Day 6 of the Olympic competition was another action packed hockey day, with four matches in the preliminary rounds. Wednesday's are one of my only days of the week that I get to actually exercise without distraction and I play basketball after work at a local Courts Center. It is great cardio and, like I said, one of my only opportunities to do something other than sit in front of a TV. So, by the time I got home, the last women's game of the night had just started. This post is coming late because of it.
In the first game of the day, Finland faced Belarus in game 4 of the men's Group C preliminary rounds. The Fins proved to be too much for Belarus as they stormed on to win 5-1. Niklas Hagman netted two goals for Finland while the other three were provided by Ranger's Olli Jokinen, Detroit's Valtteri Filppula, and recent rent-a-player/current Ottawa Senator and one time Penguin Jarkko Ruutu. Belarus' only goal was scored by Sergei Kostitsyn of the Montreal Canadiens. From what I can tell, Mikka Kiprusoff had a heck of game in goal despite only facing twelve shots. At least, if you listen to Jeremy Roenick spout off you would think so.
Game 2 on the docket saw the hometown Canadian women face off against the bronze medal favorites Sweden. In yet another display of the talent differential between Canada and every other team in this tournament, the maple leaf clad ladies once again destroyed their opponent 13-1. Sweden's only goal didn't even come until late in the third off a power play that Canada basically gave away, probably because they felt sorry for the Swedes. Meghan Agosta netted a hat trick while their were goals from 8 other players. With that loss, Sweden could potentially drop from medal contention with Finland having not lost a game yet. Canada is the favorite to win gold. It would take an act of God at this point to keep that from happening.
The third game of the day was another men's preliminary round. Sweden went up against Germany in another Group C matchup with possible medal implications. While Germany had a pretty solid front line and put the pressure on Sweden throughout most of the game, it didn't translate into points on the board. The Lightning's Mattias Ohlund and Loui Erikkson of the Stars each netted a goal in the second period. That was all they needed to overcome the 21 shots on goal that Henrik Lundqvist faced. Marcel Muller of Germany got, what I think has been the first 10 minute misconduct penalty of the Olympic games. Since I didn't see the game live, I'm not sure exactly what happened.
In another Group A women's matchup, Slovakia faced Switzerland in a later evening game. Stefanie Marty scored a hat trick and was helped by two other goals to push the Swiss over the Slovakian team 5-2. The only two goals by Slovakia were both scored by Janka Culikova. Again, this was another game I didn't watch but judging by the shots on goal and the power play opportunities, these teams seemed pretty even matched.
In the final, most anticipated, game of the evening, the Czech Republic faced off against the Slovakian men's team. This was by far and away the best game, competitively, that I have watched thus far in the Olympics. With both teams stacked with current and former NHL players, it looked like an All-Star game on the ice. The Slovakian team features players like Marian Gaborik, Marian Hossa, Zdeno Chara and Richard Zednik. The Czech team features one of my favorite players of all time, Jaromir Jagr, as well as Patrik Elias, Marek Zidlicky, and Tomas Vokoun in goal. It was great to see Jagr play again, even if it looks like he lost a step or two. Jagr at half speed is still better than over half the NHL at full speed.
Elias scored about nine minutes in to give the Czech's a 1-0 lead. Right out of the gate in the second period, Gaborik scored with less than a minute ticked off the clock to tie the game. Jagr scored late in the second to make it 2-1 and then they turned to the trap game like we used to see from the teams of old. The Slovakian team doesn't have the ability to keep up with that style of play and it proved too much for them to overcome. Tomas Plekanec from the Montreal Canadiens scored late in the second and gave the Czech team a final score of 3-1.
Today's games should be great to watch, with five more scheduled. The USA men's team faces off early against Norway, followed by the women's team against Finland in what should be a good battle. Canada faces the Swiss in a late afternoon game and the women's Chinese team squares off against Russia. Finally, in one of the matchups I was waiting for, the Russian men go up against the Czech's. These matchups have always been entertaining and this one hopefully won't disappoint.