Wed, Sep 21, 2016 - Page 16 News List

Europe upset Czechs, Russia given a fright


Europe’s Leon Draisaitl, left, scores the winner past Petr Mrazek of the Czech Republic in their World Cup of Hockey Group A game at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Monday.

Photo: AFP

Leon Draisaitl scored in overtime as Europe upset the Czech Republic 3-2 at the World Cup of Hockey on Monday to leave the US facing a must-win battle with Canada to stay in the competition.

Edmonton’s German star Draisaitl scored on a breakaway after 2 minutes, 6 seconds of overtime at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto to maintain Europe’s 100 percent record with two wins out of two in Group A.

The result leaves the US — beaten 3-0 by Europe on Saturday — clinging onto their place in the competition. A defeat to Canada yesterday would have seen them eliminated.

Europe coach Ralph Krueger — the Canada-born former Germany international, who is now the chairman of English Premier League soccer side Southampton — said his team had always been confident of progressing in the tournament, despite being rank outsiders with Las Vegas bookmakers.

“Coming in here at 33-1 long shot, the Las Vegas bookies, it’s a lot of fun,” Krueger said. “[The guys] always believed we’d have a shot at being where we are today. Probably nobody outside of our room did, but I’m just so proud of the way the players have come together in this short period of time, how they’re representing their countries on their arms, and as a group how we’ve come together. There’s just complete buy-in on this group — I’ve never experienced anything quite like this as a coach in 25 years of head coaching. We’re tight and we’re not done.”

Europe dominated the Czech Republic from the outset and led twice before Draisaitl’s late winner.

They took a 2-1 lead in the third period after Czech Republic goalie Petr Mrazek fumbled a shot from Mats Zuccarello, the Norwegian winger who plays for the New York Rangers.

Until then, Detroit Red Wings goalie Mrazek had frustrated Europe with a superb display of defiance, saving 33 shots before Zuccarello’s long-range effort crept in.

The Czech Republic came back to level on a power play later when Martin Hanzal swept home a rebound after a point shot from Vladimir Sobotka.

The late flurry of goals came after a cagey opening which finally saw Europe take control in the second period, peppering Mrazek’s goal with 21 shots. The opener came from Slovakian defenseman Zdeno Chara, the Boston Bruins players catching out Mrazek as the goalie scrambled to recover his stick.

It was a rare blemish by Mrazek, who also saved a penalty by Europe center Anze Kopitar during the second-period onslaught.

Jakub Voracek scored the Czech Republic’s opening goal, beating Jaroslav Halak with a snap-shot from the right.

In Monday’s other game, Russia were given a fright by a youthful North America, before running out 4-2 winners in Group B.

The North American team, made up of players who are 23 and under from the US and Canada, took a 1-0 lead in the first period thanks to a Auston Matthews strike.

However, Russia took control in the second period, scoring four goals through Vladislav Namestnikov, Nikita Kucherov, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Vladimir Tarasenko to power into a 4-1 lead.

Morgan Rielly pulled a goal back for North America, but it was too little, too late.

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