USA! USA! Men, women sweep gold medals in inline hockey world championships in Taylor

The United States swept the world championships of inline hockey Saturday at the Taylor Sportsplex.

The USA men’s team won the world championship for the fourth straight year, defeating the Czech Republic, 4-2, before a crowd estimated at 1,500.

In the women’s final, USA ended a two-year run by Team Canada by taking the gold medal in a 2-1 thriller.

The tournament, featuring national champions from around the world, was organized by the International Federation of Roller Sports (FIRS). Last year, the tourney was held in Paris, France. Next year it is scheduled for Spain.

This year, with a crowd of Americans having their back, the men’s and women’s teams played undefeated inline hockey. Both USA teams went unbeaten in five games.

The USA men defeated Spain, 4-1, and Switzerland, 3-1 in pool play; Mexico, 14-3, in the quarterfinals; and Canada, 6-4, in Friday’s semifinal match-up.

The Americans never trailed in the championship game, taking a 3-0 lead behind goals by Ziggy Marszalek, Itan Chavira and C.J. Yoder. After Czech Republic’s Pavel Zavrtalek scored the first of his goals in the second period, Yoder added another to seal the win.

During the five games, USA outscored its rivals, 31-11. Pennsylvania native Yoder, considered the poster boy for inline hockey, scored four times against Canada. New York native Marszalek scored in every game. Both players wound up with seven goals and three assists for the tournament.

Teammate Michael Ciolli had three goals and six assists. Jami Yoder (C.J.’s brother) and Jerry Osterkamp had three goals apiece for the world champions.

“All of our players responded beautifully,” said Coach Rob Chornomud. “We were able to come back line after line after line and that’s the nice thing about our team is that we have the depth. We have 14 players, two goalies here. At any given time you can throw anybody on the floor and expect positive things.”

Rob Laurie of Clarkston and Jeff Reynaert of Sterling Heights shared goaltending duties for the Americans. Both played in the net a decade apart at Western Michigan University.

“Every year, it’s always a battle to win this thing,” said Laurie, who has been part of six gold-medal teams in seven world championships. “It means a lot when we do win it. The last couple years, we’ve had some overtime games against these same Czech guys. Canada always fields a great team in this, the Swiss… It wasn’t easy.

“We have a good team, the guys play well together. We’ve got a good system, a good coach. It’s pretty fun to be able to play in Michigan, where I’m from.”

The USA women defeated Japan, 9-1, and France, 3-0, in pool play; Mexico, 7-0, in the quarterfinals; and the Czech Republic, 5-2, in Friday’s semifinals, setting up a 2005 finals rematch for the title with favored Canada.

In one of the scrappiest, chippiest women’s champion games in inline history, forward Lauren McAuliffe, former co-captain of the Harvard women’s hockey team, scored the game-winning goal on a power play with 6½ minutes left, capitalizing on a great pass from captain Joy Woog Garvey of Minnesota. Garvey led her team in scoring with a goal and seven assists.

Canada dominated much of the first period, but USA goalie Brittany Martin was up to the test.

The teams exchanged goals 37 seconds apart. Team USA struck first at the 8-minute, 58-second mark when Miranda VanAtta scored with Antoinette Maldonado assisting. Canada countered at 9:35 when Coley Dosser scored from Meghan Agosta.

“To play at this level – it’s for the world championship, which I think is phenomenally special,” McAuliffe said. “You’re playing against different countries, different nations. For many people it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. To be the best in the world is pretty special. I’m very thankful for my teammates and how hard they worked to get here.”

Over the five-game stretch, the USA women outscored their opponents, 26-4. The USA women had a balanced scoring attack in the tournament, led by Kathy Savino’s four goals. McAuliffe, Maldonado, Jaime Rasmussen and Brittany Johnson had three goals each. Jessica Koizumi had two goals and four assists in the five games.

Team Canada took the men’s bronze medal with a 6-3 win over Switzerland. Shawn Mather and Dave Hammond had two goals apiece for Canada.

France took the women’s bronze with a win over the Czech Republic by the same 6-3 score. Marina Drici scored twice and had an assist for France.

NOTEBOOK: U.S. Coach Rob Chornomud and Charlie Yoder, father of players C.J. and Jami, were inducted into the USA Roller Sports (USARS) Competitive Coaches Roller Skating Hall of Fame.

Chornomud said he has been fortunate to coach the team in six tournaments – and win six gold medals: four world championships in a row, the Pan-American Games in 2003 in the Dominican Republic and the World Games in 2005 in Germany…

Chornomud said Team USA had a great time during the tournament in its native land.

“Taylor has been phenomenal: the rink, the facility, the surrounding restaurants, hotels that have helped us throughout this entire tournament. People have been great. I think they opened their arms to the entire event. The countries that came to participate – I don’t think there were preferences – but it’s always nice when you know that you’re on U.S. soil taking care of business.”…

Former Detroit Red Wing Petr Klima signed autographs prior to the start of the championship game. When the game started, he was rooting for his native Czech Republic team.

Klima reunited with Jim Pengelly, president of JRV Management, which operates the Sportsplex for the city of Taylor. Pengelly was the Red Wings’ trainer when Klima defected from Czechoslovakia to play in Detroit. Klima continues to reside in the area.