Ice hockey: Swedes ease through to qualifying

Reigning champions Sweden cruised comfortably into the world championship's qualifying round with a 100-percent record following a confident 8-2 win over Latvia in the Group A match in Moscow on Monday.

Nicklas Bakström put Sweden into the lead when the game was just 29sec old firing home with an unopposed shot from Jorgen Jonsson’s pass from behind the goal.

The Swedes were in complete command but failed to increase their lead before the break as Latvia defended stoutly replying with threats on the counter-attacks.

But in the second the Swedes stepped up a gear and sailed into a commanding 4-0 lead as their rear guard Johan Akkerman and forwards Rickard Wallin and Fredrik Bremberg scored one apiece.

Kaspars Daugavins and Alekseja Sirokovs both scored for Latvia early in the third period but failed to save the day for their squad as Magnus Johansson, Patric Hornqvist, Fredrik Warg and Dick Tarnstrom all scored to secure Sweden’s win.

In the other Group A match earlier on Monday Switzerland also booked a place in the qualifying round following a tight 2-1 win over Italy.

Switzerland dominated play from the start but managed to score only once in the two opening periods as their attacking lines experienced obvious lack of accuracy in front of Italy’s net.

The Swiss blueliner Goran Bezina scored with 4:16 remaining in the first period sending the puck in from Paul di Pietro’s cross-ice pass on powerplay.

After a goalless second period Switzerland payed their price for wasting a hatful of chances as Italy’s striker Luca Ansoldi levelled firing home with a close-range shot from Roland Ramoser’s pass from behind the goal line.

But Ivo Rutheman put Switzerland 2-1 up at 51:57 sweeping in a rebound after Italy’s goalie Gunther Hell stopped Severin Blindenbacher’s shot from the left face-off circle again on powerplay.

Italy threw caution to the wind and rushed ahead seeking for an equaliser but Switzerland managed to keep their narrow lead to proceed into the qualifying round.

The 2002 world champions Slovakia experienced few problems in a Group C match with Germany, who won promotion into the elite division last year, winning 5-1 at the ice of Mytishchi sports palace.

However, in the two opening periods Slovakia managed to find the net only twice both times through their defender Peter Podhradsky, who scored a double on powerplay.

Christoph Ullmann reduced the arrears 7:30 into the last period but Richard Kapus restored Slovakia’s two-goal lead just two minutes later. Marian Gaborik and Radovan Somik added one apiece in the remaining time to secure Slovakia’s win.

Meanwhile, Canada were trailing 1-0 in the first period of their meeting with Norway as Lars Erik Spets put Scandinavian squad 1-0 up 9:29 into the match.

Columbus Blues Jackets’ forward Rick Nash equalised four minutes later, while his club teammate Jason Chimera put Canada 2-1 up.

However, Norway refused to surrender and pulled the scores level through Jonas Andersen at 32:14, when Canada’s Jonathan Toews was sinbinned.

But Shane Doan of Phoenix Coyotes and Carolina Hurricanes’ Justin Williams saved Canada’s pride both scoring in the third period to avoid an unexpected points loss.