying the puck over the USA blueline, deking his way right through Gill, and firing a shot high and wide of DiPietro's glove side.
The teams continued to feel each other out, including a stretch of four-on-four play. When the Czechs got their first power play after a too many men on the ice penalty to the USA, they couldn't muster anything.
Shortly after that penalty expired, the Americans opened the scoring on a pretty goal off the rush at 9:18. From the faceoff circle, Erik Cole fed Mike Modano, who streaked right past Frantisek Kaberle and popped the puck through Vokoun's legs.
With under three minutes left, the Czechs got another juicy odd-man break when, just inside the USA blueline, David Vyborny flipped a little pass to an unchecked Jan Hlavac, who zipped a wrister into DiPietro's mitt. Next, Jiri Slegr unleashed a howitzer from the center point that DiPietro stopped despite Jagr's screening in front. DiPietro was equally sharp on a big Marek Zidlicky drive from the same spot, and thus the period ended with the USA leading, although the Czechs had a territorial advantage and outshot their opponents 13-8.
In the second, the Czechs came out buzzing, but initially found it difficult to get much going, with the Americans playing five men back deep in their zone. Erik Cole had the USA's best early chance of the period when he bulled his way around Tomas Kaberle on the left side, and cut in for a shot that Vokoun halted with his left pad, while Kaberle hauled Cole down and got dinged for holding at 4:39.
A minute and nine seconds later, the American PP capitalized on a slick three-way passing play. From the right side, Brett Hauer slid the puck to Zach Parise in the right faceoff circle, who backhanded it to the slot where a hard-charging Mark Parrish whacked it up and over Vokoun, making it 2-0.
Rucinsky replicated Jagr's first-period deke on Gill and the giant blueliner hauled him down at 8:33 when the Czech forward got into the clear. Freed of Gill for a change, Jagr ran the Czech power play from the sideboards, teeing up shots and feeding Zidlicky at the point, but the resilience of the USA defenders and DiPietro's quickness kept the Czechs at bay.
After the penalty expired, Doug Weight put on a display of stickhandling deep in the Czech zone, creating chances around Vokoun. Then, it was Jagr's turn, fighting off Gill and past Modano to the front of the net, but being denied by DiPietro on a one-handed fake.
In the last five minutes of the second period,the Czechs started to really hem the Americans in, but DiPietro was there, covering his angles, taking away the bottom of the net, and flashing the glove when necessary, whether confronting Jagr, Prospal, or Petr Sykora.
Asked about his team's mindset heading into the final 20 minutes, Vokoun said: "You hope, and then you try to do everything you can. You try to battle hard. We knew if we were going to score that first goal, we would have a chance. That was a big momentum shift for us. I think we dominated the third period."
Jiri Slegr had a glorious opportunity in the slot to start it off, but he blasted it hard off DiPietro's mask and high into the mesh behind the USA goal. The game was delayed while the mask got repairs, yet the goalie himself seemed none the worse for wear.
At 1:40 of the third, the pro-Czech crowd erupted when Zidlicky's point shot eluded DiPietro. The American goalie requested and got another mask immediately after the goal was scored.
Once again, the Czechs began to press. Spacek hammered a point shot off Parrish's leg, and the American bravely stayed on to get the puck out of his zone before going off on a line change. Rucinsky broke through the USA defense again and Aaron Miller slid into DiPietro while trying to take down the Czech forward at 5:56. DiPietro got stretched out awkwardly on the play and sought attention from the trainer while visibly in pain, but would continue in goal.
Finally the Czechs frustrated DiPietro into taking a roughing penalty, and this time they made him pay. At 9:50, the relentless Czech pressure paid off. On a tic-tac-toe passing play, Vaclav Prospal moved the puck from behind the American net and ended up getting it to Spacek in the right faceoff circle, who fired it high into the open side of the net. After the goal, DiPietro crouched as if in pain in the corner while the crowd roared.
With Gill and Jagr off with coincidental minors, the Americans got a 4-on-3 advantage when Pavel Kubina swung his stick and took a tripping penalty on an American forward at 11:43. Weight and Andy Roach worked the puck cleverly at the points, and Vokoun had to be sharp to contain a point blast from the latter. Mike Knuble was set up by Modano wide open by Vokoun's right post, but fanned on his attempt.
After the Czechs survived that American man advantage, the game turned into a tight sparring match, with little room to move on the ice. The teams ran out regulation time deadlocked at 2-2, and it was off to the races in 4-on-4 overtime, with the beautiful tactical hockey that typifies these IIHF extra sessions. And there were a ton of great chances.
John-Michael Liles got the first good chance for the USA in the opening minute of the extra stanza, but Vokoun sharply steered the drive off his chest and into the corner. Then Rucinsky broke in and rattled one off the iron from a bad angle. Vokoun sucked up a point blast from Brett Hauer.
Martin Rucinsky hobbled off after taking a stick next to the Czech bench, and Vokoun alertly halted another Liles blast from the center point. Then it was Andy Roach bursting in fast from the left side for an attempt that the Czech goalie ended up smothering. Ales Hemsky stickhandled in from the corner to DiPietro's right, but couldn't stuff it in. Vokoun gloved down a Gill wrister, and DiPietro was equally attentive when Rucinsky zinged one from the right faceoff circle.
At 7:46, Erik Cole got up slowly after being hit into the end boards as part of a sequence that saw Liles barely miss from close in in the slot. Shortly afterwards, Hemsky's drive was kicked out smartly by DiPietro with his left pad.
Mike Knuble tried to force his way to the front of the net, and Marek Zidlicky hauled him down with 27 seconds left in overtime. The call was so blatantly necessary that the Czech fans didn't even bother to whistle in derision until the USA power play started. Roach had another chance to be the hero, but his final point blast was denied by Vokoun's quick left pad.
"I think they played better than we did in overtime," Vokoun summarized. "They have some big, fast guys. In overtime, that gave them a little advantage."
So it was back to the shootout again, for the second time in as many years between these teams in the quarter-finals. In the stands, the Czech fans bounced up and down chanting in support of their team, while the Czech players locked arms over shoulders on the bench. The Americans huddled grimly at their bench after winning the coin flip to take the first shot.
Mike Knuble kicked things off. Vokoun came out to challenge, and Knuble's shot deflected off his pads into the corner.
Next up was Martin Rucinsky. He came in slowly, then speeded up, then deked DiPietro on the backhand as the goalie went for the pokecheck, making it 1-0.
Doug Weight looked to have Vokoun beat but his shot rattled off the right post.
Jan Hlavac also rattled it off the iron and DiPietro grabbed the puck.
Mike Modano, amid deafening whistles, tried to shoot high, but Vokoun went down, stacking the pads and stopping Modano, much like Tommy Salo's 1994 save on Paul Kariya that gave Sweden Olympic gold.
Jaromir Jagr came in and tried some tricky deking, but DiPietro stopped him with the right pad.
Mark Parrish came in and shot high and wide to Vokoun's stick side.
Ales Hemsky came in with some quick moves, but was pokechecked by DiPietro.
Andy Roach was next up and he had to score or the USA would be eliminated. Roach made a close-in backhand attempt that was snared by Vokoun's glove, and the Czechs were triumphant.
"You just don't know," said Modano. "It's the end of the game, and there's a lot of snow. You don't know what the puck's going to do. It's hard to go in there and have some confidence with the puck."
"We were the lucky ones this year," said Vokoun.
Rick DiPietro was named the Player of the Game for the USA, while Martin Rucinsky took the honors for the Czechs.
The three best players of the tournament for the USA were named after the game: Mark Parrish, Mike Knuble, and Rick DiPietro.