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Czechs, Canada Win at Hockey Worlds

May 1, 1998

ZURICH, Switzerland (AP) _ Defending champion Canada, trying to erase the sour memory of its Winter Olympics collapse, beat Austria 5-1 on Friday in the first round of the World Hockey Championships.

In the Group A opener at Basel, Olympic champion Czech Republic routed newcomer Japan 8-2.

In later Group A action in Basel, Belarus’ Oleg Romanov and Aleksandr Andrievsky silenced a boisterous, flag-waving group of German fans by scoring third-period goals for a 4-2 victory over Germany.

Veteran Dieter Hegen scored both goals for Germany, the second on the first penalty shot of the tournament to Germany ahead 2-1 early in the second period. Igor Matushkin tied it for Belarus midway through the session.

Jozef Dano and Branislav Janos scored four minutes apart in the first period and Slovakia beat Italy 2-1.

Italy jumped to a 1-0 lead on a power-play goal by Mario Chitarroni 3:22 into the first period. Slovakia evened the score just over three minutes later on Dano’s breakaway. Janos scored the winner at 10:04.

Team Canada got its world championship bid off to a rough start taking three minors in the first eight minutes.

But even penalties were not enough to keep Canada from getting on the scoreboard first. Keith Primeau scoring 15:05 into the first when he pounded home a pass from Olympic teammate Rob Zamuner.

``It was an important win,″ said Primeau, the team’s captain. ``The first match is always a danger game. It doesn’t matter who we play, they always seem to be all fired up to play against us.″

Just 70 seconds later, Ray Whitney re-directed a shot from Travis Green to increase Canada’s advantage to 2-0.

After a scoreless second period, the Canadians charged into the third, with Eric Daze and Gord Murphy each blasting home slap shots from the point in the first four minutes.

Austria, newly promoted to the A pool, scored its goal on a power play at 8:07, when Simon Wheeldon took advantage of some confusion in front of the Canadian net to ruin Felix Potvin’s shutout bid.

Bryan McCabe scored the final goal for Canada at 14:03.

The Canadians spent 18 minutes in the penalty box, causing coach Andy Murray to rail about the officiating.

``That was brutal refereeing, ″ he said. ``If they want the European teams to win, then fine, don’t invite us. We are a big team and we play strong but we weren’t that aggressive.

``They don’t have to give Canada a penalty just because we’re scoring,″ Murray said. ``There was no reason for it today. It was unfair.″

With a history of receiving countless penalties in past championships, Murray said the team had decided ahead of time it would not argue with the referees, but would just head for the box.

``If we’d lost and I was complaining, it wouldn’t be taken seriously,″ Murray said. ``I just want to send a message to the organizers.″

Radek Belohlav and Pavel Patera, who set up the only goal in the Olympic final in Nagano against Russia, each scored two goals for the Czechs.

It took the Czechs only 3:06 to take the lead as Belohlav, skating in alone during a power play, beat goalie Dusty Imoo with a low shot. Belohlav, who didn’t play in the Olympics, added a second goal seven minutes later.

``We scored early and controlled the game from the very beginning,″ Czech assistant Slavomir Lener said. ``We expected that we might have been in trouble had we not played seriously. It didn’t happen so it was good for us. It was a good start.″

Ladislav Lubina, Jiri Dopita, David Moravec and Frantisek Kucera scored the other goals for the Czechs in the half-empty St. Jakobshalle.

Ryan Haruo Kuwabara and Shin Yahata scored for Japan.

The Czechs dressed only 16 players for the game and have 17 on the roster, leaving six spots open for players whose teams are eliminated in the first round of the NHL playoffs. That could mean more Olympic gold medalists on the squad that now consists of 11 champions from Nagano.

Japan is playing in hockey’s elite pool for the first time thanks to the expansion to 16 teams this year.

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