Saturday, May 13, 2017

1992 World Hockey Challenge

After several changes to the political landscape, the 1992 World Hockey Challenge had a very different look from previous tournaments. With the Soviet Union having broken up, the team would now compete as the Commonwealth of Independent States, while a unified German team would compete for the first time. The Germans would not fare much better, however, losing all three of their Round Robin games. With ongoing political uncertainty in the former Soviet Union, the CIS team was unable to recruit a few of their star players. Vladimir Gaganov declined the opportunity to return to the National team, while Sergei Krayev and Alexander Orlov also declined to play. Wanting to help his chances of making the PHL in his rookie season, 18-year-old Igor Zharkov did commit to playing in the Tournament and would be heavily counted on to lead the Russian attack. The team predictably looked strong against Great Britain, defeating them 7-1 with Zharkov scoring two goals. In their second game against Finland, Zharkov’s goal early on gave CIS a 1-0 lead, before Jari Pukki rushed the puck up the ice and tied the game. Antero Parvainen played incredibly throughout the rest of the game as did CIS goaltender Alexei Teryoshin in what turned out to be a 1-1 tie. Facing the Americans in the final game of the Round Robin, the CIS team needed a win, while Team USA was looking to complete a perfect record heading into the Medal Round. The Americans, backstopped by brilliant goaltending from Ron Buckner, had yet to allow a goal in the tournament, while Jason Crowley had three goals in the first two games. The Americans got off to a strong start with goals coming from Craig Davidson and Matt Pope. Dimitri Kronin brought CIS within a goal and Teryoshin held the team in the game until goals from Crowley and Craig Bush put the game out of reach as the Americans took first place in Group B.

In group A, Team Canada once again dominated the rest of the field. Vincent Ducharme led the tournament in scoring with eight goals in three games, including hat-tricks against Germany and Czechoslovakia. Only Sweden gave the Canadians any considerable resistance in their second game, holding them to a 2-2 tie until Stuart Burns scored early in the third period, ultimately giving Canada the win. A 5-1 win over the Czechs in their final game secured top spot in Group A, while Sweden managed to salvage a second-place finish after a surprisingly tough battle with Germany.

In the Medal Round, Canada continued their dominance against Great Britain, jumping ahead to a 5-0 lead. In the third period, a goal from Harry Hayes put the British on the board, before Brett Caldwell’s point shot brought them within three goals. Finally, Hayes hit the post with three minutes left. Brent MacDonald was forced to make a few big stops during the last two and a half minutes but the Canadians held on for the win. In one of the other Quarterfinal matchups, Finland met Sweden in an all-Scandinavian battle. The teams were tied 3-3 after regulation as the game headed to overtime. Just minutes into the extra frame, Swedish forward Tomas Axelsson had a big opportunity at the side of the net, but Parvainen was able to get across the crease in time to make the stop. With the game still tied after overtime, a shootout would commence. After each team had shot three times, the shootout remained scoreless. Roni Laukanen was up next for Finland and made no mistake, beating Victor Malmsten to give the Fins the lead. Ulf Linden tied it, meaning if Malmsten could stop the next shot, the Swedes would have a chance to win. Pasi Villanen shot next for Finland, beating Malmsten to give Finland the lead again and Antero Parvainen a chance to win the game. Magnus Swedberg would shoot next for Sweden. Swedberg attempted to deke his Philadelphia teammate, but Parvainen was a step ahead of him, stopping him with his glove. Finland was moving on to the Semifinals. In Group B, The Americans routed Germany 11-1, while Czechoslovakia defeated the CIS team 4-2. The Americans and Czechs were tied 3-3 in the dying minutes of the game, when Gary Johnson, playing competitive hockey for the final time, broke the tie with a point shot that found its way to the net. Craig Bush sealed the win with an empty net goal to send the Americans to the final game for the first time. Canada defeated Finland 4-1 in the other semifinal to set up a North American showdown for the World Challenge Cup.

In the championship game, 23,100 packed into the CanaDome in Winnipeg to see hockey’s two superpowers face off for the world title. David Appleby opened the scoring for Canada, then Jonathan Stafford made it 2-0. The Americans needed a boost, so coach Gary Shantz called a timeout. It seemed to work as Team USA began to apply the pressure. MacDonald made several big saves until finally, early in the third period, Stuart Burns put USA on the board. Minutes later, Jason Crowley tied the game with a hard wrist shot from the high slot. The pressure was now on Canada. Late in the third period, Adam Lawless nearly gave the Canadians another lead but was stopped cold by Ron Buckner. The game went into overtime where just eleven seconds in, Tommy McGuire beat MacDonald to complete the comeback and give the United States their first-ever world title. Jason Crowley was named tournament MVP, while Gary Johnson, who previously had never won any kind of league or world title at the professional level, was able to retire a champion.

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