Czechs will play Canada-Slovakia winner

Updated: September 7, 2004, 10:22 PM ET
Associated Press

STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- Milan Hejduk scored two goals as the Czech Republic routed Sweden 6-1 Tuesday night in the quarterfinals of the World Cup of Hockey.

The Czechs, who finished next-to-last in the European pool, will face either the United States or Canada in the semifinals when the tournament moves to North America this weekend.

The United States eliminated Russia and advanced to the semifinals with a 5-3 victory Tuesday night in St. Paul, Minn. Canada hosts Slovakia in Toronto on Wednesday with the final semifinal berth on the line.

Martin Straka, Martin Havlat, Marek Zidlicky and Radek Dvorak also scored for the Czechs, who led 5-0 before the Swedes pulled one back when playing short-handed late in the third period.

The Czechs quickly neutralized whatever home-ice advantage the Swedes hoped for and never looked back after taking a 2-0 lead in the first period. The Swedes managed only four shots on goalie Tomas Vokoun in the opening session, and half of them came during the opening minutes.

The Czechs started the tournament with two straight losses, at Finland (4-0) and Sweden (4-3). But they showed improvement in the last period against Sweden, scoring three goals, then trounced Germany 7-2 in the round-robin finale in Prague.

"It was an unbelievable game, and I'm very glad our guys showed what they can do," said Vladimir Ruzicka, who replaced Ivan Hlinka as coach after the former Pittsburgh Penguins coach died in an automobile accident in the Czech Republic on the eve of the tournament. "They played with a lot of heart, and really showed the true face of this team."

For Sweden, which lost on an overtime goal to Canada in the semifinals of the inaugural World Cup in 1996, it was one of the most bitter setbacks in international hockey. It came after losing two straight finals to Canada at the World Championships. And 2 years ago, there was a stunning loss to Belarus in the Olympic quarterfinals.

Going into these quarterfinals, Sweden had the most impressive offense with a tournament-leading 14 goals. The line of Fredrik Modin, who helped the Tampa Bay Lightning win the Stanley Cup last season, captain Mats Sundin and Daniel Alfredsson, had the top three scorers during round-robin play.

The Swedes' special teams, so impressive in the first three games when they went unbeaten against Germany, the Czechs and Finland, fizzled when it counted most. After clicking on eight of their 20 chances in round-robin play, the Swedes missed all four power-play opportunities Tuesday.

Markus Naslund, the Vancouver sniper who has been the NHL's top goal scorer the last two seasons, didn't get a goal in four tournament games.

Peter Forsberg, the MVP in the NHL with the Colorado Avalanche in 2003, was also a disappointment, although his rustiness could be explained by stomach muscle surgery last month.

"They were a lot better," said Forsberg, who plays on the same NHL team as Hejduk. "They were stronger in the neutral zone and always dangerous on the counterattack."

Sundin agreed.

"They were better on everything," the Toronto captain said. "They had better legs, they were better mentally and they fully deserved the win."

The first two goals came after Swedish mistakes on the blue line.

Straka put the Czechs ahead on a two-on-one, skating in unchecked and beating goalie Mikael Tellqvist.

Havlat scored into an open net after Swedish defenseman Marcus Ragnarsson missed a pass in his end.

Another quick breakaway led to the third Czech goal, triggering boos from many of the fans at sold-out Globe Arena. After the Swedes lost the puck in the offensive end, Zidlicky finished a two-on-one by roofing a wrist shot past Tellqvist late in the second period.

Dvorak put the game away when he made it 4-0 at 8:17 of the third period. Hedjuk scored his first before Tomas Holmstrom scored short-handed for Sweden two minutes later. Hejduk finished the scoring with an empty-netter with 1:45 remaining after Sweden pulled Tellqvist for an extra attacker.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press