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Czechs shock Sweden with 4-3 victory in quarterfinals

Thursday, 05.17.2012 / 3:33 PM
By Emerald Gao - chicagoblackhawks.com / The Blackhawks Blog
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Czechs shock Sweden with 4-3 victory in quarterfinals
Michael Frolik and the Czech Republic defeated Sweden 4-3 to move onto the semifinals of the IIHF World Championship.

On a day where Canada was eliminated by Slovakia with 2:28 left in the game, and Finland's game-winner over Team USA came with just 9 seconds left in the clock, the Czech Republic made it a trifecta of last-gasp results in the quarterfinal round of the IIHF World Championship, beating host country Sweden 4-3 with less than a minute left in regulation. With the victory, Blackhawks winger Michael Frolik and the Czechs will move onto a semifinal showdown against Slovakia on Saturday.

The Czechs and Swedes last met in the second game of the preliminary round, and Sweden walked away with a 4-1 win. Loui Eriksson scored Sweden's first goal in that contest and again opened the scoring this afternoon, getting on the scoresheet just 7:10 into the first period. The Czech Republic answered through Petr Nedved's redirection at 11:50, then took a surprising 2-1 lead through Jiri Novotny's goal late in the frame.

Sweden emerged from the first intermission with a purpose, building momentum through their forecheck. Czech goaltender Jakub Kovar made crucial saves to maintain the one-goal margin, but received some relief halfway through the period, when Martin Erat converted on the power play to increase the Czech Republic's lead to 3-1.

Sweden, however, would not go quietly into the Stockholm night.

In the final minute of the second period, Henrik Zetterberg made a power move along the boards, escaped defensive pressure, and converted his shot to make it 3-2.

In the first minute of the third period, Sweden completed the comeback with a goal by defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, who had missed the last six games with an injury sustained in the tournament opener.

With the score tied once again, the two teams saw plenty of action but traded few chances for the majority of the final period, and the game seemed destined for overtime.

Then, as the clock approached the half-minute mark, Czech forward Milan Michalek stripped Nicklas Kronwall as the defenseman attempted to clear the puck up the wall. Michalek drove to the net and roofed a wrister from close range to shock the partisan crowd and give the Czechs a  4-3 lead, one that proved decisive with just 29 seconds remaining in regulation.

Sweden pulled goalie Viktor Fasth, but time dwindled quickly and the hosts were unable to conjure up a miracle. The two teams have eliminated one another from five consecutive World Championships dating back to 2008, and this year was no different, with the Czechs emerging victorious.

Czech winger Frolik, who had several prime scoring opportunities throughout the tilt, was tied for the team lead with six shots on goal in 13:15 of ice time.

The Blackhawks' trio of representatives from Sweden had strong showings at the tournament. Niklas Hjalmarsson finished with three assists and an even plus-minus rating in eight appearances, averaging 19:19 of ice time per game in his first tour of duty with Team Sweden. Marcus Kruger contributed five points (3G, 2A) with a +3 rating in eight games, and was named Best Player in the tournament opener, a 3-1 win over Norway. Viktor Stalberg, also representing his country for the first time, recorded four points (3G, 1A) and a +4 rating, and was named Best Player in Sweden's 5-2 victory over Germany in the preliminary round.