Month: December 2020 (Page 1 of 4)

Canada overwhelms Finland

Canada dominated Finland and skated to an impressive victory to close out the preliminary round

By Andrew Podnieks –

From the opening faceoff Canada attacked the Finns wave after wave, pursuing every puck with abandon and taking away the Finns’ time to think. The result was a thoroughly dominating 4-1 win.

Shots favored Canada by a wide margin, 40-19, and over four games Canada outshot its opponents 159-67.

The result means Canada, with a perfect 4-0 record, will take on the Czech Republic in one quarter-finals on Saturday, while the other three matchups are still contingent on the last game of today between Sweden and the United States.

“We didn’t play as well as our last game,” admitted Finnish defenceman Mikko Kokkonen. “Defensively, we didn’t get pucks out of our end early, so we spent too much time in our own end. We knew how they were going to play, but in the first two periods we didn’t play well. We have to be better.”

Canada’s pressure was a thing of beauty for its intensity. Dylan Cozens opened the scoring off the rush at 3:49 after a mistake by Eemil Viro at the Canada blue line. Viro tried to pinch off a turnover, but Cozens took the puck down the left wing on a three-on-one. Seeing few options on the pass, he took aim and wired a shot to the short side of Kari Piiroinen.

Jakob Pelletier had a great chance to make it 2-0 a little later on a clear break but was foiled by Piiroinen’s left pad. All the same, Canada drew the only two penalties of the period and outshot the Finns 17-1 in their most dominant period of the tournament.

Nothing changed in the second. Canada doubled its lead at 6:54 after incredible pressure and several shots, the final blow coming when Pelletier’s point-black shot bounced off Dylan Holloway and in.

Six minutes later, after another sequence of intense pressure, they made it 3-0. This time it was a Bowen Byram point shot that bounced around in front where Peyton Krebs, back to the goal, smacked the puck between his legs and in.

Canada made its first mistake of the night early in the third when Cozens took the team’s first penalty of the game deep in the Finland end. The Finns capitalized. The goal came off the stick of 16-year-old Brad Lambert whose shot went off the shaft of Thomas Hartley and over Levi’s glove.

Canada withstood the Finnish confidence, however, and Cozens added his second of the night with an empty netter as Finland tried to tie the game. That goal was his tournament-leading sixth and he now has eleven points, also tops

Czechs on to quarters

The Czechs scored four goals in the second period on their way to qualifying for the quarter-finals

By Andrew Podnieks –

The Czech Republic overcame a nervous start to score four goals in the second period en route to an easy 7-0 win over Austria.

The win solidifies the Czechs’ fourth-place finish in the Group B standings, and the team will now play the winner of today’s Canada-Finland game in the quarter-finals on Saturday. The Austrians go home but will return next year a little bit older and wiser.

“We need to play the same way we played today,” Czech goalie Nick Malik said of his team’s chances in the playoffs. “We need to follow the coach’s game plan and play good hockey. We can’t be nervous and have to believe we can play with anyone.”

“We’re still in the tournament, which is great for us,” said coach Karel Mlejnek, “and now we have to prepare for the quarter-finals and plan for our opponents. That’s the key, to analyze our opponents and figure our what we need to do to be better.”

The loss means Austria has yet to win a top-level U20 game after 21 tries, the longest such streak in U20 history. And, they scored just once in four games, which just is not good enough.

“It was really tough for us because we have no experience at this level,” said capain Marco Rossi. “Everything was new for us, but it will be better next year. We had a really young group here, but we’ll know what to expect next year and we’ll have a better chance. I’m still proud of how we played.”

“We have to get stronger physically, and the players have to play in leagues and play against these types of opponents,” offered coach Roger Bader. “They are not used to it. And here we had a bit of bad luck in our group, where four of the teams are in the top six of the World Ranking. I don’t think we are far behind Switzerland, Germany, and Slovakia.”

The game also featured only one minor penalty, tying the record for fewest penalty minutes by one team in a U20 game (0, Czech Republic) and for both teams (2).

Martin Lang led the way with two goals and an assist while Pavel Novak had a goal and two helpers.

Coming into the game the implications of the game were very clear. If Austria won in regulation, it would qualify for the quarter-finals. If the Czechs lost after regulation, or won any which way, they would advance.

And the way the first period went, Austria showed just enough life to suggest they had the wherewithal to pull off a giant upset. Although the Czechs had the better of play, shots favoured the Czechs 15-6, the second lowest period margin for the Austrians this tournament.

As well, goalie Sebastian Wraneschitz continued his fine play, blocking everything that came his way and giving his team a fighting chance, even though it had scored just one goal in ten periods of hockey.

“We needed to get better in the offensive zone, so we just wanted to keep going and wanted to score the first goal,” Simon Kubicek noted. “We did that in the second period and then we played better and better.”

“The game wasn’t easy for us mentally. After the first period we tried to tell our players to stay aggressive and keep going to the net,” Mlejnek added. “That’s where the scoring chances are.”

And the first good chance of the second went to Austria. Lucas Thaler cut in on goal off the right wing, but after a nice move he fumbled the puck and couldn’t get a shot off. The rest of the period was all Czechs.

They opened the scoring at 6:27 when Simon Kubicek took a bouncy shot from the point that hopped unluckily over Wraneschitz’s glove and in. Six minutes later, the Czechs made it 2-0 off a wild scramble that saw the puck come to Martin Lang. He had an open net and didn’t miss.

The Czechs got two late goals which were, in essence, insurance markers. Lang got another off a long shot that beat Wraneschitz cleanly, and then, with only 32.3 seconds remaining, Filip Prykril redirected a pass from Radek Muzik in close.

In all, shots were 23-2 in the middle period, a clear indicator of the Czechs’ domination.

Pavel Novak added to the total just 1:39 into the third when his sharp-angle shot found its way behind Wraneschitz through a screen which gave the goalie no chance.

David Jiricek made it 6-0 at 16:45 of the third on a similar goal to the first, his drifting shot from the middle of the point going all the way. Jan Mysak closed out the scoring with 25.6 seconds remaining.

Russia ends Swedish streak in OT

Russia’s Marat Khusnutdinov (#22) celebrates after scoring the 4-3 overtime winner against Sweden in preliminary-round action at the World Juniors in Edmonton

By Lucas Aykroyd –

History was made. With an exciting 4-3 overtime victory on Wednesday, Russia broke Sweden’s all-time record preliminary-round winning streak at 54 games. The result moves the Russians (eight points) into first place in Group B for the time being.

Marat Khusnutdinov scored the winner on the power play with six seconds left in OT.

“There was great work before,” said Khusnutdinov. “Mikhail Abramov got us the power play [by drawing a penalty]. There was a great shot from Rodion Amirov and I scored on the second chance.”

Sweden (seven points) and the U.S. (six points) will still get to battle for first place, each seeking a regulation-time win in their New Year’s Eve group finale. The second-place team in Group B will face Germany, which finished third in Group A, in the quarter-finals.

Sweden last lost a preliminary-round game on 31 December 2006 in Leksand when the U.S.’s Jack Johnson scored the 3-2 overtime winner.

“It doesn’t matter,” said Swedish captain Philip Broberg. “We’re here to win gold. It doesn’t matter in group play. You’ve got to be the best when the stakes are the [highest]. So this is going to make us stronger and hopefully we’ll just get better for tomorrow and get ready.”

This was the most intense and dynamic hockey we’ve seen at the 2021 World Juniors, setting the stage for more thrills in Edmonton.

“It’s not an easy game, and it’s the type of hockey we expect to play moving forward,” said Russian head coach Igor Larionov, whose team scored three power play goals. “I like the boys responding really well after the loss to the Czech Republic. Tonight was good, despite some circumstances in the second period when we got a few minutes of shorthanded play against Team Sweden.”

Eleven of the last 12 games between these two elite nations have been decided by just one goal. Last year, Ivan Morozov scored twice, including the overtime winner, as Russia beat Sweden 5-4 to advance to the gold medal game against Canada. The Russians and Swedes settled for silver and bronze respectively. 

Swedish coach Joel Ronnmark gave Jesper Wallstedt his first start in net over incumbent Hugo Alnefelt. Wallstedt, 18, has a 2.06 GAA and 92.0 save percentage with the SHL’s Lulea HF this season. Yaroslav Askarov, who was pulled in last year’s semi-final, returned between the pipes for Russia after Artur Akhtyamov played in the 7-1 win over Austria.

“The game felt pretty good,” said Wallstedt, who found out he would play after Sweden’s practice on Tuesday. “You know, it’s tough being here. I haven’t played a game in a couple of weeks. But I felt all right. Very sad that we couldn’t get out with a win.”

Shots on goal favored Sweden 36-35.

Broberg returned to the lineup after a one-game absence due to injury. Meanwhile, Larionov’s team went without Yegor Chinakhov, who was injured when hauled down on a break against Austria. Chinakhov was awarded a penalty shot on the play, but it was Rodion Amirov who took it and opened the scoring. (Larionov said afterwards that Chinakhov is expected to skate on New Year’s Day and his quarter-final status will be reevaluated.)

The Russians came out blazing and thought they’d opened the scoring again just 37 seconds in. Captain Vasili Podkolzin bulled his way to the net with the puck, with Broberg right on top of him, and Amirov shoveled the rebound in. The play was video-reviewed, and as per the original call on the ice, it was ruled that Podkolzin’s stick had interfered with Wallstedt. No goal.

At 7:28, it was 1-0 Russia for real. Larionov’s troops hounded the Swedish defence on the forecheck and turned the puck over. Mikhail Abramov rounded the net and slid a sneaky cross-crease pass to Yegor Afanasiev, who buried it past Wallstedt’s right skate.

“I thought Russia started the game really intense, and we grew into it,” said Ronnmark. “It was a hard-fought game, something to build on for the upcoming games.”

Sweden gained momentum, and Arvid Costmar tied it up at 14:33 with his second goal of the tournament. Noel Gunler flipped the puck past three Russian defenders to Costmar, unmolested in front of Askarov. The Linkoping HC product whacked a backhander through the goalie’s legs.

With just 46 seconds left in the opening frame, Amirov and Podkolzin got some revenge on the power play for their earlier disallowed goal. From the goal-line, Podkolzin made a heads-up pass to a wide-open Amirov, who whipped the puck off Wallsted’s paddle into the gaping cage. Flamboyantly, Amirov pointed to the net like a referee after scoring.

Things got rougher early in the second period. Russian defender Yan Kuznetsov got away with a stick jab on star Swedish forward Alexander Holtz. Sweden’s Elmer Soderblom inadvertently whacked a crouching Semyon Chistyakov in the mouth with the follow-through from his shot attempt.

The Juniorkronorna dictated the tempo and outshot Russia 17-7 in the second period. That said, the Russians still got quality chances, like when Maxim Groshev got in the clear and put a high backhander off Wallstedt’s left shoulder.

Sweden pressed hard during a mid-game man advantage with Holtz and fellow “Terror Twin” Lucas Raymond firing away, but Holtz could only ring one off the post. The Russians took four straight second-period minors and were lucky to escape without giving up a power-play goal.

“Obviously, we want to score a couple more goals there,” said Ronnmark. “I think we’re creating a lot. We can execute on our chances a bit better, hopefully, tomorrow, and in the games coming up after that.”

Holtz’s persistence finally paid off, as he got the 2-2 equalizer at even strength at 15:59. With a wide-open net, the 2020 New Jersey Devils first-round pick (seventh overall) put a bouncing puck off the side of the cage, but then retrieved the puck below the goal line and fired it in off Askarov for his first goal of these World Juniors.

In the third period, Broberg appeared to strain himself and skated off gingerly after a spectacular solo jaunt where he failed to tuck the puck past Askarov’s outstretched left skate. The Swedish captain declined comment when asked about his health afterwards.

Holtz went off for hooking and Kirill Kirsanov made it 3-2 with the power play (Russia’s first since the opening period) at 9:46. From the left faceoff circle, the World Junior rookie from SKA St. Petersburg unleashed a wicked wrister that dinged in off Wallstedt’s left post, high to the glove side.

Costmar had a great chance to tie it with under three minutes when he whizzed a shot off Askarov’s cross bar. With Wallstedt pulled for the extra attacker, Ronnmark called his timeout after Russia iced the puck at 18:28.

It paid off. The Swedes controlled the puck and Holtz’s one-timer ricocheted in off Noel Gunler’s shin pad with just one minute remaining in regulation. Gunler now has four goals.

However, to cap off a wild overtime, Khusnutdinov would break Swedish hearts when he converted an OT rebound with Costmar in the penalty box for holding.

Of the streak’s demise, Ronnmark said: “I know you guys [the media] have asked about it. We haven’t focused at all on that. We lost this game. Obviously, we always want to win when we go into a game. That’s the goal. We have some good stuff from this game. Tonight we lost. It is what it is.”

According to statistics compiled by TSN, the now-defunct Swedish streak included preliminary-round wins over Switzerland (8), the Czech Republic (8), Russia (7), Finland (7), Slovakia (5), Denmark (4), Canada (3), Latvia (3), Norway (2), the U.S. (2), Austria (2), Kazakhstan (2), and Belarus (1). 

Germans in, Swiss out

Germany came out flying and advanced to its first ever U20 quarter-finals

By Andrew Podnieks –

The resilient Germans continued their ascent in the Group A standings tonight, defeating Switzerland, 5-4, in a wild and hairy game that nearly saw a miracle comeback from Switzerland.

With the win the Germans have earned a place in the quarter-finals at the expense of those Swiss, finishing in third spot.

This marks the first time the German U20 team has ever qualified for the playoff round. The Swiss, meanwhile, finish the tournament without a win and are eliminated from further play, although they will not face relegation and will be back in the top pool next year. They scored just five goals in four games, but four of them came in the last ten minutes of tonight’s game as they fought back from deficits of 4-0 and 5-2.

“We didn’t play a bad game, but we have to score a couple of goals in the first 20 minutes,” said a disappointed Noah Delemont. “We played well in the second period, but we missed two empty nets. That can’t happen. Then it’s 4-0 and it’s pretty tough to come back. But we showed some character at the end, and that’s good for next year.”

“It’s disappointing sitting in the room after the last 20 minutes and think that we should have been able to do more in all our games, especially this one,” Noah Meier added. “We had the same problems in this game. In the first two periods, we took too many penalties. That was our biggest problem during the whole tournament.”

This same German team that just a few days ago lost to Canada 16-2 will now face the second-place team in Group B in the playoffs on Saturday. The Germans could dress no more than 14 skaters in its first three games but managed to play with 19 tonight thanks to available players removed from quarantine.

Tonight, the story was simple—the team’s best players played their best. And that means a dominant performance from captain Tim Stutzle and his linemate John Peterka. Peterka had three goals and two assists while captain Stutzle had two goals and three assists. Theirs were dominating performances, to be sure.

John Peterka opened the scoring at 4:38 on a quick and alert play. Goalie Thibault Fatton made a save at the left post, but Paterka got the rebound from behind the net and stuffed it in the other side before Fatton could get over.

Just four and a half minutes later, Stutzle scored a beauty. He made a move on Cedric Fielder at the Swiss blue line, fought him off as he went to the net, and deked Fatton, who went down too early. The Swiss challenged the play, believing Stutzle was offside, but video review showed the German was in control of the puck and the goal counted.

They made it 3-0 during a two-man advantage late in the period. This time Stutzle hit the post with one shot, then dished off to Paterka, who wired a blast short side over Fatton’s glove to complete a perfect period for the team.

Stutzle continued to wreak havoc in the Swiss end in the second, scoring the only goal and putting the game well out of reach for a Swiss team that had the most anemic offence in the tournament.

Paterka fed him a gorgeous little pass along the boards and Stutzle held the puck as he went to the slot, outwaited Fatton, and slipped it in the short side at 13:19.

Oddly, however, the Swiss had the better of play in the second but simply had no finish, no puck luck, nothing when they got near the German goal. Pucks bounced over their sticks; they misfired; pucks rolled by the post. Nothing.

Midway through the third, the Swiss finally connected off a faceoff win. Noah Delemont’s quick point shot trickled to the net and bounced off the skate of German defencemanMaksymilian Szuber. Then just 56 seconds later, they scored again. The second came off a loos puck in the German end. Ronny Dehler whleed and fired, and his shot snuck under the glove of Florian Bugl.

The Swiss came on strong and the Germans were on their heels, but the victors held their own when it mattered most. Coach Marco Bayer pulled Fatton with three and a half minutes left, but Paterka scored an empty netter with an assist to Stutzle to seal the victory.

Or did he?

Justin Volek took a major penalty for cross-checking, though, putting the game in peril for the Germans. With Fatton on the bench, Noah Meier got another at 18:14 to make it 5-3, and then Simon Knak scored with 25.6 seconds remaining to make it a one-goal game.

The Swiss got the puck right back into the German end but couldn’t get that final goal to tie the game, going home in defeat after a vailiant comback in the last half of the period. And the Germans are off to the quarters, but would have preferred a more comfortable ending to celebrate.

Finns stay perfect

By Andrew Podnieks –

Finland wore down and dominated the underdog Slovaks this afternoon to claim a 6-0 win and keep pace with Canada atop the Group A standings with identical 3-0-0 records.

Shots favoured the Finns by a huge and telling margin, 50-12, and the game was even this close only because of the heroic play of Samuel Hlavaj in goal. Kari Piiroinen got the easy shutout for Finland. It also makred the 11th game of the 15 played so far in which the losing team has scored either one or no goals.

Captain Anton Lundell led the attack with a goal and two assists while Sami Helenius had two goals.

The loss keeps the Slovaks in third spot with four points, but they have already qualified for the quarter-finals and likely had one eye on the new year as they played their final game of the preliminary round.

“I’m not sure what we can take from this game,” offered a downcast Simon Jellus. “We made so many mistakes and took so many penalties. The power play didn’t work, and we didn’t have the effort. We have two days to recover and practise and get ready for the quarter-finals.”

The Finns now close out their round robin with a much anticipated battle with Canada tomorrow night to determine top seed while the Slovaks rest until January 2 to play an opponent not yet known.

“We have to get back to the way we were playing the first few days,” said coach Robert Petrovicky. “We took too many penalties and they were all over us today. We have to forget about this and start tomorrow to get ready for the quarter-finals.”

It was clear from the beginning an important part of the Finnish game plan was to go to the net hard and make life uncomfortable for goalie Samuel Hlavaj. Time and again scrums flared after the whistle, but the Slovaks seemed unable to do much about the aggressive play. To make matters worse, they gave Finland the first four power plays of the game, not getting one of their own until late in the second.

The Slovaks had their fair share of play in the first, but it was Suomi that scored the only goal of the opening period. The play stared off a bad giveaway by Martin Chromiak in his own end and finished when Kasper Simontaival fed a perfect pass to Lundell going to the net. Lundell merely redirected the puck in the back side at 8:57.

The Finns had two other great chances when pucks slid under Hlavaj and rolled towards the goal line, but in both cases defenceman Andrei Golian made strong stick checks on Finns to prevent the puck from going in.

The best chance for the Slovaks came while playing short-handed. David Mudrak made a nice rush only to be stopped by Piiroinen, but Mudrak got a second chance from the side of the goal and slid the puck through the crease and out.

The Finns added two more goals in the second and sucked all the competitive fire out of the Slovaks with their relentless forechecking and smooth puck movement. They made it 2-0 at 6:09 to end a lengthy delayed penalty situation when Topi Niemala patiently fired a shot through traffic to beat a helpless Hlavaj.

Two and a half minutes later Simontaival got a loose puck alone in front, and although Hlavaj stopped the initial deke, defenceman Oliver Turan accidentally poked the puck into hs own goal.

Soon after Hlavaj made the save of the game, kicking out his left pad to stop a sure goal off a one-timer from Roni Hirvonen.

Santeri Hataka made it 4-0 at 6:10 of the third when his bad-angle shot went over the shoulder and off the side of Hlavaj’s mask and in. A minute later, it was 5-0 thanks to Helenius. Hlavaj made the first stop on Benjamin Korhonen on a clear chance but was in no position to corral the rebound. Helenius scored again at 13:49 to put the game even further out of reach.

Podkolzin lifts Russia over Austria

Captain Vasili Podkolzin (second from left) was Russia’s offensive leader in the 7-1 win over Austria at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship in Edmonton, Alberta

By Lucas Aykroyd –

Russia erupted for four first-period goals and defeated winless Austria 7-1 on Tuesday night in Edmonton. Russian captain Vasili Podkolzin set the tone, breaking his offensive drought with two goals and an assist.

“He’s a great leader on and off the ice,” said defenceman Artemi Knyazev, who had a goal and an assist. “He pushed us in the locker room and led by example on the ice. He did a good job.”

Both teams used their backup goalies, with Russia’s Artur Akhtyamov and Austria’s Jakob Brandner getting their first tournament starts. Russia outshot Austria 50-18.

With six points in three games, Russia remains in contention for top spot in Group B and will close out the preliminary round against Sweden on Wednesday.

“We’ll be playing against one of the best teams in the world,” said Russian coach Igor Larionov. “We respect their skill level and their success. We’re hoping to have a great game, compete, and play our best. Hopefully it’s going to be an entertaining game and end up in a good result for us.”

Coach Roger Bader’s newly promoted Austrians must upset the Czech Republic on New Year’s Eve in order to make the quarter-finals.

“”The Czech Republic is a great ice hockey nation,” said Bader. “They have a strong team. We see this team every day in practice, so we know how strong they are. They have a lot of big defencemen. I think four or five are NHL draft picks, so that’s why they are defensively so good. But in one game, everything can happen, and that’s what we want to do.”

Larionov’s highly skilled troops bounced back quickly from their 2-0 loss to the Czechs.

“The boys did well and scored some goals,” Larionov said. “The guys who are supposed to be scoring finally got their names on the board, and that’s the good side.”

At 4:04, Austrian blueliner Jakob Pfeffer hauled down Yegor Chinakhov on a break and a penalty shot was awarded. Rodion Amirov took the attempt since Chinakhov had left the ice in discomfort and did not return. Amirov made no mistake, deking to the forehand and firing the puck past Brandner’s right pad.

Larionov said he was awaiting a doctor’s report on Chinakhov, but at present, the forward was doubtful for the game against Sweden.

Amirov is comfortable with penalty shots. At the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship in Sweden, he used the same move to score the 3-2 semi-final shootout winner on the U.S.’s Spencer Knight. More recently, the Salavat Yulayev Ufa forward had three goals in three games when Russia’s U20 team overcame the Finnish, Swedish, and Czech men’s national teams to win the Karjala Cup in November. 

“He’s a great shooter,” said Knyazev. “He scores a lot of goals in the KHL as well.”

Podkolzin made it 2-0 at 6:11 with his first goal of these World Juniors, snapping the puck high to the short side. The 19-year-old power forward, a 2019 first-round pick of the Vancouver Canucks (10th overall), is competing in his third World Juniors after winning bronze in 2019 and silver in 2020.

Podkolzin was just getting started. With the Russians forechecking in the Austrian zone, the SKA St. Petersburg attacker moved to the front of the net, took a Knazyev pass from the blue line, and pivoted to slide a forehander in at 13:44 for a 3-0 lead.

At 16:19, Podkolzin unleashed a heavy wrist shot on the rush and the puck squeezed through Brandner’s pads. Marat Khusnutdinov, with his first tournament goal, reached out to push it over the goal line before the Austrians could sweep it away.

In the second period, Senna Peeters gave Austrian fans something to cheer about when he got the team’s first goal of the World Juniors at 7:38. Breaking hard to the net, the Rogle Angelholm attacker lifted the stick of Vasili Ponomaryov to accept a nice pass from 16-year-old Marco Kasper and put the puck over Akhtyamov’s glove.

“I think we skated way better than the last two games,” said Kasper. “The Russians were really tough and powerful, and we all obviously knew that they were going to be a tough opponent. But still, I think we played better and had more scoring chances than the last two games. It was a better game.”

Peeters teamed up with Kasper for another good chance on the backhand in the last minute of the second period. Despite Austria’s valiant refusal to quit, there would be no magical comeback.

At 1:46 of the third period, Knazyev made it 5-1 on the power play with an accurate centre-point wrister that eluded the goalie, with Khusnutdinov providing the screen. It was Russia’s first power-play goal of this tournament on its sixth opportunity.

With a Roberto Luongo-style glove save, Brandner robbed Amirov on another Russian man advantage with about 10 minutes to go. However, Yegor Afanasiev batted in a rebound out of mid-air with 2:16 left. Arseni Gritsyuk sent a howitzer bar in with 1:31 remaining to round out the scoring at 7-1.

Larionov said defenceman Danil Chaika, who sat out, would return against Sweden: “We expect a huge game tomorrow, and he’s going to be playing like massive minutes, and you know he needs some rest.”

Austria, which also competed at the top level in 1984, 2004, and 2010, has lost 19 World Junior games all-time, with one tie in 2004.

Canada decimates Switzerland

Canada’s Philip Tomasino (left) receives congratulations from Jack Quinn after opening the scoring in an 10-0 win over Switzerland at the 2021 World Juniors

By Lukas

Canada’s Quinton Byfield led the way with two goals and four assists in a 10-0 victory over Switzerland at the 2021 World Juniors on Tuesday. The host nation has won three straight games, while the Swiss suffered their third straight loss.

Byfield, drafted second overall by the L.A. Kings this year, is one of six returning players from Canada’s 2020 gold-medal team, and his experience clearly paid off in this encounter.

Coach Andre Tourigny’s power play converted three times, as Canada just had too much skill, speed, and power for its opponents.

Canadian goalie Devon Levi got his first shutout, while Switzerland’s Noah Patenaude made his World Junior debut in net. Shots favoured Canada 52-15.

The Canadians face Finland on New Year’s Eve in a showdown for first place in Group A. The Finns won gold in 2019 and Canada topped the podium in 2020.

In order to make the quarter-finals, coach Marco Bayer’s Swiss boys must defeat Germany in regulation time in their final preliminary-round game on Wednesday. The Germans have two points after edging Slovakia 4-3 in overtime, and can finally ice a full roster after five more players were released from quarantine.

Switzerland, outscored 5-1 through their first two games in Edmonton, entered this game as monumental underdogs. In their 23 previous World Junior meetings with Canada, they secured just one point in a 3-2 shootout loss in Helsinki (29 December, 2015). The Swiss haven’t medaled since 1998’s bronze, and it seems unlikely their drought will end in Edmonton.

Canada got some important players back in the lineup. Defenceman Braden Schneider, after serving a one-game suspension for an illegal hit on Germany’s Jan-Luca Schumacher, slotted back in at the expense of Jordan Spence. Forward Dylan Holloway, who missed the 3-1 win over Slovakia with an upper-body injury, lined up alongside Connor McMichael and Dylan Cozens on the top line.

Philip Tomasino opened the scoring for Canada just 1:30 in. The versatile Oshawa Generals forward whipped a wicked wrister past Patenaude’s blocker from the top of the right faceoff circle for his fourth goal of the tournament.

The Canadians outshot Switzerland 14-3 in the first period, but failed to capitalize with a two-man advantage for 1:12 and took three minors of their own.

In the second period, the Canadian offence came alive. At 1:40, Cozens went to the front of the net and banged in a power-play rebound for his fourth of these World Juniors.

At 8:02, Jacob Pelletier made it 3-0 on the rush, picking up the rebound from Connor Zary’s shot off the end boards and firing a bad-angle shot past Patenaude on the stick side.

Converting another rebound, Ryan Suzuki put the defending champs up 4-0 at 13:44 on a man advantage that came after the hosts had hemmed in Switzerland with relentless pressure.

Cozens forced Swiss forward Raymond Fust into a defensive-zone turnover and fed McMichael for Canada’s fifth goal at 17:53.

In the third period, the Canadians remained relentless.

Byfield was perfectly placed in front of Patenaude on the power play to tip Jamie Drysdale’s center point shot past the goalie for a 6-0 lead at 5:16. Less than three minutes later, Byfield finished off a sweet cross-ice feed from Jack Quinn.

Cole Perfetti made it 8-0 at 9:09 with a short-side snipe for his first goal of these World Juniors. Kaiden Guhle added another on a one-timer with 6:32 left, and Pelletier popped in a loose puck for his third of the tournament just over two minutes later.

U.S. on Brink of quarters

By Andrew Podnieks –

Trevor Zegras had two goals and three assists to lead the United States to a 7-0 win over the Czech Republic in the 1,300th IIHF World Junior Championship game of all time. The result puts the U.S. in a tie for first place in Group B with six points and goes a long way to assure the team of a spot in the quarter-finals that will start on Saturday.

Bobby Brink added two goals and Cam York recorded three assists in the win.

With the loss the Czechs slip to 1-0-2 and remain in fourth place of a crazy Group B. They have but three goals in as many games.

Spencer Knight earned the shutout for the Americans by stopping 22 shots.

“We tried to prepare for today’s game in the same way we prepared for Russia, but it didn’t work,” said Czech forward Adam Raska. “We need to do better for our last game. We had some chances to score but we didn’t, and really there’s nothing else to say.”

Both teams came into the game under difficult circumstances. The Czechs had the near impossible task of trying to replicate their emotional high during their 2-0 win over Russia two days ago, while the Americans had to take their game up a serious notch after a very easy 11-0 win over Austria.

In the end, the Americans prevailed despite the Czechs’ effective strategy of collapsing five men around their goalie Lukas Parik and blocking every pass and shot possible.

Both teams now get a day off before their final preliminary round games on New Year’s Eve. The Czechs take on Austria in a critical game to begin that day, while the Americans will play Sweden in the final game of 2020, one that might very well decide top spot in the group.

This game began with two very different kinds of energy. The U.S. had territorial advantage for much of the opening period but didn’t create many great chances. When they did, goalie Parik was solid.

The Czechs, on the other hand, continued their strong defensive play while patiently waiting for their offensive chances. They had two or three great opportunities but couldn’t connect, leaving the game scoreless through 20 minutes. Both teams also had a power play but it was the p.k. that dominated in both cases.

But the Americans remained patient and aggressive, finally breaking through the Czechs’ group defence with three unanswered goals in the second. They opened the scoring at 5:33 when Brett Berard fired a shot at goal that was blocked. He followed the play in and got his own rebound, but as the puck trickled between Parik’s pads Karel Klikorka swept the puck off the goal line, only to have Brink push it home.

Eight minutes later, Trevor Zegras scored his tournament-leading fourth goal during a four-on-four. Jake Sanderson made a sensational no-look pass to Zegras while Parik overplayed the shot, and Zegras had an easy shot into the open cage.

Then, at 15:56 Brink was at it again from in close. This time he got his stick on the ice and went to the goal, redirecting a hard pass from Matthew Beniers behind Parik.

The U.S. didn’t quit, keeping the pressure on as the third began. They were rewarded at 6:03 during a delayed penalty when a loose puck came to Zegras at the faceoff dot. He wired a quick shot over Parik’s glove, his fifth of the tournament.

Two minutes later, the Americans got their first of three quick goals on the power play to put the game well out of reach. First, Arthur Kaliyev ripped a shot short side past Parik. Then, Cole Caufield scored on a shot off the rush. And, finally, Matthew Boldy scored from in tight.

Germany gets first win in OT

Germany celebrates during a 4-3 overtime win over Slovakia on Monday at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship in Edmonton

By Lucas Aykroyd –

Mario Zimmermann scored the overtime winner as undermanned Germany defeated Slovakia 4-3 for its first win of the 2021 World Juniors on Monday. German captain Tim Stutzle had two goals and an assist and top defenceman Simon Gnyp added three assists.

The winner came on the power play at 4:01. Zimmermann scored on a wrister from the high slot with traffic in front of the Slovak net.

In regulation time, Florian Elias added a goal and an assist for Germany.

“I think we have a good spirit in our team and we wanted to win this game,” said Elias. “In the locker room we were so hot. I think that was the reason why we won.”

Michal Mudrik scored twice for Slovakia. Oleksiy Myklukha, who was in the box for hooking when the overtime winner was scored, had the other goal for coach Robert Petrovicky’s team.

“To be honest, we wanted to take the three points today,” said Mudrik. “So it’s kind of disappointing.”

The win is an important boost for Germany’s quarter-final hopes. Both these teams have one preliminary-round game left. On Wednesday, Slovakia battles Finland, while Germany faces Switzerland.

German goalie Florian Bugl made his World Junior debut. The 18-year-old Bugl, who has a 2.07 GAA and 92.6 save percentage with RB Hockey Juniors of the AlpsHL, was unavailable for Germany’s first two games due to tournament health protocols.

Both Bugl and Slovakia’s Simon Latkoczy performed solidly as shots favored Germany 32-25.

“In the beginning, it was tough, because I only had two ice practices before,” said Bugl. “But I think I improved over the game and got more confident.”

German coach Tobias Abstreiter again played with a stripped-down roster of 14 skaters – nine forwards and five defenders. The German Ice Hockey Federation announced that Niklas Langer and Maksymilian Szuber were still not cleared to play after earlier positive tests.

The intensity and will to win was high. Coming off a hard-fought 3-1 loss to host Canada on Sunday, the Slovaks didn’t appear unduly fatigued. Meanwhile, Germany’s go-to players stepped up while logging big minutes. Stutzle played 31:01, Gnyp 28:32, and Elias 27:25.

“It was exciting, but our legs are done right now!” said Elias. “But I think we’ll get the physios and tomorrow we’re fresh again.”

Stutzle, a first-round pick of the Ottawa Senators (#3 overall in 2020) who just signed his NHL entry-level contract, drew first blood at 5:39 with impressive hand-eye coordination. Gnyp’s point shot was first tipped by Elias, Germany’s points leader, and then redirected again by Stutzle.

Mrazik made it 1-1 shorthanded at 10:07. The Slovak assistant captain jumped past the German defence, grabbed a loose puck, and flung a backhander through Bugl’s legs. Mrazik celebrated by kissing his glove and pointing skyward as his teammates mobbed him.

“My grandpa passed away a couple of weeks ago, and he was my big fan,” Mudrik explained.

With under three minutes left in the first, Stutzle had another glorious chance on the rush from the high shot, but Latkoczy came out to challenge and allowed no rebound.

At 3:10 of the second period, Myklukha put Slovakia up 2-1 with his first goal of the tournament, taking a beautiful stretch pass from Jakub Kolenic and deking to the forehand before tallying five-hole.

The Slovaks faced adversity when German forward Enrico Henriquez Morales hit Slovak captain Samuel Knazko awkwardly into the boards. Knazko was helped off and received attention on the bench, but would return to the fray.

At 8:13, Stutzle notched the power-play equalizer with a blazing end-to-end rush and a bit of luck. His shot off Latkoczy’s left shoulder bounced in off Slovak defenceman Simon Becar, who was standing in front.

Elias praised Stutzle’s leadership: “I was playing with him two years, so I already learned a lot from him. In the locker room, he’s a quiet guy. He’s the captain of our team, so he wants to push us. He’s unbelievable.”

Near the midway mark, the Germans ran into penalty trouble. First, they got dinged for too many men on the ice. John Peterka nearly gave Germany the lead with a shorthanded break, stripping Myklukha at the German blueline and racing in on goal, but Latkoczy foiled his backhand move.

At 14:41, with German defenceman Jan Munzenberger off for tripping, Mrazik gave Slovakia a 3-2 lead, deftly tipping in Simon Nemec’s center-point drive.

Refusing to wilt, the Germans tied it up with the man advantage with just 46 seconds left in the second period. On a play reminiscent of Al MacInnis and Joe Nieuwendyk with the 1989 Stanley Cup champion Calgary Flames, Gnyp took a hard shot from the line and Elias extended his stick to tip it in.

The third period took a toll, physically and mentally. German defenceman Steven Raab writhed in pain after taking Knazko’s shot off the inside of his knee.

Bugl made a stellar save on Maros Jedlicka with under four minutes left in regulation to give Germany a chance. Moments later, off a faceoff in the Slovak end, Stutzle rang a shot off the cross bar.

Looking forward to playing Switzerland, Bugl said: “”I expect that we will win and maybe advance to the quarter-finals. And if we keep up the team spirit, we’re definitely gonna win.”

Slovakia is bidding for its third World Junior medal of all time (bronze in 1999, 2015). Germany’s best-ever finish at this tournament is fifth (1981 as West Germany).

Swedes make it 54

Austrian goalie Sebastian Wraneschitz was sensational in a losing cause against Sweden tonight

By Andrew Podnieks –

Sebastian Wraneschitz couldn’t do it alone. The Austrian goalie was sensational, but the entire Swedish team wore him down during the course of its 4-0 win over their underdog opponents.

The result leaves Sweden 2-0 and in first place in Group B and extends the team’s crazy win streak in preliminary round play to 54. Austria is now 0-2 and looking more and more like the team that will miss the quarter-finals on this side of the draw.

Hugo Alnefelt got the shoutout by stopping only six shots, tying the record for the lowest total shots by a team in a U20 game. Wraneschitz faced 65 shots in defeat, and the Swedes didn’t take a penalty all night. It was as one-sided a game as you’ll see.

The schedule doesn’t get any easier for Austria, still looking for its first ever win in U20 history, as they face Russia tomorrow. Sweden has a day off before taking on those same Russians a day later.

“We played way too much in our end, and we allowed way too many shots. Our goalie was great, but we have to play a simpler game and create some of our own chances,” said Austrian captain Marco Rossi.

Although Sweden managed only one goal in the opening period, it outshot Austria 22-1 and had the puck in the offensive end virtually the entire period. That lone goal came towards the end of a power play when Noel Gunler wired a shot over Wraneschitz’s shoulder. The puck went in and out so quickly video review was required to confirm the score at 17:45.

While Wraneschitz continued to block shot after shot in the second, Tim Harnisch created two great scoring chances for Austria in the period, one early, one late. First, he split the defenceman and deked Alnefelt, only to lose control of the puck and failed to get a shot off. Near the end, he made a great steal at centre and went in alone, only to shoot the puck wide as he was being pursued.

In between, Sweden scored two more goals, the first on another power play. Victor Soderstrom’s low point shot from the middle of the ice deflected off the skate of Theodor Niederbach at 4:36 to make it 2-0, and six minutes later they added to their tally off the rush.

Simon Holmstrom made a nice backhand pass to Gunler, who wired a shot over Wraneschitz’s glove and in, his second of the night and third of the tournament.

Austria barely maanged a shot the rest of the game, while the Swedes made it 4-0 at 12:37 of the third. This came off a nice pass by Alexander Holtz to Lucas Raymond in front. Raymond beat his man to the puck and redirected it into the open cage.

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