May 12, 2006

Finland routs U S 4-0

By Gennady Fyodorov

RIGA (Reuters) - Philadelphia Flyers rookie Antero
Niittymaki played a flawless game to lead unbeaten Finland to a
4-0 rout of the United States at the world championship on

Sweden cruised to a 4-1 win over Belarus to move a step
closer to achieving an unprecedented golden double by becoming
the first nation to win Olympic and world titles in the same

Holders Czech Republic defeated Norway 3-1 while
Switzerland battled back from two goals down to tie 2-2 with

Niittymaki, who helped Finland to the silver medal at the
Turin Olympics, made 24 saves including an early penalty shot
from Boston Bruins center Yan Stastny to post his second
shutout of the tournament.

Mikko Koivu, younger brother of Montreal Canadiens captain
Saku, opened the scoring at 11:13 of the first period when he
fired into an empty net after U.S. goaltender Craig Anderson
lost sight of the puck when it hit the post.

Sean Bergenheim and Petteri Nummelin added second-period
goals before Lasse Kukkonen's late tally completed the scoring
for the Finns, second in Group E one point behind Canada.


"We played a good game," Finland coach Erkka Westerlund
told reporters.

"We had some difficulty in the beginning but then we
started to skate better and this was the key to our game and of
course Niittymaki was very good when we were in trouble."

U.S. coach Mike Eaves said: "I would like to complement the
Finnish team. They played a very strong game, they were very
strong in the corners and controlled the puck and Niittymaki
was there when they needed him."

Elsewhere, Sweden exploded for four first-period goals
against Belarus.

At the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, Belarus shocked
Sweden 4-3 in the quarter-finals.

This time there were no heroics from Belarus and though
Sergei Zadelenov's powerplay marker midway through the final
period spoiled Johan Holmqvist's shutout bid, the Swedes
coasted home.

Switzerland also remained undefeated as Sandy Jeannin
scored with less than two minutes remaining against the Slovaks
to salvage a point.

Marc Reichert sparked the Swiss rally with a powerplay goal
midway through the final period.

Martin Cibak and Dusan Milo scored for 2002 champions
Slovakia, who earned their first point of the preliminary


The Czechs, who have won five world titles in the last
decade, have also been struggling in this tournament.

They had to fight to see off Norway, ranked a lowly 18th by
the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF).

Norway goaltender Mathias Gundersen played a strong game,
making 40 saves.

Morten Ask gave Norway a surprise 1-0 lead midway through
the first period when he deflected Mads Hansen's shot from a
sharp angle, catching Czech goalie Milan Hnilicka off guard.

Jan Hlavac finally beat Gundersen with a wrist shot from
the point at 7:21 of the second period.

Jaroslav Balastik and Petr Tenkrat also tallied for the
Czechs, who now have four points in the round.

"We always have tough games against Norway," said Czech
coach Alois Hadamczik. "We didn't skate well in the first
period and their goalie played excellently."

The tournament hosts escaped sanction after home fans threw
debris on the ice during Latvia's 10-0 thrashing by Canada on

The game was stopped twice, forcing the teams off the ice
while workers tried to clear the surface.

American referee Rick Looker, who infuriated Latvian fans
by calling 16 penalties against their team, had to be escorted
off at the end.