Slovakia Ties Canada 3-3; Czechs, Russians Win in World Hockey
VIENNA, Austria (AP) _ Slovakia, fighting for hockey recognition since the country separated three years ago from its Czech neighbors, got it on Sunday, opening day of the World Ice Hockey Championships.
The Slovaks tied Canada 3-3 with 2:03 left in the game when Jozef Dano scored the tying goal, a result that’s bound to inspire the players from the small central European country of five million.
``The Slovaks had our respect, they had it before the first puck was dropped,″ said Canadian coach Tom Renney. ``They’re a team that comes at you for all the right reasons. They don’t seem to fear any opponent.″
If the Slovaks won a moral victory, their Czech Republic neighbors got a real victory, a 3-1 win over Sweden in the day’s other key match. In the other two games, Russia defeated Germany in a tight-checking 2-1 game, and defending champion Finland drew with Norway 1-1.
Canada fell behind 2-0, but rallied to go ahead 3-2 when Travis Green of the New York Islanders scored what appeared to be the winning goal late in the third period. That just set the stage for Dano.
Slovakia jumped on Canada goalie Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils for a 2-0 lead on second-period goals by Lubomir Sekeras and Rene Pucher. Canada cut the lead to 2-1 when Jeff Friesen of the San Jose Sharks scored late in the period.
Green scored his first of two goals to tie the game 2-2 with 9:29 left when he picked a loose puck out of mid-air and deflected it past Slovak goalie Jaromir Dragan.
``Our play was maybe a little bit disjointed,″ said Renney, whose team is composed almost exclusively of NHL players from clubs that missed the Stanley Cup playoffs.
`It’s a question of fitting the pieces together and for some of these players to get an idea how good the play is in the world championships,″ he added.
The Czech Republic’s 3-1 win over Sweden had a fast finish with all four goals coming in the final period.
Sweden, runners-up last year to Finland, went ahead on a goal by Tommy Sjoedlin at 8:01 of the final period. But the Czechs tied the game 28 seconds later when Robert Reichel scored on a scramble in front of the net.
Martin Prochazka added the second goal _ and winner _ at 13:54 and Viktor Ujcik insured the Czech victory at 17:43 on an assist from Jiri Kucera.
``A victory over Sweden is beautiful, but it means nothing for the outcome of the whole tournament,″ Czech coach Ludek Bukac said. ``We used to lose to Sweden in the final stages of games like this, but today we were lucky and won in the same manner.″
Russia had a narrow 2-1 escape against a German team fielding about a half-dozen naturalized players. Alexei Yashin of the NHL Ottawa Senators scored the winner at 14:50 on the second period, just 39 seconds after Germany’s Peter Draisaitl tied the game.
Russia, which won the title three years ago but has failed to medal the last two times, went ahead on a first-period power-play goal from Devils center Sergei Brylin.
``Speaking honestly, we didn’t expect so much pressure from this game,″ Russian coach Vladimir Vassiliev said. ``Our NHL players have only been over here four days _ that’s the hardest day for adjusting to the time difference.″
Russia, winners a record-22 times, is stocked with about a dozen NHL players. Clubs like the Czech Republic and Sweden are fielding four or five.