Day: December 26, 2020

Defending champs Canada roll over Germany

The goals came fast and frequently for Canada tonight in its easy victory over under-manned Germany

By Andrew Podnieks –

Defending champions Canada stormed out of the gates, scoring early and often in a 16-2 victory over Germany in its first game of the 2021 World Juniors. It was the second loss in as many days for the 14-man German squad that has been hammered by positive Covid results and the ensuing quarantining of nine of its players.

Canada scored more goals than Germany had shots (15), while the winners fired 44 mostly dangerous pucks at two German goalies.

Dylan Cozens led all scorers with three goals and six points while Dawson Mercer had two and two.

“It’s the first game of the tournament, and we have to establish our good habits,” Cozens said. “We want to play the right way, so just because we’re up by a lot we’re not going to change. We want to pretend it’s a close game and keep those good habits. We weren’t too focused on the score, just playing the right way.”

Canada now owns a decisive 15-0-0 record over Germany in World Junior history, with a goal advantage of 91-21 all-time.

“It’s not about the score,” coach Andre Tourigny reiterated. “It’s about our play to move forward in the tournament. We have no time to waste. The thing I liked the most about our game tonight was our third period because that’s the period we were the best at doing the little things, all the stuff you need to do to win, winning faceoffs, battles in front of the next, that sort of thing.”

Tonight, the short-handed Germans had no chance against a Canadian squad wearing their Summit Series-inspired sweaters and chomping at the bit to get started.

“It’s obviously very disappointing,” said Samuel Dube. “But all we can do now is focus on the next two games and winning those two.”

“We were tired, but we’re not looking for excuses,” added John Peterka. “We knew we were short-handed, but in the end we have to skate and battle hard. We didn’t do that.”

The Germans now have a day off before two critical games against Slovakia on Monday and Switzerland on Wednesday, games that almost certainly will decide who advances to the quarter-finals. Canada is right back at it, facing Slovakia tomorrow afternoon.

“You have to give a lot of credit to the Germans,” Tourigny added. “They’ve had sickness on their team, playing two games in 24 hours against two really good countries. They fought hard, especially in the first period.”

While Devon Levi had a solid two periods in goal for Canada, Germany was also undone by some weak goaltending from Arno Tiefensee, who also played 24 hours ago. He should have had the first goal, just 1:51 in the game, which came off a short-side shot from Kaiden Guhle.

Moments later, Levi made his finest stop of the opening 20 minutes, a desperate left pad save while on his stomach as Tim Stutzle tried to slide the puck around on a nifty deke.

Canada made it 2-0 at 7:27 when Tiefensee mishandled the puck behind his net on a Germany power play. Dawson Mercer stripped him of the puck and wrapped it in the vacated cage.

Canada’s Braden Schneider took a senseless penalty for a direct hit to the head of Jan-Luca Schumacher. After gaining his composure, Schumacher was able to leave the ice without help, but Schneider was given a five-minute major and game misconduct. Late in that lengthy power play the Germans cashed in. Florian Elias made a brilliant pass to John Peterka, unguarded in the slot, and he whistled a shot over the shoulder of Levi, who had dropped to his knees.

Philip Tomasino got that one back for Canada. After skating patiently down the right side, he wired a low shot to the short side as Tiefensee moved off his post. But the backbreaker came as time expired. Germany was short-handed thanks to a penalty for too many men, and after Tiefensee failed to control a routine shot Peyton Krebs jammed the puck over the goal line.

Although video review seemed to show time had expired before the puck crossed the line, the referees indicated otherwise. That goal made it 4-1, and took the wind out of the German sails.

Coach Tobias Abstreiter put Jonas Gahr in to start the second period in place of Tiefensee, but things went from bad to worse as Canada racked up seven goals, the last of which, as in the first period, came in the dying seconds and was confirmed by video review. In this case, the goal, by Krebs again, was the result of a quick shot that went in and out too quickly for the officials to see during game action.

Alex Newhook scored twice in the second, and in addition to Krebs, Tomasino and Mercer also scored their second of the night. The seven in the second tied a team record.

Tourigny took advantage of the blowout to give his other goalie some playing time, and so Dylan Garand stepped into the blue ice only to stand idle most of the final 20 minutes. He stopped four of five shots he faced.

Just 37 seconds into the third, Cozens scored his second of the night, on the power play, and the 12-1 score just made things worse. He scored again soon after to complete the hat trick, the first of this year’s tournament.

Florian Elias scored for Germany on the power play with 18.3 seconds left to finish the scoring.

Sweden extends prelims streak

Emil Heineman scores a short-handed goal midway through the second period to give the Swedes a 3-1 lead

By Andrew Podnieks –

Sweden broke open a 1-1 game with a dominating second period which included the only three goals of the middle 20 minutes, skating to an impressive 7-1 win over the Czech Republic.

It was the first game for both Group B teams and extended Sweden’s remarkable streak of wins in the preliminary round to 53, dating back some 14 years.

The last time the Czech U20 team beat Sweden was nearly two decades ago, December 31, 2002, after which followed a streak of now 12 Sweden wins.

The Czechs have a little more than 24 hours to recover before playing Russia tomorrow night, while the Swedes have a day off before facing Austria on Monday afternoon.

The Czechs gave Sweden all it could handle in the first, going end to end with the favourites and opening the scoring on a power play at 10:14. The goal came courtesy of a nice three-way passing play between Michal Teply, along the left-wing boards, Jaromir Pytlik, stationed to the side of the goal, and the scorer, Jan Mysak, who snapped the pass from the back-door side to beat Hugo Alnefelt cleanly.

The ink was barely dry on the recording of that goal when Arvid Costmar had a clean break, but he was stoned by Nick Malik in the Czech goal. On the same sequence, though, defenceman Victor Soderstom made a brilliant pass from the point to Costmar, driving to the net, and Costmar tipped the puck deftly past Malik just 32 seconds after Mysak’s goal, tying the game at one.

Teply thought he had given his team a lead a few minutes later when his quick shot from in close was headed inside the short-side post, but Alnefelt got his glove over and made a sensational save.

Or did he?

Replays looked like the goalie might have made the save with his glove behind the red line, but video review failed to provide an angle to substantiate that theory, and the call on the ice stood—no goal…great save.

Special teams played an important role as the game changed in the second. The Swedes went ahead 2-1 on the power play when Malik overplayed Simon Holmstrom’s shot from the slot. The puck went wide and came out the other side where Albin Sundsvik tucked it in before the goalie could get over.

Less than three minutes later, they extended their lead on a short-handed goal. A clearing puck bounced over the stick of Czech defenceman Martin Has pinching at the Swedes’ blue line, and Emil Heineman scooped up the puck and dashed the length of the ice, beating Malik with a shot between the pads.

And then Sweden made it 4-1 at 16:05 on a similar play to Sundvik’s goal. This time it was a wide shot by Philip Broberg that bounced out the other side to Theodor Niederbach, who again had the open net after Malik overplayed the original shot. It was the third assist of the period for Broberg, who is playing in his third World Juniors and was drafted 8th overall by Edmonton in 2019.

By the third period the Czechs had nothing in the tank, and the Swedes were overpowering. Elmer Soderblom made it 5-1 early in the third with highlight-reel hands on the power play. He got the puck at the top of the crease and puck it between his legs, along with his stick, and scored off the far post.

They made it 6-1 at 12:22 thanks to a nice pass by Tobias Bjornfot as he circled the net, Oscar Bjerselius, finishing the play. Noel Gunler closed out the scoring with another power-play score at 17:37.

Ponomaryov pots pair in Russian win

Russia’s Vasili Ponomaryov (#13) celebrates after scoring a first-period goal in Russia’s 5-3 win over the U.S. at the 2021 World Juniors

By Lucas Aykroyd –

With an old-school emphasis on creativity and puck possession, Russia kicked off its 2021 World Juniors with a 5-3 win over the rival Americans in Edmonton on Friday.

Vasili Ponomaryov scored twice for Russia and Zakhar Bardakov, Ilya Safonov, and Yegor Chinakhov added singles. U.S. captain Cam York had a goal and an assist, and John Farinacci and Trevor Zegras also scored for the Americans, who couldn’t complete their rally from a 4-1 deficit.

“We had a couple of shifts or a couple of moments where we weren’t playing our best and playing our game,” said Farinacci. “But obviously we had a good comeback and we came back there in the third. I think that’s what we’ve got to stick to as this tournament goes on.”

In a duel of two NHL first-round pick goalies, Yaroslav Askarov (11th overall to Nashville in 2020) got the better of Spencer Knight (13th overall to Florida in 2019). Knight was pulled in favour of Dustin Wolf in the second period after allowing four goals on 12 shots. Final shots favored the U.S. 26-24.

This was the official World Junior debut for a pair of rookie head coaches in Russian legend Igor Larionov and longtime Providence College bench boss Nate Leaman. Both had previous experience as WJC assistants, Larionov in 2020 (a silver medal under Valeri Bragin) and Leaman in 2007 (bronze under Ron Rolston) and 2009 (fifth place under Rolston).

“When we talk about a game against Canada or the U.S., we always talk about puck possession,” said Larionov. “As long as you keep the puck away from them, you can dominate the game. Basically, we tried to take time and space away from them, tried to forecheck, be more aggressive and more determined.”

Expectations are high for these two perennial contenders. Russia is looking for its first gold medal since 2011. The Americans last triumphed in 2017.

The Russians kept the U.S. in check in the early going and drew first blood offensively. Artemi Knazyev fired a shot from the left side that Ponomaryov tipped across his body, fooling Knight for a 1-0 lead at 8:07.

Ponomaryov said he enjoys playing for his new coach: “Right now, I’m feeling insane feelings, just because I feel so good. Igor Larionov is a legend, not only in Russia, but in the world of hockey. I think he will be a famous coach, like [Anatoli] Tarasov, maybe, in the future.”

The U.S. struck back at 14:01. York drifted an unscreened center-point shot that slipped under Askarov’s blocker and trickled in. That caused some jitters for Russian fans, recalling Askarov’s up-and-down play during last year’s silver-medal run.

Early in the second period, defenceman Maxim Groshev sprang Bardakov with a spectacular stretch pass. The Vityaz Podolsk forward has just one goal in 27 KHL games this year, but when he got in behind the U.S. defence, he looked like old-school Alexander Mogilny, snapping the puck through Knight’s legs at 3:12 to make it 2-1.

“I thought where we struggled in the game tonight is where they got pucks in transition,” said Leaman.

The American snipers were getting good looks. Bobby Brink missed an open net and Cole Caufield almost outwitted Askarov with a backhander on an individual dash. Bardakov clipped Brink in the face at 8:38, sending the Americans to their second man advantage of the game, but it fizzled. 

Ponomaryov gave Russia a two-goal edge just 28 seconds after Bardakov’s minor expired. In the left faceoff circle, the Moscow native, who had nine points in nine games this season for the QMJHL’s Shawinigan Cataractes, picked off an errant pass by blueliner Jackson Lacombe from the corner, and zinged the puck over Knight’s glove.

The fourth Russian goal was one Knight would have liked to have had back. The Boston College starter left his net to fire the puck up the boards, but Safronov picked it off at the right point. His shot deflected in off the lunging Knight’s blocker at 12:15. Leaman had seen enough and Wolf took over between the pipes.

“When we switched out, it was like, ‘Hey man, it’s not your fault,'” Wolf said. “‘You’re a tremendous athlete, a tremendous person, and you’re always going to bounce back.'”

In the third period, the never-say-die Americans cut the lead to 4-2 at 9:57. Defenceman Drew Helleson stepped in off the line with a wrister and with traffic in front, Farinacci snared the rebound and elevated the puck over Askarov.

With under eight minutes to play, Chinakhov stole the puck from Lacombe at the Russian blue line and got a breakaway, but Wolf stared him down.

With Wolf pulled for the extra attacker, Zegras made it 4-3 on the power play with 2:18 left, dinging a perfect shot in off Askarov’s left post. However, Chinakhov added an empty-netter with 21 seconds remaining to cap off Russia’s victory.

It was another great chapter in one of the hottest World Junior rivalries. Until this Christmas Day opener, the ice had tilted in the Americans’ favour recently. The U.S. had won the previous five encounters dating back to 29 December 2016, including a quarter-final win in 2018 (4-2) and semi-final wins in 2017 (4-3 on Troy Terry’s shootout winner) and 2019 (2-1).

Next up, the U.S. faces newly promoted Austria on Saturday, while the Russians take on the Czech Republic on Sunday. Larionov’s team can’t afford complacency. Last year, Russia opened the tournament with a 4-3 loss to the Czechs in front of a happy Ostrava crowd. We’re only just getting started on the road to 2021 gold.

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