Canada loses to Czechs, setting up quarterfinal with USA

COLOGNE, Germany, AP

Fred Brathwaite gave up three soft goals Tuesday as Canada lost 4-2 to defending champion Czech Republic at the ice Hockey World Championships, setting up an all-North American quarterfinal with the United States. As winners of Group E, the Czechs will play Slovakia — fourth place finishers in Group F — in a rematch of last year’s final. Finland, which downed Sweden 5-4 in the fight for top spot in Group F, will face hosts Germany, back in the A-pool for the first time since 1997. In the last of Thursday’s quarterfinals, Sweden will meet Russia. “It’s a long way to come to meet your neighbor,” said Canadian head coach Wayne Fleming. “There should be a lot of energy out there. It should be an interesting match.” Pavel Kubina had two goals and an assist while Robert Reichel scored the winner to secure the Czechs top spot in the group. Kubina fed the puck to Reichel through Brathwaite’s legs in the crease, with Reichel tapping it in for the winner. Canada opened the scoring at 1106 into the match when Vincent Lecavalier slid the puck under the pads of Czech goalkeeper Milan Hnilicka of the Atlanta Thrashers, who spat it into the net as he rolled over. The Czechs retaliated just 43 seconds later when Brathwaite misplayed Kubina’s slapshot from the top of the slot, letting it slide between his knees. Kubina made it 2-1 with his second goal at 1008 in the next period with a light backhand shot, with Reichel notching the winner six minutes later. Canada’s Kris Draper narrowed the gap to 3-2 with a rebound goal midway through the third but the Czechs responded 46 seconds later, with Filip Kuba scoring the final goal. “Both teams were very strong,” said Czech head coach Josef Augusta.”What was decisive was that our players were very strong in front of the Canadian net. Also, the Czechs have better individual players.” After losing Mike Peca and Florida Panthers goaltender Robert Luongo, Canada received another blow when Boston Bruins Joe Thornton suffered a concussion, colliding with teammate Scott Walker of the Nashville Predators. Team executive director Wayne Gretzky said he was unsure if the sniper would be fit to play the team’s next game. The United States scored off two rebounds late in the third period to beat Slovakia 3-1 in their final second-round match. David Tanabe of the Carolina Hurricanes broke a 1-1 tie with his first goal in the tournament at 12:09 in the third period. Montreal Canadiens Jim Campbell also scored his maiden goal in the championships, knocking in a rebound from close range past Slovak goalie Jan Lasak at 1602. The victory avenged a 4-1 loss to Slovakia in last year’s quarterfinals at St. Petersburg, Russia. “Slovakia was one of the best teams we’ve played against,” said U.S. head coach Lou Vairo. “It was a very, very difficult game. But the truth is: it doesn’t mean very much. “The real tournament begins now, Thursday. Who wins tonight is not important. Who wins Thursday is important. So it’s difficult for teams to play in a game like this when you’re thinking about Thursday.” Darby Hendrickson scored the first goal for the Americans at 406 before a sparse crowd of 2,918 at Cologne Arena. Marian Gaborik, Hendrickson’s teammate on the Minnesota Wild, tied the game at 109 in the third period when he rifled a shot from long range past U.S. goalie Robert Esche. Scoring his second goal of the tournament, Ottawa Senators’ Alexei Yashin led Russia to a 3-1 win over Germany for its 29th straight world championship victory over the nation since 1954.