Satan strikes to fire up Slovakia

Miroslav Satan and Vlastimil Plavucha each scored twice as Slovakia struck four third-period goals on the way to a 6-2 win over Italy at the World Championships in St Petersburg yesterday.

Plavucha and Satan, who scored 33 goals in the NHL for the Buffalo Sabres this season, both found the net in the opening period and again in the third as Slovakia improved their Group B record to 2-0.

Peter Baros and Jan Pardavy also scored for the Slovaks while Dino Felicetti grabbed both the Italian goals.

Goaltender Mike Rosatti, who spent eight seasons playing in Germany and Italy before signing for the Washington Capitals last year, kept the Italians in touch for two periods. But Plavucha, the Slovakian league's leading scorer this season, quickly ended hopes of an upset when he scored a powerplay goal two minutes into the final period.

"We had our chances to tie the game, but couldn't," said Italy coach, Adolf Insam. "It was a matter of the inexperience of our young players. But that's what happens when you're rebuilding."

Italy saw their national league almost collapse following the Bosman ruling which allowed its best players to move to higher-paying leagues in Germany.

Instead of a team composed primarily of Italos (Canadian-born players with Italian passports), Italy arrived in St Petersburg with 15 native Italians on their bench, the most since the country made a return to the élite A pool in 1982.

"We have lived for 10 years on a generation of Italos we brought into the league in the early 90s," said Insam.

"Now, with players retiring and getting older we are down to seven. So we have very young players and we are paying the price, as you can see."

The Italians may drop into the relegation round depending on the outcome of their final match against Austria.

Alexandrs Belavskis and Juris Opulskis scored two goals each to power Latvia to a 6-3 win over Belarus yesterday.

Belavskis opened the scoring on a breakaway at 5min 13sec of the first period when he was able to lift the puck over Belarus goaltender Andrei Mezin despite being tripped from behind. Late in the period with the Latvians on a powerplay, defenceman Karlis Skrastins made it 2-0 with a powerful shot from the blue line.

Opulskis gave Latvia a 3-0 lead at 27:44 and after Andrei Kavalev pulled one back for Belarus a minute later, he restored a three-goal cushion with his second at 33:40.

Both teams exchanged goals in a wide-open second period but the game changed to a tight defensive battle in the third. Belavskis scored the lone goal and netminder Arturs Irbe shut out the Belarus attackers in the final 20 minutes to give Latvia their first group A win.

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