Day: December 30, 2020

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.

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