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Czechs will play Canada-Slovakia winner

9/7/2004 - Milan Hejduk

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 2½
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.