Month: January 2019 (Page 2 of 2)

WJC Day 11 roundup

Kaapo Kakko gives Finns gold

By Lucas Aykroyd –

Finland 3, United States 2

Kaapo Kakko scored the winner with 1:26 left as Finland edged the U.S. 3-2 in the 2019 World Junior gold medal game on Saturday night.

Anton Lundell won the draw in the U.S. zone and defenceman Henri Jokirharju got the puck at the blue line. Lundell couldn’t bang in the rebound from Jokiharju’s shot, but Kakko backhanded it past the outstretched right pad of U.S. goalie Cayden Primeau.

Jesse Ylonen and Otto Latvala had Finland’s other goals.

Alexander Chmelevski had a goal and an assist and Josh Norris also scored for the Americans, who came back from a 2-0 third-period deficit. Noah Cates added two assists, and Jack Hughes, the top-rated 2019 NHL Draft prospect, had one assist, matching his output in his previous three games.

However, this night will be remembered for the big goal by Kakko, who is projected to be drafted after Hughes. It was his second goal of these World Juniors.

It’s the third gold medal in six years and fifth in tournament history for Finland, one more than the Americans. The Finns previously triumphed in 1987, 1998, 2014, and 2016. Winning is becoming a habit now.

At Vancouver’s Rogers Arena, the Finns killed off five man advantages against the U.S., which entered the final clicking at a tournament-high 31.8 percent. Shots favoured Finland 31-28, and Primeau and Finnish starter Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen were both heroic.

Despite the loss, the silver-medal Americans extended their World Junior medal streak to four straight years. They won bronze in 2016 and 2018 and gold in 2017.

With five U.S. returnees and seven Finnish returnees from last year, there was no shortage of motivation. The gold medal game was played at a high tempo befitting two of the tournament’s best skating teams.

In a scoreless first period, the Finns outshot their opponents 13-9, but the story was the high-quality chances around Luukkonen’s net.

The U.S. got the first power play when a forechecking Rasmus Kupari caught Josh Norris with an elbow in the corner midway through the opening frame. The Americans thought they’d opened the scoring at 9:45. Luukkonen deflected Ryan Poehling’s shot off the glass and it bounced out in front, enabling Oliver Wahlstrom to fire the loose puck in during a scrum. However, the goal was waved off since Chmelevski was in the crease. Video review validated the on-ice call.

On the second U.S. man advantage, the Finnish goalie made a fabulous stick save on Chmelevski at the side of the net. Late in the period, Luukkonen dazzled again after Cockerill raced in, deked around Jokiharju to the outside and centred it from behind the goal line to Chmelevski for a Grade-A chance.

Flirting with danger, the Finns killed off two more second-period U.S. power plays before Evan Barratt was dinged for interfering with Luukkonen. Ylonen opened the scoring for Finland with an absolute howitzer at 11:31, one-timing Laaksonen’s feed from just inside the blue line over Primeau’s glove. Ylonen got the lone Finnish goal in the 4-1 New Year’s Eve loss to the Americans in Victoria.

With Teemu Engberg off for tripping up Chmelevski, Sami Moilanen nearly tipped in a glorious shorthanded chance on the rush. Before the penalty expired, Kakko and Lundell failed to finish off a 2-on-1 break.

In the third period, the Finns stayed patient and supported the puck well as the Americans pushed for the equalizer.

At the six-minute mark of the third period, Latvala gave Finland a 2-0 lead when his wrister from near the centre point sailed through traffic and beat Primeau on the stick side.

The Americans stayed resilient. They struck back just 1:01 later on a broken play. Jack Hughes attempted a shot that was blocked by Laaksonen, and the puck squirted to Chmelevski, who scored from a bad angle to Luukkonen’s right.

The U.S knotted the score at 8:47. Chmelevski grabbed a loose puck in the left faceoff circle and backhanded it to Josh Norris, whose one-timer flew past a sliding Luukkonen.

With 10 minutes left in the third, Luukkonen smartly denied Jack Hughes on a breakaway. With the Americans coming on strong, he foiled Wahlstrom from the slot four minutes later.

Captain Aarne Talvitie’s efforts to play in the third period were hampered by an injured ankle. The Finns tried to gut it out as the Vancouver crowd of 17,206 chanted: “Let’s go, Finland!” And Kakko delivered.

Every previous gold medal game in the 2010’s has been decided by no more than two goals, and this tense thriller completed the pattern. Finland is proud to return to the medal podium after a disastrous ninth-place finish in 2017 and an underwhelming sixth-place run in 2018.

The result shows how much Finnish hockey has grown since the last time they played for a World Junior medal in Vancouver. In 2006, goalie Tuukka Rask stole the show for the Finns with his quarter-final heroics versus Sweden and bronze medal-winning performance against the Americans. Thirteen years later, Suomi is on top of the world.

This was the first IIHF gold medal game played at Rogers Arena since Sidney Crosby scored the 3-2 overtime winner against the Americans in the 2010 Olympic final. The arena also hosted the 2006 World Junior final, where Canada blanked Russia 5-0.

An added bonus for Vancouver fans was watching three future Canucks prospects in the final. Defenceman Quinn Hughes was a minutes monster and forward Tyler Madden also played a big role for the U.S. during the tournament. Finnish defenceman Toni Utunen, who broke Canadian hearts with his 2-1 quarter-final overtime winner against the host team, also showed good upside.

These young men are the future in Vancouver, and with hard work and good fortune, they could become as beloved as Henrik Sedin or Jyrki Lumme, who attended the final and got rousing cheers when they were shown on the big screen.

With this exhilarating tournament in the books, the eyes of U20 hockey fans now turn toward the Czech Republic, where the Finns will aim to defend their title at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship in Ostrava and Trinec.

The Russian players pose for a team photo with their bronze medals.

Russia 5, Russia 2

Russia beat Switzerland 5-2 in the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship bronze medal game on Saturday, as world-class skill and opportunism won out over a never-say-die attitude.

In the early game in Vancouver, the underdog Swiss hung tough with the Russians till the end, but just couldn’t come up with enough offence.

“Not a bad finish for a big tournament,” said Russian captain Klim Kostin, who was the target of booing at Rogers Arena, but scored the eventual winner midway through the second period.

Kirill Slepets led the way with a hat trick, and Nikita Shashkov also scored for Russia.

“I don’t think I was so good in the whole tournament, but in this game I was able to score three goals and help the team,” said Slepets.

Valentin Nussbaumer and Yannick Bruschweiler replied for Switzerland, which outshot Russia 36-24.

“It was pretty surprising for us, but at the end, we’re not going home with a medal and that’s pretty disappointing,” said Swiss defenceman Davyd Barandun.

Goalie Pyotr Kochetkov, who plays for the VHL’s HK Ryazan and remains undrafted by an NHL club, made some fantastic saves to keep Russia ahead, honoring the number 20 on his jersey. It was made world-famous by IIHF Centennial All-Star Team member and Ice Hockey Federation of Russia president Vladislav Tretiak.

While coach Valeri Bragin’s team is disappointed about failing to win Russia’s first gold since 2011, returning to the podium is a creditable achievement in itself. Russia medaled for seven straight years before finishing fifth in Buffalo last year.

“We had a meeting only with the guys,” said assistant captain Dmitri Samorukov. “We talked about it. We tried to say something about what we should do today. And it worked, because we won.”

With an assist, forward Grigori Denisenko took over the tournament points lead (4-5-9). Alexander Romanov’s assist padded his lead as the top-scoring defenceman (1-7-8).

It was a good run in Vancouver and Victoria for the Swiss. They won their one and only bronze medal in 1998 in Helsinki, thanks principally to David Aebischer’s great goaltending. This was the third time they’ve finished fourth after 2002 and 2010.

“It was our goal for the tournament that we wanted to reach the semi-finals,” said Switzerland’s Nico Gross. “But not just the semi-finals. We wanted to go further. We wanted to play for a medal. We’re really disappointed we didn’t get a medal.”

With a solid but unremarkable-looking roster, Swiss coach Christian Wohlwend got his team to compete hard in every preliminary round game and upset Sweden 2-0 in the quarter-final. The Swiss can go home with their heads held high.

“I think we’re getting better and better,” Barandun added. “Our coaches are getting better. Every year, Switzerland’s going to play on top.”

At the end of the day, this bronze-medal score is about what most observers would have predicted after Russia lost 2-1 to the U.S. and Switzerland 6-1 to Finland in the semi-finals.

Slepets opened the scoring for Russia at 4:25. The Lokomotiv Yaroslavl forward got all kinds of time and space as he stickhandled off the right side boards and popped a forehand deke through Swiss starter Luca Hollenstein’s pads.

“He’s pretty quick!” Samorukov said of Slepets with a smile. “I didn’t know that. We talked about how he was going to score one-on-one with the goalie.”

Two seconds after a Swiss man advantage ended, Shashkov scored high to the stick side on a 2-on-1 to make it 2-0 at 13:44.

The biggest Russian defensive breakdown of the first period saw Philipp Kurashev, Switzerland’s leading scorer with six goals, left alone in front of the net with under a minute left. However, Kochetkov denied him with a poke check that would have made Toronto Maple Leafs legend Johnny Bower proud.

“First period, terrible,” said Wohlwend of the Swiss. “Terrible. I couldn’t understand it, the whole coaching staff couldn’t understand it. Such a great chance and we were sleeping. We played scared, we played slow with no courage and then, yeah, I had to get loud a little bit in the dressing room. Then it worked.”

In the second period, Switzerland jacked up its urgency and got on the board at 4:54. The Russians unwisely left another Swiss forward, Nussbaumer, unguarded at the crease. He accepted defenceman Simon le Coultre’s pass from the blue line, pivoted to the forehand and tucked it past Kochetkov.

The red-and-white, predominantly Canadian fans urged the underdogs on with chants of “Let’s go Switzerland!”, plus “Defence!” during a mid-game Russian power play.

Kostin, who issued an apology on social media for behaving disrespectfully after the semi-final loss to the U.S., tallied his third goal of the tournament from the slot to put his team up 3-1 at 12:53. The 19-year-old celebrated by plugging his ears.

“The crowd was booing the Russian team and me personally,” Kostin said. “When I scored, it was automatic. I did it automatically, but I didn’t want to offend anyone.”

Commenting on his spectacular play, Kochetkov said: “After the CHL Canada-Russia series, the annual series in November, I received a boost of confidence that I could also be good at the international level.” He had a superb 0.67 GAA and 97.8 save percentage versus the best of the WHL, OHL, and QMJHL.

Early in the third period, the Swiss kept coming, but Kochetkov barred the door. And Slepets, in a classic display of Russian opportunism, split the Swiss defence in the neutral zone for a breakaway and slid a backhander through Hollenstein’s legs at 6:33.

Pavel Shen was a hero on New Year’s Eve when he scored the winning goal against host Canada, but he had goat potential when he took a high-sticking double minor with under 10 minutes to play. Still, Kochetkov remained as impregnable as the Kremlin walls.

“We tried our best,” said Gross. “It just didn’t work out for us.”

With Russia shorthanded, Slepets completed his hat trick into an empty net for his fifth goal of the tournament with 2:01 left.

“It feels pretty good,” said Samorukov. “You win your last game, right? So it feels like gold. We can’t find the words for it. You’re family when you meet for two weeks, three weeks. It’s unbelievable just to see guys and all this stuff. It’s pretty special.”

Including the Soviet period, this is the eleventh Russian World Junior bronze medal of all time.

WJC Day 10 roundup

U.S. holds off Russia, will play Finland in final


United States 2, Russia 1

Cayden Primeau made 34 saves, and the United States advanced to the championship game with a 2-1 win against Russia in the semifinals of the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Arena on Friday.

Oliver Wahlstrom (New York Islanders) and Alexander Chmelevski (San Jose Sharks) scored for the United States, which eliminated Russia for the third straight year (semifinals in 2017, quarterfinals in 2018) and will play Finland, a 6-1 semifinal winner against Switzerland, on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN).

“It’s a pretty emotional tournament and obviously a game like that is pretty emotional, so just not trying to get too high, not trying to get too low is key,” Primeau said. “The goal is gold, so we’re not quite finished yet. The battle is still there, so it’s an honor and to do it with this group is something special.”

The United States is 8-1-0-12 against Russia in the tournament.

Grigori Denisenko (Florida Panthers) scored and Pyotr Kochetkov made 25 saves for Russia, which lost for the first time in six tournament games and will play the loser of the Finland/Switzerland game for the bronze medal.

“It’s a big disappointment, but a new day is [Saturday], a new game,” Russia forward Kirill Slepets said through a translator. “Our team is one of the best here. We were a little bit unlucky. We will fight for the (bronze) medal.”

Denisenko appeared to have given Russia a 1-0 lead at 12:13 of the first period, but a video review determined he redirected the puck into the net with his skate, which is not allowed according to IIHF rules.

Wahlstrom gave the United States a 1-0 lead at 14:29 of the first with a one-timer from the right circle off a pass from Logan Cockerill (Islanders).

Chmelevski made it 2-0 with a power-play goal off a pass from Jack Hughes (2019 NHL Draft eligible) at 4:20 of the second period.

“It was a little nerve-racking in the end, and they’re really hard to play against because they have a lot of high-end skill,” Hughes said. “It was nice to come away with the win. We’ll need to have the same effort [Saturday].”

Denisenko cut it to 2-1 at 13:36 from low in the right circle on a shot that beat Primeau (Montreal Canadiens) over his left shoulder.

Russia forward Klim Kostin (St. Louis Blues) almost tied the game 1:12 into the third period when his shot on the power play trickled behind Primeau, but United States defenseman Philip Kemp (Edmonton Oilers) cleared the puck away with his stick just before it crossed the goal line.

“I saw a guy take a shot and then it hit Primeau and I kind of lost if for a bit,” Kemp said. “Then I saw it drop down, and I knew I had to beat that guy’s stick who was in the crease, so I just tried to get a low position and dig it out.

“To be honest, I wasn’t really thinking, it was just instincts. I don’t know if it was from practice, muscle memory or what not from just digging them out on the crease, but it was a huge play for us.”

Primeau made 15 saves in the third period to preserve the lead.

“He’s provided comfort for us when we’ve needed him,” United States coach Mike Hastings said. “When you play a team as good as Russia, they’re going to get their chances and you need that last line of defense to be there for you, to allow you time to catch your breath at times.”

Russia entered the game 5-for-16 on the power play (31.3 percent) but went 0-for-2 against the United States, which has the top penalty kill in the tournament (12-for-13, 92.3 percent).

“Your best penalty killer needs to be your goaltender, and [Primeau] was [Friday],” Hastings said.

Finland 6, Switzerland 1

Aarne Talvitie (New Jersey Devils) scored twice, and Aleski Heponiemi (Florida Panthers) had one goal and three assists to help Finland defeat Switzerland 6-1 in the semifinals of the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Arena on Friday.

Finland will play the United States on Saturday for the championship.

“Of course they are the favorites, but I think we have a good chance if we battle hard and we are the guys who control the puck,” Finland coach Jussi Ahokas said. “We played better and better after every game.”

Rasmus Kupari (Los Angeles Kings) had a goal and two assists, Jesse Ylonen (Montreal Canadiens) and Henri Jokiharju (Chicago Blackhawks) scored, and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (Buffalo Sabres) made 16 saves for Finland, which outshot Switzerland 33-17.

“We got a couple of goals straight from the beginning, so it gave us confidence to play through the game,” Talvitie said. “It was good we scored some goals. It was a boost on our confidence.”

Philipp Kurashev (Chicago Blackhawks) scored his tournament-leading sixth goal for Switzerland, which plays Russia for third place Saturday.

“The team that wants it more will win and we’ll leave it all on the ice,” Switzerland defenseman Simon le Coultre said.

Switzerland made the semifinal with a 2-0 upset of Sweden and 41 saves from Luca Hollenstein, but the 2019 NHL Draft-eligible goalie was pulled after four goals on eight shots in 7:43 Friday.

Ylonen, a second-round pick (No. 35) in the 2018 NHL Draft, scored 40 seconds into the game, and Talvitie, picked in the sixth round (No. 160) of the 2017 NHL Draft, scored 2:01 apart to make it 3-0.

Jokiharju, who was picked No. 29 in the 2017 draft and played 32 games for the Blackhawks this season, scored on a power play to make it 4-0.

Akira Schmid (Devils) made 23 saves in relief for Switzerland, which won its only WJC medal in 1998 (bronze). Russia defeated Switzerland 7-4 in the preliminary round; the game was tied 3-3 after two periods.

“We played a good 40 minutes,” le Coultre said. “Now we have to play 60.”

Kazakhstan stays, Denmark relegated

Kazakhstan’s Davyd Makutski (#12) celebrates with team-mates after scoring against Denmark

By Dhiren Mahiban –

Kazakhstan avoided relegation defeating Denmark 4-0 on Friday at the IIHF World Junior Championship. The Kazakhs edged the Danes 4-3 in the first game of the best-of-three relegation round on Wednesday to keep their spot in the top group for the 2020 tournament.

Captain Sayan Daniyar and forward Davyd Makutski had first period goals for Kazakhstan while goaltender Demid Yeremeyev made 25 saves for his first shutout of the tournament.

Danish starting goaltender Mads Soegaard allowed two goals on the first two shots he faced and was replaced by William Rorth, who stopped 12 shots in relief.

Denmark pulled Rorth with 2:46 remaining in the third looking for a pair of goals to force the game into overtime, but Artur Gatiyatov added his fourth goal of the tournament into an empty net for Kazakhstan with 1:32 remaining. He then added a second empty-net goal with 54.1 seconds left to make it 4-0.

The 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic will be the seventh time Kazakhstan plays in the top group. They played in the top division from 1998-2001 and in 2008 and 2009 prior to this year’s event.

The loss relegates Denmark to the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division I Group A while Germany, who won the Division IA last month, will be promoted to the top group and take Denmark’s spot for 2020.

Sayan Daniyar opened the scoring 35 seconds into the first period. The Kazakh forward was attempting a wraparound and put the puck in off of Soegaard’s stick and into the net for his second goal of the tournament.

Makutski doubled Kazakhstan’s lead at 3:47 of the opening frame putting a loose puck over the glove of Soegaard for his first of the World Junior Championship.

Makutski’s goal chased Soegaard from the Danish goal. The 18-year-old netminder allowed two goals on the first two shots he faced and was replaced by Rorth.

Denmark’s offence continued to be an issue on Friday. Entering the second game of the relegation round the Danes had scored in just one of five games.

The Danes out-shot the Kazakhs 10-4 in the opening 20 minutes, but had nothing to show for it.

Emil Marcussen had Denmark’s best chance of the period at 11:46, but couldn’t beat Yeremeyev. Gustav Green found Marcussen alone in the slot, but Yeremeyev made a big glove save on the one-timer.

Despite out-shooting Kazakhstan 9-7 and having the only two power play chances of the second period, Denmark was unable to solve Yeremeyev.

Denmark defeated Belarus in the relegation round at the World Junior Championship in Buffalo last year. The loss demotes them to Division IA for the first time since 2014.

WJC Day 8 roundup:

Finland rallies past Canada in OT in quarterfinals


Finland 2, Canada 1 OT

Toni Utunen (Vancouver Canucks) scored 5:17 into overtime to give Finland a 2-1 win against Canada in the quarterfinals at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Wednesday.

Canada defenseman Noah Dobson (New York Islanders) broke his stick on a one-timer and Utunen scored on the ensuing rush with a wrist shot glove side from the right face-off dot.

“I am just starting to realize what I just did,” Utunen said. “It felt amazing. It was my first goal this season (plays for Tappara in Liiga). A huge goal for me and even bigger for our team.”

Aleksi Heponiemi (Florida Panthers) tied it 1-1 with 47 seconds left in the third period, and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (Buffalo Sabres) made 24 saves for Finland, including stopping Max Comtois (Anaheim Ducks) on a penalty shot 1:14 into the 4-on-4 overtime. 

Finland will play Switzerland in the semifinals here on Friday.

“As a coach, there is no better situation in the world, to play against Canada and [defeat] them on their home soil,” Finland coach Jussi Ahokas said. “Everything, a [penalty shot] in overtime and then you win yourself. You can’t really write better drama than that.”

Michael DiPietro (Vancouver Canucks) made 32 saves and Ian Mitchell (Chicago Blackhawks) scored for Canada, which won the gold medal in 2018.

“We deserved a better fate,” DiPietro said. “Sometimes you are going to get the bounce in the game and sometimes you’re not. But for the game to end like that, it’s disappointing. For our group, it’s a tough pill to swallow.”

It is the first time Canada has failed to win a medal as host of the tournament (13 times as host, once co-host with United States) and the second time in past 21 years it won’t play for a medal. It lost in the quarterfinals in the 2016 WJC, also to Finland.

It is also the fourth time in the past seven years Canada won’t medal and assures it won’t play the United States at any point in the tournament for the first time since the 2005 WJC.

“It’s a tough loss,” Comtois said. “Canada is never expected to go that early, but it was a good battle out there. This tournament is about a fine line winning and losing.”

Mitchell gave Canada a 1-0 lead at 1:30 of the second period. Barrett Hayton (Arizona Coyotes) sent a pass from his knees to Mitchell, who scored with a quick wrist shot over Luukkonen’s glove from just inside the right face-off dot.

Luukkonen, selected in the second round (No. 54) in the 2017 NHL Draft, stopped Brett Leason on a breakaway with 5:10 remaining in regulation before Eeli Tolvanen sent a shot from behind the net that deflected off Heponiemi into the net to tie it 1-1 with an extra skater on the ice. 

Finland defenseman Ville Heinola, a B-rated skater in NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch list , left the game with 5:19 left in the second period after a hit by Comtois.

United States 3, Czech Republic 1

Jack Hughes had an assist in his return for the United States in a 3-1 win against the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals of the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, British Columbia, on Wednesday.

Hughes, an A-rated skater in NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch list and the projected No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, had missed the past three games with an undisclosed injury.

“It was a lot of fun to be back on the ice with the boys and we played a really good game, so it was really good for our team,” Hughes said. “I thought I was ready to play a couple of days ago (prior to Finland game), but it was good to feel better each and every day and I feel good now, so that’s all that matters.”

Noah Cates (Philadelphia Flyers), Josh Norris (Ottawa Senators) and Alexander Chmelevski (San Jose Sharks) scored, and Cayden Primeau made 18 saves for the United States, which will play the Russia/Slovakia winner in the semifinals in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Friday.

Martin Kaut (Colorado Avalanche) scored and Lukas Dostal (Anaheim Ducks) made 38 saves for the Czech Republic. 

“We have great offensive guys, but it just didn’t work out,” Kaut said. “Filip Zadina didn’t score a goal (in the tournament). It’s not normal for him. We took just 19 shots and the USA had 41 in this game, and that’s not normal for us. Now we’re out so I’ll be coming back to the American Hockey League (Colorado) soon.”

Cates gave the United States a 1-0 lead at 12:12 of the first period, taking a pass from Hughes and scoring with a backhand. 

Norris made is 2-0 when he controlled a lead pass from Jason Robertson (Dallas Stars) and scored on a breakaway at 6:10 of the second period. 

Kaut cut it to 2-1 with a power-play goal at 11:29 of the third period, but Chmelevski scored an empty-net goal to make it 3-1 at 19:21.

The United States is 11-7 in the WJC quarterfinals (5-1 against Czech Republic) and has won five straight playoff games against the Czech Republic. 

“I don’t think we’re peaking but getting on the right track” Norris said. “I think confidence is really high and the guys trust each other a lot right now. The biggest thing is we’re playing well defensively and going into these medal rounds, that’s really big.”

Switzerland 2, Sweden 0

Luca Hollenstein made 41 saves for Switzerland in a 2-0 win against Sweden in the quarterfinals at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, British Columbia, on Wednesday.

It was Hollenstein’s second shutout of the tournament (4-0 win against Denmark in preliminary round). He has a 0.66 goals-against average and .978 save percentage in three games.

Forwards Yannick Bruschweiler and Luca Wyss scored for Switzerland, which was the fourth seed in Group A after going 1-0-1-2 in the preliminary round. It will play the Canada/Finland winner in the semifinals in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Friday.

“I think we knew from the beginning of the tournament that we could beat any team, and we saw it in our preliminary round games when we got more comfortable and now it worked out for us,” Bruschweiler said.

Samuel Ersson (Philadelphia Flyers) made 33 saves for Sweden, which entered the game as the top seed in Group B after going 3-1-0-0 in the preliminary round. The loss was its first in the quarterfinals since 2006 (Finland).

“They work really hard and we couldn’t compete at the same level,” Sweden coach Tomas Monten said. “We lost our tempo with the puck, which happened against Slovakia and then the last two periods against Kazakhstan. [Switzerland] did a remarkable job defensively and we had two breakaways. You have to score on those chances if you want to win a tight playoff game.”

Bruschweiler scored on an end-to-end rush to give Switzerland a 1-0 lead at 15:23 of the first period. Wyss poked in a loose puck at the right post to make it 2-0 at 13:59 of the second period.

Hollenstein, who is making his first appearance for Switzerland at the WJC, made 19 saves in the third period to preserve the lead.

Russia 8, Slovakia 3

Klim Kostin (St. Louis Blues) scored two goals and Pyotr Kochetkov made 32 saves for Russia in an 8-3 win against Slovakia in the quarterfinals at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Wednesday.

Kochetkov, who wasn’t ranked in NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch list in November, got the start ahead of Danil Tarasov (Columbus Blue Jackets) after making 30 saves in a 2-1 win against Canada on Monday. 

Russia, which has won all five of its games after going 4-0-0-0 in the preliminary round, will play the United States in the semifinals here on Friday.

Grigori Denisenko (Florida Panthers) had one goal and two assists, Alexander Alexeyev (Washington Capitals) had a goal and an assist, and Alexander Romanov (Montreal Canadiens) and Nikolai Kovalenko (Colorado Avalanche) each had two assists. Defenseman Ilya Morozov and forwards Nikita Shashkov, Stepan Starkov and Kirill Slepets, who are each eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft, also scored for Russia.

Martin Fehervary (Capitals), Milos Roman (Calgary Flames) and Michal Ivan scored for Slovakia. Samuel Hlavaj was pulled after allowing three goals on six shots in the first period. He was replaced by Juraj Sklenar, who made 19 saves in relief. 





After inspiring victory, Turkish ice hockey looks to rule the rink

Halit Albayrak (R) spoke about the aspirations of the Turkish Ice Hockey Federation in an interview with Serkan Ünlü at Silivrikapı Ice Hockey Hall where young players train to be future stars.

By Serkan unlu – Daily Sabah

The unprecedented success of an underdog team made up of former drug addicts paved the way for interest in ice hockey in Turkey. Halit Albayrak, head of the Turkish Ice Hockey Federation, says he is confident of the country’s future success on a global scale thanks to new facilities and the rising interest in sports.

Turkey is a latecomer to ice hockey, a sport mostly dominated by the likes of Canada, Sweden and Russia, but an unprecedented victory in the 35 years of ice hockey in the country has put it on the map.

Speaking to Daily Sabah in an exclusive interview, Turkish Ice Hockey Federation Chairman Halit Albayrak, one of the figures responsible for this newfound success, said a bright future is ahead for hockey, with more interest and the construction of new facilities to train players.

Albayrak, who was elected in March 2018, is also head of Zeytinburnu Hockey Club, which is behind the story of the underdogs.

It all started when the municipality of Zeytinburnu district launched an environmental campaign in 2009. The municipality offered 45 minutes of ice skating on a newly established ice rink to anyone who brought a certain amount of waste to be recycled.

A group of teenage drug addicts in the district who had plenty of time to collect waste and were in need of a respite from their troubled lives, were among those enjoying the free skating. They quickly drew attention with their skills on ice.

This was when Albayrak, the then owner of a school whose students were regular guests of the rink for training, received a suggestion from Zeytinburnu Mayor Murat Aydın. Aydın advised him to take the troubled teens under his wing, and the rest is history.

Albayrak formed the Zeytinburnu Hockey Club for teens in cooperation with the municipality and seven years later, the team made history by winning a group title in the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Continental Cup in Bulgaria in 2016.

“They were a lost generation, youth with nothing to lose. The ice rink sparked their hope for a better life,” Albayrak says. “We didn’t have big dreams when we first started, but we always advised players to remain united with team spirit. Theirs is a story of a dream come true for young people isolated from society for their addiction.”

Zeytinburnu’s tremendous success in the international tournament helped break prejudice among parents who were afraid to send their children for ice hockey training, Albayrak said.

“People used to see it as a dangerous sport but nowadays, more people come to the rink to see if they can play it too,” he added, as he watched young players training at Silivrikapı Ice Hockey Hall in Istanbul. “We have ideas about how to give more opportunities to people interested in ice hockey, and one of them is converting sections of sports halls in some schools to ice rinks. Perhaps not all of them, but some schools can also serve as training grounds for future players.”

Meanwhile, construction of an ice hockey arena continues in Zeytinburnu with the support of the government. “It is going to be one of the biggest ice hockey halls in Europe,” Albayrak said, adding that it is being built on a space of 40,000 square meters.

The hall, with two ice rinks, exclusive rinks for training and a hotel for visiting hockey teams, is expected to be completed within one year.

“It will be a ‘factory’ for ice hockey players and provide training for about 2,000 people ever year,” Albayrak said.

The federation chair is confident that the new hall will boost Turkey’s world standing in ice hockey. “We can train world-class players too. I am assured that it will take only a decade, proper training and better facilities to have [international success],” he said.

Along with players, Turkish ice hockey needs new trainers, Albayrak said, adding that they also strive to improve talent scouting to find skilled children and properly train them.

“We aren’t following the examples of other countries; we want to create our style, but we have also analyzed how other countries accomplished in ice hockey managed to succeed. Still, we need a local approach for training for success,” he said.


The true story of the young players of Zeytinburnu Hockey Club is now the subject of a new TV series by public broadcaster TRT. “Tek Yürek” (“One Heart”), which will launch soon, draws inspiration from the experience of the team.

Halit Albayrak said though it is mixed with fiction, the series will be centered on ice hockey, and he counts on more interest in the sport after the series.

“I’m worried we might not be able to accommodate everyone in the rink after the show launches,” he joked, pointing out the huge demand for ice rinks after Zeytinburnu’s victory.

WJC Day 6 roundup

United States tops Finland, finishes second in Group B


United States 4, Finland 1

Tyler Madden (Vancouver Canucks) scored two goals, and the United States earned the second seed in Group B with a 4-1 win against Finland at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, British Columbia, on Monday.

Jason Robertson (Dallas Stars) had a goal and an assist, Ryan Poehling (Montreal Canadiens) scored, Josh Norris (Ottawa Senators) had two assists, and Cayden Primeau (Montreal Canadiens) made 27 saves for the United States (3-0-1-0), which will play the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals in Victoria on Wednesday.

Jesse Ylonen (Montreal Canadiens) scored and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (Buffalo Sabres) made 35 saves for Finland (2-0-0-2), which will play Canada in the quarterfinals at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Wednesday.

Robertson scored from the left circle at 19:51 of the first period to give the United States a 1-0 lead.

Madden scored at 11:40 of the second period to make it 2-0, and Poehling scored his team-leading fifth goal of the tournament at 16:42 to extend the lead to 3-0.

Madden scored his second of the game 2:02 into the third period for a 4-0 lead, and Ylonen cut it to 4-1 at 13:16.

Russia wins top spot in Group A with a 2-1 win against Canada

Russia 2, Canada 1

Pavel Shen (Boston Bruins) scored the tiebreaking goal at 11:00 of the third period, and Russia earned the top spot in Group A with a 2-1 win against Canada at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Monday.

Shen got behind Canada defenseman Markus Phillips (Los Angeles Kings) on the right wing and cut back across the top of the crease before beating goalie Michael DiPietro (Vancouver Canucks) to the far post.

“It was a good win and tough game, but it’s just preliminary, so we should forget about this game and think about future games,” Shen said through a translator.

Grigori Denisenko (Florida Panthers) also scored and Pyotr Kochetkov made 30 saves for Russia (4-0-0-0), which will play Slovakia in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.

Cody Glass (Vegas Golden Knights) scored and DiPietro made 29 saves for Canada (3-0-0-1), which will play Finland in the quarterfinals.

“Tonight’s the last rehearsal for it,” Canada coach Tim Hunter said. “Because next game, you don’t have a gimme where you can lose a game and still move on.”

Glass, who was selected by Vegas with the No. 6 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, gave Canada a 1-0 lead after forcing a turnover in Russia’s zone 2:20 into the first period.

Denisenko, selected by Florida with the No. 15 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, tied it 1-1 on a power play at 5:21 after Morgan Frost (Philadelphia Flyer) received a two-minute penalty and 10-minute misconduct for checking from behind.

Kochetkov (2019 draft eligible) made his best save of the game at 4:24 of the second period, stopping Max Comtois (Anaheim Ducks) with his left pad on a backdoor chance.

Sweden 4, Kazakhstan 1

Rasmus Sandin, a first-round pick (No. 29) in the 2018 NHL Draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs, had two goals and an assist to help Sweden earn the top seed in Group B with a 4-1 win against Kazakhstan at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, British Columbia, on Saturday.

Emil Bemstrom (Columbus Blue Jackets) and Nils Lundkvist scored, and Olle Eriksson Ek (Anaheim Ducks) made 10 saves for Sweden (3-1-0-0), which was without five players because of a stomach virus and will play Switzerland in the quarterfinals in Victoria on Wednesday.

Sweden won its 48th straight preliminary-round match at the World Junior Championship. It last lost 3-2 in overtime against the United States on Dec. 31, 2006, at the 2007 WJC.

Batyrlan Muratov scored at 9:46 of the third period, and Denis Karatayev made 52 saves for Kazakhstan (0-0-0-4).

Sweden took a 3-0 lead in the first period on goals by Bemstrom at 7:10, Sandin at 12:13, and Lundkvist at 16:49. Sandin scored into an empty net at 19:21 of the third period.

Czech Republic 4, Denmark 0

Martin Necas (Carolina Hurricanes) had a goal and an assist, and Lukas Dostal (Anaheim Ducks) made 19 saves for the Czech Republic in a 4-0 win against Denmark in Group A at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Monday.

Jakub Lauko (Boston Bruins), Martin Kaut (Colorado Avalanche) and Filip Kral (Toronto Maple Leafs) also scored for the Czech Republic (1-1-0-2), which got its first regulation win and passed Switzerland to finish third in the group. The Czech Republic will play the United States in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.

Mads Sogaard, a B-rated goalie on NHL Central Scouting’s players to watch list for the 2019 NHL Draft, made 30 saves for Denmark (0-0-4), which became the first team to not score a goal in the preliminary round since the tournament switched to its current 10-team format in 1996.

Denmark will play Kazakhstan in a three-game series to avoid relegation in the 2020 WJC.

Czech Republic defenseman Michael Gaspar (2019 draft eligible), left on a stretcher after a collision into the side of his net early in the third period.

“The doctors took him to the hospital and he went through some tests and examinations and it looks like it’s the lower side of the ribs that is damaged,” Czech Republic coach Vaclav Varada said. “We don’t know how long he is going to be (out). Michael is feeling better, but we kept him there for another examination that’s going to decide if there is some damage inside the stomach or around it.

“For now, we are down to 6 [defensemen] and we will see how Michael is feeling by tomorrow.”

Newer posts »
Translate »