Following the completion of the preliminary round of the 81st annual 2017 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship in Cologne, Germany and Paris, France, three former Rochester Americans are looking to help their respective native country capture a medal.
CZECH REPUBLIC (1), SWITZERLAND (3)
Former Amerk forward Michal Repik and Team Czech Republic looks to end a four-year drought that the Czechs have failed to earn a medal dating back to 2014. It is the first time in the country’s history they have gone four straight years without a medal since 1993 in its first-ever appearance in the annual tournament.
The Czech’s suffered a 4-1 loss in the opening contest of the 2017 tournament to last year’s winner in Team Canada before winning its next five games only to suffer a 3-1 setback to close out the preliminary round on Tuesday.
Repik, who was a member of the Amerks from 2008-11, has three goals, which is tied for the team lead, and a pair of helpers through seven games. In addition to his five points, the 28-year-old has 15 shots and a plus/minus rating of plus-three, which are third and second-best among Czech forwards, respectively.
The Czech’s will open the quarterfinals versus the second-best finisher from Group A, Russia, on Thursday at 10:15 a.m. from in Paris, France.
RUSSIA (3), UNITED STATES (5)
Team Russia closed out its preliminary round with a 5-3 loss to the United States on Tuesday for its first loss of the tournament and finished second in Group A standings with 17 points. Russia began the three-week tournament with five straight victories as they outscored its opposition by 32-5, which included a 10-1 rout of Italy and three straight shutouts over Denmark, Slovakia and Latvia, most recently.
The Russians have dominated the international competition over the last decade, earning a total of nine medals over that span, including winning four goal medals since 2008. They will begin their quest for another medal as they open their medal round versus the Czechs tomorrow at 10:15 a.m. in the AccorHotels Arena in Paris.
Russian owned the top power-play as they were 13-for-24 (54.1%) in the first seven games of the event and ranked first in overall scoring efficiency as they scored 35 goals while allowing just 10.
Former Amerk Evgenii Dadonov has paced the four former Amerks in the tournament with seven points (3+4) through seven games and is currently tied for 18th among all scorers in the 16-team field entering the quarterfinal round. Dadonov, who’s appearing in his fourth trip to the annual event, is eyeing his fourth straight medal after earning gold in 2014, silver in 2015 and bronze in last year’s event. Of Russia’s six wins this year, the Chelyabinsk, Russia, native has notched the game-winning goal in two of those contests to tie for second in the tournament.
Additionally, Russia owns the top scorers in the tournament in Artemi Panarin and Vadim Shipachyov, who have 13 and 12 points, respectively. The duo also leads all skaters with 10 assists in seven games. The Russians also have the top netminder in Andrei Vasilevski, who’s played in the majority of the tournament thus far, and leads all goaltenders in wins (5), shutouts (2) and ranks fourth in save percentage (.935).
Russia medaled at four straight events between 2007 and 2010, including back-to-back first-place finishes in 2008 and 2009, respectively, and is in pursuit of its 10th medal in 13 years.
LATVIA (3), GERMANY (4)
Despite winning their first three games of the event, their best start since 1997, Latvia suffered defeats in its final four games of the tournament, missing out on a chance to qualify for quarterfinals. Facing a must-win situation yesterday against host Germany, Latvia came back from a 2-0 deficit before taking a 3-2 lead with less than five minutes remaining in regulation but the Germans knotted the game at 3-3 to force overtime. Following a scoreless extra session, a shootout was needed to determine a winner. After the first three rounds, neither team was able to find the winner until Frederik Tiffels sniped a shot five-hole to clinch Germany’s spot in the quarterfinals.
With the early exit from the tournament, Latvia finished 10th this year, their highest finish in the last three years after placing 13th the past two years. Latvia has yet to medal or place higher than seventh in since rejoining the circuit in 1993, marking the longest period of futility of any IIHF sanctioned nation participating in the sport of hockey.
Former Amerk Janis Sprukts concluded the tournament with two goals, which were tied for second among Latvians, and one assist in six games. Zemgus Girgensons, meanwhile, finished with a team-worst minus-6 plus/minus rating while notching a pair of points (1+1) in seven games.
LATVIA (0), RUSSIA (5)
UNITED STATES (5), RUSSIA (3)
Despite no direct ties to Rochester, worth mentioning is the United States’ roster, which features Buffalo Sabres second-year superstar Jack Eichel and highly touted goaltending prospect Cal Petersen, the Sabres’ fifth-round pick (129th overall) in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, who recently completed his junior season at the University of Norte Dame.
After falling 2-1 in the opening game of the tournament to Germany, the Americans won their last six games of the preliminary round to finish atop Group A with a 6-0-0-1 record and 18 points.
Eichel, Buffalo’s first-round selection (second overall) in 2015, makes his second appearance in three years for an American squad that hasn’t won gold at the annual event since 1960 and has medaled just four times – all bronze – in the last 20 years. Through seven games, Eichel has registered 30 shots on net to lead all players and notched five assists, which ties for second among Americans.
Petersen, 22, has yet to appear in any contest for Team USA while serving in back-up role behind NHL veterans Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings and Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets.
The United States plays its quarterfinal game in Cologne on Thursday against Finland, the fourth-place finisher from Group B, at 10:15 a.m.
UNITED STATES (6), SLOVAKIA (1)