Thursday, February 15, 2018

Blaney, Elliott take victories in Can-Am Duels at Daytona

 Ryan Blaney held off Team Penske teammate Joey Logano to win Thursday night’s first 150-mile qualifying race in the Can-Am Duel at Daytona International Speedway, but the story of the race was the list of prominent cars that did not survive until the checkered flag.

In the second Duel, Chase Elliott grabbed the lead on Lap 27 of 60 and held it the rest of the way, beating Kevin Harvick to the finish line by .081 seconds. Erik Jones survived an early spin to run third, followed by Clint Bowyer and Kyle Busch.
Blaney finished the first Duel .207 seconds ahead of fast-closing Logano in the race that set the order of the inside row for Sunday’s Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET on FOX), the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season opener. Blaney will start third behind pole winner Alex Bowman, who rode conservatively in the back in the first Duel and finished 14th.
Logano, who charged past Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. at the stripe for the runner-up spot, will start fifth in the 500, a race he won in 2015.
“It’s nice to get the year started off well,” said Blaney, who got a strong push from Wallace during the decisive two-lap shootout after a Lap 59 wreck sent the race to overtime. “It’s not the (Daytona) 500. You never know what can happen on Sunday. We came close in (last Sunday’s) Clash, and I didn’t make a good move and I kind of lost that race.
“I learned a little bit, and I thought about that forever. I thought we learned a little bit from our mistakes. It’s so nice to bring the 12 car back to victory lane. Hopefully, we can make it another one here on Sunday. That would be the one that counts.”
Jimmie Johnson, however, one of the first casualties of a 60-lap event that produced four cautions. On Lap 9, Johnson cut his right rear tire and spun entering Turn 1, rocketing up the track and slamming into the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford of Aric Almirola.
Both cars were destroyed in the wreck, in which the No. 19 Toyota of Daniel Suarez also suffered damage—but not enough to eliminate him from the race. Johnson and Almirola will start from the rear of the field in backup cars in the Great American Race.
“The car started to shake a little bit entering the tri-oval,” Johnson said of the accident. “That’s why I pulled down. I was kind of shocked that I had the shake, and knew it was that soft tire shake coming from the right side.
“As I entered the tri-oval, it finally went flat and hooked me around and into to Aric, unfortunately. Terrible way to start …”
Almirola was a hapless victim of Johnson’s misfortune.
“There was nothing I could do,” said Almirola, who was competing for the first time in his new ride with SHR. “I saw him pull out of line. I thought he was just checking up, but he came back across the track. It’s disappointing.
“Not the way I wanted to start Speedweeks with our Smithfield Ford Fusion, but we will get another car out and get ready for the rest of the weekend. The beauty of it is that it is just the 150s, and it wasn’t the Daytona 500.”
Advance Auto Parts Clash winner Brad Keselowski also will head to the rear in a backup, after his No. 2 Team Penske Ford pinched the No. 1 Chevrolet of Jamie McMurray into the outside backstretch wall on Lap 58, when McMurray tried to fill a narrow gap to the outside.
Rookie William Byron was another casualty of the first Duel. On Lap 39, a side-draft from Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s Ford sucked Byron’s No. 24 Chevrolet around. Byron’s car nosed into the outside wall and subsequently dropped out of the race.
Denny Hamlin, who started on the pole for the second Duel, faded to ninth as the field shuffled over the final three laps, but Hamlin will start beside Bowman on the front row for the Daytona 500, having secured that spot in last Sunday’s time trials.
Elliott, who collected a Duel victory for the second straight year, will start fourth in the Great American Race, with Harvick behind him in sixth.
“To be honest, I was trying a lot of stuff,” said Elliott, who handed team owner Rick Hendrick his 15th Duel win. “I didn’t really know what to do. This new (rules) package is a little different, and the way these cars draft is a little strange compared to what we’ve seen in the past.
“I don’t really know if anybody has it figured out. We’re all trying to learn and see what the best position is to be in—and when you want to be there.”
The most notable victim of the second Duel was Kyle Larson, whose No. 42 Ganassi Racing Chevrolet was eliminated on Lap 12 in a four-car wreck that also involved Matt DiBenedetto, Jones and Elliott, who tapped and turned Jones’ Toyota to start the incident.
“I just hate that we tore up another car, and my guys are going to have to get another Credit One Bank Chevy prepared before (Friday) morning practice,” Larson said. “We just didn’t really want to crash today. That stinks.
“I haven’t seen a replay or anything, but it kind of looked like the No. 9 (Elliott) got into the No. 20 (Jones) in the middle of the corner. Seemed like we were all good, then they started spinning on exit and I had nowhere to go.”

2018 team preview: Stewart-Haas Racing


Manufacturer: Ford
Engines: Roush-Yates 
Drivers: Kevin Harvick, No. 4; Aric Almirola, No. 10; Clint Bowyer, No. 14; Kurt Busch, No. 41
Crew chiefs: Rodney Childers (Harvick), John Klausmeier (Almirola), Mike Bugarewicz (Bowyer), Billy Scott (Busch)
2017 standings: Harvick, third in final standings (reached Championship 4); Busch, 14th in final standings (eliminated in Round of 16); Bowyer, 18th in final standings; Almirola, 29th in final standings (for Richard Petty Motorsports); Danica Patrick piloted the No. 10 Ford to a 28th-place finish in the standings.
What’s new: The four-car organization has a driver change in the No. 10 car with Aric Almirola taking over the seat filled by Danica Patrick for the past five seasons. Almirola brings with him longtime sponsor Smithfield to the SHR fold. On the crew chief side of things, Tony Gibson is off the road, but still will work closely with the organization’s crew chiefs. John Klausmeier, formerly an engineer on the No. 41 team, will be Almirola’s crew chief. He already has a win to his credit as the crew chief for Busch’s 2016 Pocono win. Scott shifts over from the No. 10 pit box to work with 2004 champion Busch.
What to watch: Championship contender Kevin Harvick is the gold standard for this organization and on the prowl for title No. 2. Reigning Daytona 500 champion Kurt Busch is looking to make the playoffs for a sixth straight season. Clint Bowyer is eager to get back to Victory Lane for the first time since 2012. Aric Almirola has plenty to prove with his new team. Stewart-Haas is celebrating its 10th season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Key question(s): Will Year 2 with Ford yield more consistency and speed for drivers other than Harvick? Can Harvick carry his late-season surge into 2018 and a run at a second title? How will Busch mesh with a new crew chief after clicking well with Gibson? Will Bowyer snap his winless drought and break out in his second year at SHR? Can Almirola make sizable gains with his new organization? Could this be the year SHR gets all four cars in the playoffs for the first time?


Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford: For the third time in four years, Harvick reached the Championship 4 as he came on strong late in the season – specifically at the 1.5-mile tracks in the playoffs. Wins at Sonoma and Texas left the 2014 champion with just two active tracks to win at in the Monster Energy Series – Pocono and Kentucky. And while SHR switched manufacturers to Ford, that move seemed to affect Harvick the least performance-wise of the entire SHR stable.
One change Harvick has his eye on is the five-person pit crew. “As you go through the early part of the season, I think you have to have some patience with pit road because you know how new, fresh and different it is through those first few races,” Harvick said. “But, as we get toward the end of the year, they should have it figured out, and it’ll probably just be the new norm.”
Aric Almirola, No. 10 Smithfield Ford: A back injury from a hard wreck at Kansas sidelined Almirola for seven races in the 2017 season. The Florida native finished the season and his Richard Petty Motorsports tenure strong with three top-10 finishes in his last six races. Of note as well: Almirola’s three top fives all came at restrictor-plate tracks, which is also where his one career win came in 2014 (at Daytona). The move to SHR gives Almirola a high degree of optimism.
“I want to be a part of the team and contribute to Stewart-Haas Racing and help put banners up inside the shop,” Almirola said of his high hopes for himself and his teammates in 2018. “I am a firm believer that high tide raises all ships. If I can go and do my part and do my job and contribute, then hopefully we will all run better together.”

Clint Bowyer, No. 14 Rush Truck Centers Ford: Bowyer’s first year at SHR saw the Kansas native post his highest number of top-five finishes (six) since 2013, his highest number of top-10 finishes (13) since 2014 and his best average finish (15.5) since 2013. Despite those gains, Bowyer missed the playoffs for the third time in four years and saw his winless streak extend to 185 races entering the start of the 2018 season.
“Every year is a make-or-break year,” Bowyer said of whether there is more pressure on him in 2018. “Doesn’t matter if it’s your first year or your third year or your 12th year, it’s always that pressure and it’s always on. … I’ve always wanted to win and once you get a taste of that, there’s no going back from that.”
Kurt Busch, No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford: Busch’s elusive first restrictor-plate win came in dramatic fashion as he led the last lap to win the 2017 Daytona 500 in Monster Energy’s first full points-paying race as the entitlement sponsor. The 2004 champion made the playoffs for the fifth year in a row; however, he was eliminated in the Round of 16. His contract option was declined over the summer, but in December, SHR and Busch announced he would be back on a one-year deal for the 2018 season. And the veteran isn’t ready to ride into the sunset just yet.
“It is that drive and desire to win races still for me,” Busch said of what pushes him. “I want to win more. Last year was great with Daytona but we want to win more for Haas, Monster and Ford and everyone on the NASCAR side.”

Czechs spoil Korea's debut

After host Korea grabbed an early lead, Michal Repik struck back. The Czech forward set up the equalizer and scored the 2-1 shorthanded winner on Thursday.

In any case, the Korean men’s national team should be proud of its Olympic debut at the packed Gangneung Hockey Centre against a formidable foe.

"Obviously they have fans behind their back," said Repik. "They were very excited to play the Olympics at home, and they left everything on the ice, so it was a hard game for us."
This was Korea's first official top-level IIHF game ever, and head coach Jim Paek got great mileage out of both his domestic talent and North American imports. A 2-1 loss is very respectable for Korea, which sits 22nd in the IIHF World Ranking, while the Czechs are sixth.

"This was a huge first night in the Olympics," said Paek. "First game ever in the Olympics, first goal scored in the Olympics. It was a fantastic night for sure, and why it was fantastic was because our players played extremely hard."

Jan Kovar had the other Czech goal, while Minho Cho scored Korea's historic first Olympic goal.
It was an intriguing goalie duel. Pavel Francouz, a four-time IIHF World Championship participant and a KHL all-star, got his first Olympic start between the pipes for the Czechs. Korean starter Matt Dalton, 31, is a native of Clinton, Ontario, and saw action in the NCAA, ECHL, and KHL before starring for Anyang Halla over the last four seasons.
The Czechs, seeking their first gold medal since 1998 and first medal since 2006’s bronze, outshot Korea 40-18. Dalton was superb to keep it close.

"That's why he's there," said Korea's Brock Radunske. "He's played well ever since he came to Korea and gives the guys confidence that he's going to be there if somebody does make a mistake."
The Koreans played with pride, grit, and structure, determined not to make it a cakewalk for their opponents. Neither team seemed distracted by the hypnotic spectacle of a whole section of synchronized North Korean cheerleaders directly behind the Czech net in the first and third periods.

The red-, blue-, and white-clad cheerleaders have also supported the unified Korean women’s team at all of its games. Their presence here was noteworthy since the men's team has no North Koreans.
The atmosphere was electric. There were gasps and cheers from the 6,025 in attendance when Dalton foiled Czech captain Martin Erat’s opening shot on goal, and they only got louder when Kisung Kim set up Sangwook Kim – the team’s two biggest Korean-born threats – in front for an even better chance.
At 7:34, Korea opened the scoring on a glorious rush. The towering Radunske, nicknamed “Canadian Big Beauty,” dished a pass to Minho Cho, who used Czech defenceman Jan Kolar as a screen to fool Francouz with a low release from the high slot.
Cho wears #87, and this was a goal Sidney Crosby wouldn’t have sneezed at. The 1987-born Anyang Halla forward has played hockey since he was 10 years old, and was named the Asia League’s 2010 rookie of the year.
Midway through the first period, Dalton made a mind-blowing save on Roman Cervenka, who grabbed the rebound from defenceman Adam Polasek’s shot and cut cross-crease, only to be denied by the goalie’s blocker as he dropped his stick.
At 11:59, the Czechs made it 1-1 on their first power play. Repik zipped a pass to the crease, where Jan Kovar coolly tipped it past Dalton.
Opportunistic hockey is Czech hockey. Repik got a shorthanded break with Lukas Radil off for goalie interference. The former Florida Panther burst down left wing to squeeze a high shot through Dalton and then ducked behind him, banging in the loose puck for a 2-1 lead at 16:18.

"I'd like to have that second one back, but I felt better as the game went on," Dalton said.

Even though the Koreans trailed by one through 20 minutes, they had to be happy with their position after being outshot 15-6.
In the scoreless second period, the physical intensity ramped up, and the crowd roared with disapproval when Kovar dumped Mike Testwuide into the boards. And the Koreans kept coming in the third, crashing Francouz's crease for rebounds during an early power play with Ondrej Nemec off for hooking.

The Czechs pressed for that third goal during back-to-back Korean minors, but couldn't find the twine, although Cervenka came close, hitting the cross bar from in tight.

"It was a tight game, but we had some chances we didn't score on," said Repik.

With just over seven minutes left, Dalton stoned Tomas Mertl from the slot with his quick mitt and left the Czech forward shaking his head. Two minutes later, Cervenka got two cracks at it on a solo jaunt, but couldn't solve the goalie. There was still hope for the hosts.

Paek pulled Dalton for the extra attacker with 1:03, and the Koreans laid it all out there. Francouz made a fine pad save on Radunske's last-second centre point blast to preserve the 2-1 win.

"If we can continue to show that kind of effort, it's good for Korea," said Dalton. "It's good for Korean hockey."

On Saturday, the Czechs will face Canada, while Korea battles Switzerland.
This is just the start of Korea’s international odyssey in 2018. It will also make its IIHF World Championship debut in Denmark in May.

Bourque bullies the Swiss

After back-to-back golds with its NHL stars, Canada faces a different task in 2018. But its impressive win over the Swiss hints that it can go for medals again.

Canada began its Olympic defence with an assured 5-1 victory over Switzerland – and introduced a batch of new names to its illustrious history at the Games. Rene Borque and Wojtek Wolski scored two goals apiece, while Derek Roy had a hat-trick of assists to mark their Olympic debuts.
Deprived of its NHL stars, the current Canadian roster has an rather unfamiliar look. Drawn largely from European-based players, it’s a team that combines NHL veterans approaching the end of their careers with players who tired of life on the bubble and gambled on a fresh start in new surroundings. Head coach Willie Desjardins did not exactly bang the drum at his team’s final practice, suggesting that Canada might have to “score by committee” in this competition.
Chris Lee, a D-man who never made the NHL, explained how the new-look Canada is coming together as a team.
"We have a lot of emotion in the room, and we're playing for each other and for the emblem," said the Metallurg Magnitogorsk blueliner. "It doesn't matter who scores the goals. We're all going to chip in with a blocked shot or a goal or a hit. It's fun to see that emotion."
However, if it's going to take a committee to get goals for this team, Bourque made an impressive bid to be the executive at the head of the working party. Less than three minutes into the game, he rolled up to the doorstep in time to apply the finishing touch to a Chris Lee pass from the point and send the puck behind Leonardi Genoni in the Swiss net.
Bourque is a player typical of the NHL-free Canada roster. Undrafted, his career has been a tale of trades and debates rather than trophies and celebrity. Along the way, he’s struggled with injuries – including a horrific neck injury when inadvertently slashed by a skate during a scrummage in the crease while playing for the Blackhawks in 2006 – and faced accusations of failing to make the most of his talent. Highlights included a call-up to Canada’s 2010 World Championship roster and a time when he was viewed as the answer to Calgary’s scoring needs. A summer move to Djurgardens in the Swedish Championship paused an NHL career with 725 appearances, and opened the door for an Olympic call-up.
And he had a role in Canada’s second, which arrived in the eighth minute on the team’s first power play of the night. Maxim Noreau met Chris Lee’s feed with a devastating one-timer from the point; Bourque threw up the screen for the SC Bern defenceman to score on his club colleague Genoni.
Another man who characterises the unlikely Canadian line-up is defenceman Chay Genoway. In the KHL, his Lada Togliatti team is well out of playoff contention, but tonight he was making his Olympic debut. Not surprisingly, he was fully motivated. "It didn't take much to get up for this game," he said. "It's been a long time coming. We've been thinking about this for a while. It was fun to get out there and burn some energy."
Switzerland sought to recover from those blows, but struggled to generate offence in the first period. And the game was effectively ripped from Swiss hands in the 26th minute when Canada scored twice in quick succession. Bourque made it 3-0, a lovely touch and backhand finish as he got right in front of Genoni to convert Derek Roy’s pass with some style. That had Canada two from two on the power play - another area Desjardins had identified as mission critical - and in control.
Then came Wolski, crowning his incredible recovery from a broken neck with a goal on his Olympic debut. As a Swiss attack broke down, Wojtek streaked onto Noreau’s pass down the right channel, danced his way past Simon Moser and Fabrice Herzog, and fired an early shot past a startled Genoni. That was the last action of the night for the goalie; Jonas Hiller was called from the bench to replace him and was almost beaten by Roy almost immediately when the Linkoping forward shot over an empty net.
It was an emotional moment for Wolski, whose life was turned upside down after a freak accident playing for Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the KHL in 2016 left him with a broken neck and potentially paralyzed. "There were a lot of ups and downs," he said. "I'm so grateful for how it worked out, for being here. I'm so happy I can experience this but it wasn't easy. There were times when I didn't think I'd be able to walk again, be able to play hockey, to lead a normal life. It's pretty special to be here."
In the face of the Canadian offence, the Swiss struggled to find a way into the game. A couple of early wobbles from goalie Ben Scrivens offered Switzerland some hope, but the Salavat Yulaev Ufa man survived those anxious moments and grew into his game. There were flashes of encouragement for the Europeans – lovely hands from Andres Ambuhl created a presentable second-period chance for Eric Blum – but it wasn’t until the last minute of the second period that Scrivens saw any sustained pressure in front of his net.
The final frame saw Switzerland get a great chance to score its first goal of the Games during a 5-on-3 power play eight minutes into the session. Denis Hollenstein dinged the post, Scrivens survived a breakdown in communication in front of his crease, but Moser finally forced the puck into the net when he stuffed home the loose puck after Thomas Rufenacht's shot squeezed through the goalie's defences.
That goal came with Hiller on the bench, sacrificed for an extra attacker during the power play. But when Switzerland repeated that gamble at even strength with almost six minutes to play, the plan backfired. Wolski cashed in to fire his second of the night into the empty net after the Swiss turned over possession in the Canadian zone.
It wrapped up a satisfying night for Canada, but Wolski warned there could be more to come. "We're happy with how we played, we're happy we won but we have to forget about it," he said. "We'll celebrate a little bit after the game, cherish the moment, but tomorrow we'll look at the video, see where the mistakes were and see where we can build."

Sweden drowns Norway

Sweden's Tre Kronor were buzzing early against Norway, and that's all they would need to defeat the beleaguered Norwegians.

The Swedes are the defending world champions and they played like it on Thursday, leveraging a strong first period to dispatch Norway 4-0. 
Viktor Fasth produced an 17-save shutout in his Olympic debut. Par Lindholm notched the game winning goal early in the first period, and Linus Omark impressed with three assists.
"I think we’ve been waiting for this game a long time now," said Fasth. "To get it out of the way and get going in this tournament, it’s great for us."
The first shot of the game was also the first goal, Sweden’s Lindholm whipped a wrister beyond a motionless Lars Haugen. The sweet set-up from Omark deserved applause, with Oscar Moller getting the other assist.   
Omark was encouraged by his three-point night, "I can do better, of course, like the whole team, but it’s a good start," said the former Edmonton Oilers and Buffalo Sabres forward.
Sweden’s second shot was also dangerous, from scoring position.
And in this way, drenched with Swedish prowess, is how the first period would roll on.
The overwhelmed Norwegians managed their first shot on goal just before the 15-minute mark, but it was a lob into the glove of Fasth.
"We were a little bit passive in the defensive zone," said Norwegian alternate captain Patrick Thoresen, "We were not able to get the puck up in their zone and play some offense. That was our big problem, especially in the first period."
Sweden’s second goal, tallied by Anton Lander, came off quick pressure to the slot, and a juicy rebound after a hard shot from Simon Bertilsson.   
The first period ended with Sweden ahead 2-0, having outshot their opponents 14-1.
Encouraged by their poor initial 20 minutes, the Norwegians were much better to begin the second period. 
However, at 7:29 of the middle frame, Tommy Kristiansen took a cross-checking penalty and the weight of the required penalty kill harpooned Norway’s momentum. The rest of the period was mired in penalty issues. 
Then, Norway’s Kristian Forsberg caught Joel Lundqvist’s skate under the visor late in the second period, sending him to the dressing room clutching a bloody towel to his face. His team outshot the Swedes 12-6 in the second period but still found themselves down 2-0.
The closest the Norwegians would come to scoring was at 13:48 of the third period, with the Swedes leading 2-0, when Mathis Olimb stumbled backward into Fasth, knocking the Swedish goalie down. Ken Andre Olimb capitalized on his older brother’s ill-fated play, but the goal was overturned after a coach’s challenge and review.
Sweden added two more later in the period, Dennis Everberg flying off the bench, and a point shot from Mikael Wikstrand. 
The Swedes meet the Germans on Friday, next up for Norway it’s a game with Finland, also on Friday.

Finn win sets quarters

Michelle Karvinen scored twice and Noora Raty was excellent in goal as Finland beat OAR 5-1 to close out the women's round robin.

The Finns cofed three goals with the extra man.
"I think it’s important to get the goals," said Karvinen of her team's outburst today. "We wanted to have a good feeling going into the quarter-finals and know we could score goals, especially on the power play. Overall, five goals in a game is really good."
The result means that the Finns finish third in Group A with a win and two losses and will face Sweden in one quarter-finals on Saturday. The Swiss will play the OAR in the other. That first winner will then play the United States in the semi-finals while the Swiss-OAR survivor will take on Canada.
"Sweden is always a little bit of a rival," Karvinen continued. "They’re a tough team. They work really hard, and it’s going to be a challenge for us. We can’t really worry too much about what we’ve done so far in the tournament. It doesn’t really matter now. We experienced that in Sochi. We’re really well prepared and we know what we need to do."
The OAR's scoring woes continued today. In three preliminary-round games they scored but once while giving up five goals each game, a fact that led directly to their 0-3 record.
"Scoring the first goal was always going to be important against them," OAR forward Anna Shokhina said, "but fortune wasn’t on our side. They managed to get it, and we took too many penalties."
To be fair, they played their best period of the tournament in the first this afternoon, but Noora Raty was rock solid in the Finland goal when she had to be. Be that as it may, some scoring touch and finish around the Suomi net would have gone a long way to change the result of this game. Case in point, Yelena Dergachyova, who had a clean break but couldn't beat Raty.
The Finns opened the scoring late in the first on the power play. Jenni Hiirikoski made a nice no-look pass to her point partner Michelle Karvinen, and Karvinen's long blast went all the way in at 17:47.
They made it 2-0 early in the second on another man advantage. This time it was a perfect pass from Emma Nuutinen from the corner to Karvinen at the top of the crease. She one-timed a quick shot past the pad of Nadezhda Morozova for the goal.
Again later in the period the Athletes had ther chances, and again they couldn't get the better of Raty. She stopped a nice tip by Valeria Pavlova and seconds later made two more quick saves from in close, first off Anna Shokhina and then Diana Kanayeva.
Then, with 51.5 seconds left in the middle 40, Finland got an insurance marker thanks to a sensational play by Riikka Valila, the 44-year-old puck star who shows no signs of slowing down. Shokhina was checked just inside her blue line and Valila claimed the puck. She moved in on goal, deking defenceman Angelina Goncharenko out of her patns and then doing the same to Morozova before roofing a backhand home to make it 3-0.
Finally, though, Russia was rewarded for strong play in the offensive end. Lyudmila Belyakova spotted Shokhina open on the far side and made a nice cross-ice pass. Shokhina faked a shot as Raty slid over, then popped the puck in the open net at 4:50.
It was OAR's first goal of the preliminary round and saved the team from ignominy. No women's team at the Olympics or Women's Worlds has ever played a round robin of at least three games without scoring at least once.
That was as close as they got, though. Minnamari Tuominen wired another power play point shot past Morozova at 12:49 to restore the team's three-goal lead. 
Petra Nieminen made it 5-1 at 15:33 on a goal similar to Valila's. Nieminen coralled a turnover just inside the OAR blue line, made a great move around Goncharenko again, and beat Morozova with a backhand, putting the game well out of reach.

Finns down Germany

Eeli Tolvanen, an 18-year-old Olympic rookie, made a splashy debut with a goal and three assists as Finland beat Germany 5-2 to kick off Group C on Thursday.

The Finns also enjoyed balanced scoring from their veterans. Sami Lepisto and Joonas Kemppainen had a goal and an assist apiece, and Mika Pyorala and Lasse Kukkonen also scored. Petri Kontiola added two assists.

"I think today we played a good game," said Kukkonen. "Of course the young kid [Tolvanen] was awesome. He was leading the way, and it's always exciting to see new players coming up and taking the next step."
Brooks Macek and Frank Hordler replied for Germany.
Finnish goalie Mikko Koskinen, a 29-year-old veteran who has won two Worlds silver medals (2014, 2016) and two Gagarin Cups with SKA St. Petersburg, turned in a strong performance with 22 saves. Germany’s Danny aus den Birken made 15 saves.
The Finns won bronze at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, and own six medals from the last eight Olympics. They have never won Olympic gold. Germany last appeared at the 2010 Olympics, finishing 11th, and hasn’t medaled since the Cold War era. West Germany claimed bronze in 1976.

"All I care about is that we got the win tonight, and let's go forward," said Kukkonen.
These two teams are both known for their nose-to-the-grindstone approach to hockey, but the Finns indubitably have a better nose for the net. On balance, they took care of business the way you'd expect, despite a bit of a third-period let-down.
It didn’t take long for the Finns to get rolling at the Gangneung Hockey Centre. On their first power play, Lepisto’s rising howitzer from the center point eluded aus den Birken through traffic at 3:13.

"The power plays were pretty good," said aus den Birken. 'They had a lot of traffic in front."
Germany struck back 21 seconds into its first man advantage. Taking a feed from veteran ex-NHLer Christian Ehrhoff, Macek powered a slapper over Koskinen’s glove to tie it up at 8:44. It was the first German shot on goal.
Finland went up 2-1 at 15:30 when Pyorala banged a rebound past aus den Birken in a crazy goalmouth scrum, The Germans struggled with turnovers throughout the game.

"I think we played actually not that bad, we played actually pretty good," said aus den Birken. "I think just the Finnish guys were really skilled in front. The defence made little mistakes and the Finnish guys used the little mistakes."
Halfway through the second period, Koskinen stood his ground on a German rush when David Wolf set up Gerrit Fauser for a great chance from the slot.
Tolvanen gave Finland a two-goal lead with the man advantage at 17:22, accepting a short pass from Teemu Hartikainen and lifting a deadly wrister from the faceoff circle past the German netminder. Tolvanen, a top prospect of the Nashville Predators, became the youngest player to score a KHL hat trick with Jokerit Helsinki earlyier this season.
At 18:43, the Finnish leadership group came through. Kukkonen, the captain, put the game out of reach when he took a pass from Petri Kontiola, an assistant captain, on the rush and beat aus den Birken high to the glove. It was the 36-year-old’s first Olympic goal in four Winter Games, and he hadn’t scored in IIHF competition since potting two goals at the 2006 Worlds in Latvia.

Tolvanen praised Kukkonen: "I think he's a legend. I mean, he's our great captain. He's been to all of these tournaments, he's seen a lot, and I think he's a big help for me and all the young guys."
In the third period, the Germans tried to fight back early on. At 1:51, they cut the deficit to 4-2 after Miro Heiskanen turned over the puck and Hordler’s shot went in off Atte Ohtamaa’s skate.

At 12:48, Finland made it 5-2 on the power play thanks to Tolvanen's first primary assist of the afternoon. He skimmed a beautiful cross-ice feed to Kemppainen, who tipped it in at the crease.

The Germans outshot Finland 9-3 in the third period, but Koskinen was impregnable. Next up, the Finns face Norway and Germany takes on Sweden on Friday.

"To put this jersey on and be in the Olympics, I think it's every athlete's dream," Kukkonen said.

Finland has now won five straight Olympic meetings against Germany, dating back to 1992, and six all-time. The only two German wins over Finland were in 1960 (4-1) and 1964 (2-1).

Lacasse, la difference!

Genevieve Lacasse stoned the top scorers of the U.S. this afternoon to lead Canada to an inspired 2-1 win and claim top spot in Group A.

Both teams had already qualified for direct entry into the semi-finals, but the win was important all the same. Canada has now won the last six meetings, dating back to the exhibition series in December.
The four-time Women's Worlds champions Americans might be at a loss for answers for this losing streak, but today it was clear Lacasse was the difference. She stopped 44 of 45 shots to earn the W.
"Any game at the Olympics is good to play in," Lacasse enthused. "That was my first Olympic start. I was just excited to be out there with the girls and to contribute to our team win today."
"They played a great game," said Kendall Coyne. "I think we did, too, but it was just finding a way to get it over the line. I think we did a good job at the end with that 6-on-5, 6-on-4 for a little bit, but we just couldn't get the puck in the back of the net. We've got to look at it and find a way."
In a rivalry where the slightest advantage can make a difference, today's game featured several. Canada was a little bit more disciplined; the U.S. had ridiculously bad luck, hitting no fewer than four posts; Canada stayed calm when the Americans ramped up the pressure; the Americans looked just a shade unresponsive at critical times.
Up front, Canada scored both its goals in the second, and Coyne, the diminutive but supremely talented U.S. forward, scored her team's only goal early in the third. She led all skaters with seven shots on goal.
"Their goalie played well," Duggan agreed, "but obviously we have to find ways to put the puck in the net. I'm happy with the way we played. We have to fine-tune a couple of things. We have to bury a few of those chances. I'm proud of the way we competed. We fought to the end."
A tentative start to the game opened a bit after a terrible line change by Canada that gave Hilary Knight a clear breakaway. She was stopped by Lacasse, but from there on Canada had the better of play in the period.
Meghan Agosta was at her best, and she got Canada’s game going by coming out of the corner and trying to jam the puck in. Maddie Rooney held her ground, but Canada seemed energized by the aggressive play.
Both teams had a power play, and both came as a result of similar plays—the attacking team getting the puck deep, and a defending player forced to take her man with extra vigour. Neither advantage produced a goal, though.
Canada got the opening goal at 7:18 of the second on its second man advantage. A nice backpass by Natalie Spooner to the side of the goal found Agosta in front, and her shot trickled under Rooney.
"I was driving it wide and got below the goal line," Spooner detailed. "I saw my players going to the net, so I figured I'd kind throw it and one of the would hopefully tap it in."
That got the attention of the Americans, who carried play for several minutes and created two great chances. Monique Lamoureux went in alone only to be stoned by Lacasse, and soon after her sister Jocelyne drilled a shot off the bottom of the post that had the goalie beaten.
Canada made it 2-0 on a shot Rooney would like to see again. Sarah Nurse came down the left side on a three-on-two, and being cautious fired a shot on net rather than risk a turnover off an intercepted pass. Her snap shot found the top corner to the short side at 14:56 to give Canada a bit of a cushion.
The rest of the period was dominated by the Americans, who did everything humanly possible to score. One mad scramble saw Haley Irwin deny a goal with a skate save in the crease after two fantastic saves by Lacasse, but in the ensuing mayhem Renata Fast put her hand on the puck, resulting in a penalty shot.
"Lacasse absolutely stood on her head," Irwin enthused. "Not only did she make some really big saves, but some timing saves as well. She gave us all the confidence in the world. I made a little bit of a save as well. I guess I learned it from her!"
Jocelyne Lamoureux took the freebie, but she ill-advisedly tried a trick play that backfired. The Americans continued to pour it on, though, and Brianna Decker fired another shot off the post that came back underneath Lacasse. 
Despite being on their heels for so long, Canada almost scored in the dying seconds, but a quick shot by Jillian Saulnier was nicely stopped by Rooney.
Coyne got the Americans into the game early in the third, though. She showed a terrfic burst of speed through the middle and snapped a perfect shot between the pads of Lacasse just 23 seconds in, igniting the U.S. bench and setting the stage for another wild finish between these two great rivals.
Canada broke, but it didn't bend. The team played excellent defence while not trying to sit on the lead, but in the final minute all hell broke loose in the Canada end with Rooney on the bench for a sixth skater.
Decker hit the post again in the final seconds, and Knight had a seeing-eye pass slide between her skates and stick, narrowly missing a one-timer to the open side of the goal. A crazy scramble as time expired saw Lacasse hold the fort, and teams skated off ice after another exhilirating and emotional battle.
"I just kept the puck in front of me," Lacasse said of the mad finish. "I made a couple of saves. The girls were trying to box them out. I kinda got shoved into the net there at the end but I just kept the puck in front of me."
They can now sit back and practise for four days while the rest of the pack sorts out who will join them in the semi-finals next Monday.