One of the most overlooked hockey tournaments during the spring is the IIHF Worlds, taking place for the next few weeks in Slovakia. It’s understandable – mostly every hockey fan tunes into the Stanley Cup playoffs. For teams out of the race though, it provides a chance to watch some of their players still compete.
The New Jersey Devils have seven players participating in the tournament. Below are their names and how each of them are doing so far:
1. Travis Zajac, Canada (3 GP, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 pts)
Zajac ended group play with three points, a strong showing for the Devils top-line center. Canada coach Ken Hitchcock named Zajac an alternate captain before the tournament started. In today’s 4-3 win over Switzerland, Zajac recorded two assists – including the primary assist on Alex Pietrangelo’s game-winning goal. Canada finished group play with eight points and won Group B.
2. Patrik Elias, Czech Republic (2 GP, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 pts)
The Devils alternate captain still has unfinished business in international play. Despite his two Stanley Cup championships, he has yet to win a gold medal in international competition. He’s helped lead the Czechs to two wins, and they’ll finish group play against Finland tomorrow. He’s been featured in stories both on the IIHF website and NHL.com.
3. Anssi Salmela, Finland (2 GP)
Salmela has yet to record any points for Finland during this year’s world championships. If you remember, Salmela injured his ACL playing in last year’s tournament. Hopefully that won’t be his only highlight from his recent international play.
4. Ilya Kovalchuk, Russia (2 GP, 2 assists, 2 PIMS)
Kovalchuk has yet to light the lamp for Russia, but did record two assists. The Russians, who lost last year in the playoff round, 7-3, to Canada, will look to once again win the championships. They’re without Alexander Ovechkin, so Kovalchuk will be looked at to produce offensively.
5. Mattias Tedenby, Sweden (2 GP, 2 PIMS)
The Devils rookie right-winger has yet to find the lamp in this year’s world championship. In two games he’s put only three shots on net. The Swedes, 1-1 in the tournament so far, take on the US squad tomorrow. Tedenby will get to face some familiar faces in the final game of group play.
6. Nick Palmieri, United States (2 GP, 2 goals, 1 assist, 3 pts)
Palmieri is tied with both Zajac and Elias for the points lead between Devils players. He’s been a solid producer, helping the Devils climb back from a 2-0 deficit yesterday against Norway. He tallied two goals in the third period – including the game winner – to keep the US undefeated during group play.
7. Mark Fayne, United States (2 GP, 1 assist, 1 pt)
Fayne’s hasn’t been as good as Palmieri, but he’s produced for the United States. He’s averaged just over 10 minutes of ice time a game for the undefeated US squad.
Here’s some news from this year’s IIHF World Championship:
USA Avoids Relegation
T.J. Oshie (St. Louis Blues) scored a sudden-death shootout goal to help Team USA defeat Team Italy, 3-2, and avoid relegation yesterday.
Brandon Dubinsky (New York Rangers) opened the scoring at 11:45 of the first period. With Team USA on its second powerplay, Dubinsky ripped a slap shot that beat Italian goaltender Daniel Bellissimo high on the blocker side for his third goal of the tournament.
Team Italy fought back, tying the game at the 14-minute mark of the first. Giulio Scandella skated the past the Team USA defense, moving in alone on a breakaway. Scandella put home the puck, tying the game and ending Team USA’s shutout streak at 154 minutes.
The Italians seemed poised for the upset, taking the lead 6:49 into the third period. Stefano Margoli took a pass at center and made his way through Team USA’s defense. He took a wrist shot that beat Team USA goalie Scott Clemmensen (Florida Panthers).
Ryan Potulny (Edmonton Oilers) scored the equalizer, tying the game at 11:08 of the third period. With Team USA on a powerplay, Potulny crashed the net, putting a rebound past Bellissimo.
David Moss (Calgary Flames) almost gave the Americans a late victory with a breakaway chance. Moss tried a backhanded shot, but Bellissimo kicked out the right pad to block the shot to the corner.
By heading to overtime, Team USA clinched its spot in the IIHF’s upper division. The win helped relegate Italy to the federation’s second tier.
Team USA finished 13th overall in the tournament.
Russia vs. Canada – Part Two
The last time these two teams met, the Russians were on the wrong end of a drubbing.
Team Canada defeated the Russians, 7-3, in this year’s Winter Olympics en-route to winning the gold medal. Team Russia, sporting such NHL stars as Alexander Ovechkin (Washington Capitals) and Ilya Kovalchuk (New Jersey Devils) didn’t medal.
The rivalry continues to grow, and the quarterfinals match will be no different. Team Russia is undefeated in this year’s tournament, winning the first six games. They also have a 25 game IIHF World Championship winning streak, which started in the 2007 bronze medal game against – you guessed it – Canada.
Team Canada brought a young team to Germany, and its still trying to gel. They’ve lost their last two coming into the game against the Russians.
When asked about the matchup, Kovalchuk said he wished it would come later in the tournament.
“Russia-Canada, it is too bad we meet in the quarterfinals but it will be a big match for us,” said Kovalchuk, the captain of Team Russia. “It is always nice when we face each other in the final but it seems the last couple of big tournaments we have faced each other in the quarterfinals.”
Here are some notes from the IIHF’s World Championships:
Team USA In Relegation Round
Team USA, featuring defenseman Andy Greene, hasn’t had the best showing at this year’s World Championships. The team, which didn’t win in the opening round, will now play in the relegation round of the tournament. If Team USA cannot avoid elimination, they’ll move down to IIHF’s Division 1, which would knock them out of next year’s tournament.
The USA has really struggled on the powerplay, tallying once on seven chances so far this tournament. That’s only 14.28%, which has probably helped add to their winless record.
Devils’ defenseman Andy Greene hasn’t done very much for the national team. He’s averaged 15:08 of ice time through three games, but Greene still doesn’t have a goal or an assist. His +/- rating is -2, and he’s only recorded two shots on net.
The team will play its next game Saturday.
Russia Undefeated In World Championship
Team Russia, which features Ilya Kovalchuk, is currently 2-0 with six points in the World Championships. The team defeated Kazakhstan, 4-1, on Tuesday to move closer to the qualification round.
Kovalchuk has looked good in the tournament, scoring on a breakaway in their game of Kazakhstan. With an average of 15:34 of ice time in the tournament, Kovalchuk has put three shots on net. He has the one goal, but no assists so far, and his +/- rating sits at 1.
The Russian team, which failed to medal at the Olympics, sports several prominent NHL players, including Alexander Ovechkin and Alexander Semin. As Tom Gulitti explained, many Russian players promised each other that they’d play in the World Championships to avenge their poor showing at the Olympics.