Defending champions undefeated heading into playoff round
As preliminary round play concluded on Thursday, there was only one club left standing with an unblemished record at the 2011 Elite World Selects Invitational. The Czech Knights entered this year’s tournament with sights set on repeating at 12U champions. The squad has gotten off to a stellar start, going 5-0-0 in pool play and enters the playoff round as the No. 1-seed. As all eight participating teams make the playoff round, we preview the initial matchups and which clubs stand the best chance to move on.
Dynamic trio leads Knights’ offense
The Knights were able to put up 50 goals during pool play contests. Those numbers were largely aided by the stellar play of Arnošt Binter, Gabriel Wsol and Michal Hruška. All three forwards produced 15 points, with Wsol leading all players at the Invitational with 12 goals. Six of the club’s 11 skaters have 10 or more points, giving the Czechs some of the best depth among any team. If they can keep the production spread throughout the lineup, and Binter can continue to show off insane skill like on the goal below, the Czechs will be a tough out.
Taking on the Knights in the quarterfinal round will be ALPS Selects, who went winless during preliminary round games. The Knights bested them 19-2 in their previous meeting on Wednesday. The Czechs should have no issue recording a second victory and moving on. Either the Latvia Selects or Sweden Selects will be waiting in the semifinals.
Slovakia has found footing after opening loss
After suffering a 6-5 opening overtime loss to Latvia Selects, the Slovakia Selects haven’t looked back. Finishing pool play with four consecutive wins, they secured the No. 2-seed and will take on Finland Selects. Having played each other once already, Slovakia was victorious against Finland in a 20-1 final earlier today. In that win, 12 players collected at least two points, led by Matias Krúpa’s six assists. Oliver Tomaštík (11G, 6A) and Dominik Železný (9G, 7A) will lead the charge for Slovakia. The two enter as the top scorers thus far among all players. Having only scored nine goals total, it will be all hands on deck for Finland. The winner of this tilt will take on whoever emerges from the clash between Pro Hockey and Südtirol.
Goaltending backstops Pro Hockey to No. 3-seed
Pro Hockey skated to a 4-1-0 record to lock down a matchup with No. 6-seeded Südtirol. The lone blemish was a 7-3 loss to the Knights. Tyson Orr has impressed on the offensive side with 11 goals and 15 points. Pro Hockey’s success also hinged on the strong performances of goaltender Donovan Knapp. Knapp was between the pipes for three wins, recording a 1.60 goals-against average and .948 save percentage. Both numbers were good enough for second overall among all goalies in preliminary round play. Only four goals managed to find their way past Knapp in those three appearances. Continued consistency from him will be paramount to playoff success, especially against an interesting opponent like Südtirol. Despite lower offensive numbers than Pro Hockey, the club still managed two wins in pool play.
Sweden aims for sweep of Latvia
For the No. 4 and No. 5-seeds, Latvia Selects will face off with Sweden Selects for the second time at the showcase. In the prior meeting, Sweden shut out Latvia 7-0, with Charles Wikström producing two goals. In net, Hampus Trygg made 24 saves and was unable to be solved by Latvia. If Sweden puts him back in the crease for the rematch, Latvia will have to come up with a new strategy to get pucks by him. Both rosters are close in skill, so of all the quarterfinal games this one feels like it can go either way. If the head-to-head results are any indication, Sweden will have no issue moving on.
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