Sun, May 04, 2003 - Page 22 News List

Denmark a surprise for Canada

WORLD HOCKEY The Olympic champions were held to a tie while Slovakia roundly beat Finland. The Czech Republic beat Ukraine and Sweden overcame Russia


Denmark humbled Olympic champion Canada in a 2-2 tie and defending titleholder Slovakia thrashed host Finland 5-1 in qualification-round openers Friday at the world ice hockey championship.

Denmark avenged a 54-year-old grudge in Turku. Canada won 47-0 against Denmark in 1949, the previous time the Danes appeared in the elite event.

"You could call it revenge, I suppose," defenseman Jens Nielsen said with an enormous grin. "This is unbelievable. We didn't expect this. Canada is such a good team."

Canada tied the game late in the second period, through Jay Bouw-meester's second long floater, then were shut down. Canada took 43 shots to Denmark's 22.

"Obviously there's a lesson to be learned," Canada captain Ryan Smyth said. "We can't take other teams lightly. We didn't exactly take them lightly, but we didn't think it would be as hard as it was."

In other games, the Czech Republic, led by Milan Hejduk's two goals, beat Ukraine 5-2 in Helsinki, while Sweden handed Russia its first loss, winning the late game in Turku 4-2.

Slovakia and the Czech Republic are the only teams that have won all their four games so far, and both have virtually clinched quarterfinal spots from their qualification group.

Like Canada, Finland led early off a rebound by Florida's Olli Jokinen but Slovakia silenced the sellout crowd of 13,209 when it grabbed control from the start of the third period. Ladislav Nagy made it 2-1 and Miloslav Satan scored his first of successive goals.

Jorgen Jonsson got the game-winner for Sweden over Russia 1:11 into the third period, catching Russian goalie Maxim Sokolov scrambling to return to the crease after losing a fight for the puck behind the net.

After Ilya Kovalchuk's goal gave the Russians hope at 3-2 down, Toronto Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin added the insurance marker for Sweden with less than a minute left when Russian coach Vladimir Plyushchev pulled Sokolov for an extra attacker.

"This was an important win for us," Jonsson said. "We knew what Russia's skills were and we were prepared for them. We did a good job on our end and kept ahead of them by one step all the way. That was key."

Russia lies second to Canada in its qualification group, a point behind with four carried over from the previous round. Sweden also has four points but a lower goal differential. The Swiss are fourth with two points, ahead of Denmark with one and Latvia with none.

In relegation-round play at Tampere, the US routed Slovenia 7-2 for its first win at the championship, while Belarus beat Japan 3-1.

Phil Housley, the oldest player in the tournament at age 39, scored for the Americans. The US meet Belarus on Saturday in a game that could decide the group winner.

If Far East representative Japan finishes fourth, the second and third-placed tams are relegated to the first division next year. If Japan finishes third, the second and fourth-placed teams are relegated.

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