Category: World Junior Championships (Page 1 of 15)

The timing of the World Youth Ice Hockey Championship will be determined during the Olympics

By Rustam Sharafutdinov – Tass Russian News Agency

The dates and venue for the World Junior Hockey Championship, which was canceled in December, will be announced during the Olympic Games in Beijing.

The tournament, which started on December 26 in Edmonton and Red Deer, Canada, was canceled by the decision of the IIHF board after positive tests in the US, Czech Republic and Russia teams, which were counted for forfeits defeats. Later, Luc Tardif IIHF President announced that the federation plans to hold the World JUnior Championships in the summer.

“We are preparing to hold the tournament in the summer. The dates and venue will be known during the Olympics,” Tardif said.

The Olympic Games will be held in Beijing from 4 to 20 of February 2022

2022 World Junior Championship Group B preview

Mike G. Morreale – NHL.com

Jake Sanderson, selected No. 5 by the Ottawa Senators in the 2020 NHL Draft, is looking forward to having the opportunity to make history as a member of the United States at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship.

The United States will try to win back-to-back titles for the first time after defeating Canada 2-0 in the 2021 championship game. Canada was the last team to do so, winning five straight from 2005-09.

Sanderson, a 19-year-old sophomore defenseman at the University of North Dakota, had two assists and was plus-7 while averaging 18:04 in ice time in seven games at the 2021 WJC. On Tuesday, he was named United States captain for the tournament.

“One thing that played a big part in the success we had was coming together as a team as fast as we could,” Sanderson said. “It’s a pretty quick tournament and there are a lot of games in a short amount of time. The team that comes together, builds chemistry, and trusts each other the fastest is going to have success. And that’s what our group did last year.”

Canada is the host country for the 2022 WJC, scheduled for Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 in Red Deer and Edmonton.

The United States is scheduled to play preliminary-round games at WP Centrium in Red Deer in Group B with Russia, Sweden, Slovakia and Switzerland. Group A consists of Canada, Finland, Czechia, Germany and Austria.

The top four teams in each group will play in the quarterfinals Jan. 2. The semifinals are Jan. 4, and the championship and third-place games are Jan. 5.

Here’s a look at each Group B team, in predicted order of finish:

United States

Coach: Nate Leaman

2022 NHL Draft watch: Logan Cooley, F, USA U-18 (NTDP)

Schedule: Dec. 26, Slovakia (9:30 p.m. ET); Dec. 28, Switzerland (4:30 p.m. ET); Dec. 29, Sweden (9:30 p.m. ET); Dec. 31, Russia (9:30 p.m. ET) 

Outlook: Leaman returns and should again incorporate a fast and supportive game up front and on the back end with the help of returning forwards Matty Beniers (Seattle Kraken), Brett Berard (New York Rangers), and Landon Slaggert (Chicago Blackhawks), and defensemen Brock Faber (Los Angeles Kings), Tyler Kleven (Senators) and Sanderson. Drew Commesso (Blackhawks) may have the edge in goal entering the preliminary-round stage, with Kaidan Mbereko (2022 draft eligible) also competing for playing time. Cooley, an A-rated skater on NHL Central Scouting’s preliminary players to watch list for the 2022 NHL Draft, is second in goals (14) and first in goals per game (1.50) in 20 games for USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program Under-18 Team.

Russia

Coach: Sergei Zubov

2022 NHL Draft watch: Danila Yurov, F, Magnitogorsk (RUS); Arseni Koromyslov, D, SKA St. Petersburg 2 (RUS-JR); Vladimir Grudinin, D, CSKA Moscow (RUS)

Schedule: Dec. 26, Sweden (4:30 p.m. ET); Dec. 27, Switzerland (4:30 p.m. ET); Dec. 29, Slovakia (4:30 p.m. ET); Dec. 31, United States (9:30 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Zubov, a Hockey Hall of Famer, replaces fellow Hall of Fame member Igor Larionov, who guided Russia to a fourth-place finish in his only year as coach at the 2021 WJC. The country has finished in the top three in nine of the past 11 tournaments but last won in 2011. Goalie Iaroslav Askarov (Nashville Predators) returns after finishing 3-3 with a 2.50 goals-against average and .913 save percentage in 2021. He highlights a talented roster that includes forwards Nikita Chibrikov (Winnipeg Jets) and Danila Yurov (2022 draft eligible). Returning forward Marat Khusnutdinov (Minnesota Wild), who scored five points (two goals, three assists) while averaging 17:26 in ice time at the 2021 WJC, is captain. Defensemen Shakir Mukhamadullin (New Jersey Devils) will play in the tournament for the second straight year after he averaged a Russia-high 21:04 per game in ice time. Koromyslov (6-3, 180) is a B-rated skater on NHL Central Scouting’s preliminary players to watch list, and forward Matvei Michkov, eligible for the 2023 NHL Draft, is an exceptional talent who may be Russia’s top point producer in the tournament.

Sweden

Coach: Tomas Monten 

2022 NHL Draft watch: Mans Forsfjall, D, Skelleftea (SWE)

Schedule: Dec. 26, Russia (4:30 p.m. ET); Dec. 27, Slovakia (9:30 p.m. ET); Dec. 29, United States (9:30 p.m. ET); Dec. 31, Switzerland (4:30 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Sweden should be solid in all phases, especially with the return of goalies Jesper Wallstedt (Wild) and Calle Clang (Pittsburgh Penguins), defensemen Emil Andrae (Philadelphia Flyers) and Simon Edvinsson (Detroit Red Wings), and forwards William Eklund (San Jose Sharks), Alexander Holtz (New Jersey Devils), Zion Nybeck (Carolina Hurricanes), Theodor Niederbach(Red Wings) and Oskar Olausson (Colorado Avalanche). Holtz had two assists in six games with the Devils this season; Eklund had four assists in nine games with the Sharks. They were teammates for two seasons (2018-20) with Djurgarden of the Swedish Hockey League and could form a dynamic top line.

Slovakia

Coach: Ivan Fenes

2022 NHL Draft watch: Juraj Slafkovsky, F, TPS (FIN); Filip Mesar, F, Poprad (SVK); Simon Nemec, D, Nitra (SVK)

Schedule: Dec. 26, United States (9:30 p.m. ET); Dec. 27, Sweden (9:30 p.m. ET); Dec. 29, Russia (4:30 p.m. ET); Dec. 30, Switzerland (7 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Slovakia has been eliminated in the quarterfinal round the past six years after finishing third in 2015. Among the key returnees from the eighth-place team at the 2021 WJC are forwards Martin Chromiak (Los Angeles Kings), who has scored 32 points (13 goals, 19 assists) in 23 games for Kingston of the Ontario Hockey League, and defenseman Samuel Knazko (Columbus Blue Jackets). All eyes will be on returning forward Juraj Slafkovsky and defenseman Simon Nemec, each a potential top-15 pick in the 2022 draft. Nemec scored six points (one goal, five assists) in five games and was named tournament MVP as captain for second place Slovakia at the 2021 Hlinka Gretzky Cup. Slafkovksy scored nine points (three goals, six assists) in five games. Forward Dalibor Dvorsky, a 16-year-old who is eligible for the 2023 NHL Draft, led Slovakia with 12 points (eight goals, four assists) at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup and could surprise in his first WJC.

Switzerland

Coach: Marco Bayer

2022 NHL Draft watch: Lian Bichsel, D, Leksand (SWE); Lorenzo Canonica, F, Shawinigan (QMJHL)

Schedule: Dec. 27, Russia (4:30 p.m. ET); Dec. 28, United States (4:30 p.m. ET); Dec. 30, Slovakia (7 p.m. ET); Dec. 31, Sweden (4:30 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Switzerland will rely on goalies Noah Patenaude (7-2-2, 2.96 GAA, .914 save percentage) of Saint John in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Kevin Pasche (9-4-1, 2.20 GAA, .916 save percentage) of Omaha in the United States Hockey League to remain competitive. Bichsel (6-5, 216), who has one assist in 12 games for Leksand of the Swedish Hockey League, is a B-rated skater on NHL Central Scouting’s preliminary players to watch list. Forward Simon Knak (Nashville Predators) returns for his third World Juniors after he was captain for ninth-place Switzerland at the 2021 WJC. Canonica (5-11, 179), who has scored 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists) in 29 games for Shawinigan, is a C-rated skater after being passed over in the 2021 draft.

2022 World Junior Championship Group A preview

By Adam Kimelman – NHL.com

Kaiden Guhle is one of three players with Canada for the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship that played in the 2-0 loss to the United States in the championship game of the 2021 WJC.

The Montreal Canadiens defenseman prospect said that loss still is being felt by more than just himself, forward Cole Perfetti (Winnipeg Jets) and goalie Dylan Garand (New York Rangers).

“Just unfinished business for the team,” Guhle said. “Playing at home, there’s a lot of pressure when you play for Team Canada. You’re expected to win. I think the guys know that. The guys are hungry for a gold medal this year.”

Guhle scored three points (two goals, one assist) and averaged 15:53 of ice time in seven games, fourth among Canada defensemen. He likely will have a bigger role this year.

Since the 2021 WJC, Guhle played three games for Laval, Montreal’s American Hockey League affiliate, and after playing in three preseason games this season, he was one of the final cuts from Canadiens training camp.

He said he feels that professional experience on and off the ice has made him a better player entering his second WJC.

“I think just maturity, a little bit of confidence,” Guhle said. “I think puck-moving skills have improved a little bit just from seeing other guys play, being with other guys in higher levels and playing pro hockey. I think that’s improved a little bit. I think just all-around maturity. One year is pretty big at this age group.”

The 2022 WJC is scheduled for Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alberta.

Canada will play its preliminary-round games in Group A at Rogers Place in Edmonton, along with Finland, Czechia, Germany and Austria. Group B consists of the United States, Russia, Sweden, Slovakia and Austria, and will play preliminary-round games at Peavey Mart Centrium in Red Deer.

The top four teams in each group will play in the quarterfinals Jan. 2. The semifinals are scheduled for Jan. 4, and the championship and third-place games Jan. 5.

Here’s a look at each Group A team, in predicted order of finish: 

Canada

Coach: Dave Cameron

2022 NHL Draft Watch: Shane Wright, F, Kingston, OHL; Brett Brochu, G, London, OHL

Schedule: Dec. 26, Czechia (7 p.m. ET); Dec. 28, Austria (7 p.m. ET); Dec. 29, Germany (7 p.m. ET); Dec. 31, Finland (7 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Canada is stocked with dynamic offensive players, topped by forwards Dylan Guenther (Arizona Coyotes), Kent Johnson (Columbus Blue Jackets) and Perfetti, but the offensive lynchpin could be Wright (6-foot, 185 pounds), projected to be the No. 1 pick of the 2022 NHL Draft with an all-around skill set that’s been compared to Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron. There’s also forward Connor Bedard, the seventh 16-year-old selected to play for Canada at the World Juniors, joining a list that includes Wayne Gretzky, Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid, and who has a history of dominating older competition; he scored 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in seven games as a 15-year-old at the 2021 IIHF Under-18 World Championship. The defense includes a potentially dominant top pair in Guhle and Owen Power (Buffalo Sabres), and goalie Sebastian Cossa (Detroit Red Wings) is a 6-foot-6 wall behind them. Canada is a favorite to win Group A and its second championship in three years.

Finland

Coach: Antti Pennanen

2022 NHL Draft Watch: Joakim Kemell, F, JYP, FIN; Brad Lambert, F, JYP, FIN

Schedule: Dec. 26, Germany (2 p.m. ET); Dec. 27, Austria (2 p.m. ET); Dec. 29, Czechia (2 p.m. ET); Dec. 31, Canada (7 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Finland will be keyed by its defensemen, led by Topi Niemela (Toronto Maple Leafs), voted best at the position at the 2021 WJC after he scored eight points (two goals, six assists) in seven games and helped Finland finish third. For scoring, Finland could look to Kemell (5-11, 171), an A-rated forward in NHL Central Scouting’s players to watch list for the 2022 draft who has scored 18 points (12 goals, six assists) in 21 games for JYP in Liiga, the top professional league in Finland. Roni Hirvonen (Toronto Maple Leafs), Roby Jarventie (Ottawa Senators) and Brad Lambert (2022 draft eligible) also return when Finland looks to win for the first time since 2019.

Czechia

Coach: Karel Mlejnek

2022 NHL Draft Watch: David Jiricek, D, Plzen, CZREP; Jiri Kulich, F, Karlovy Vary, CZREP

Schedule: Dec. 26, Canada (7 p.m. ET); Dec. 27, Germany (7 p.m. ET); Dec. 29, Finland (2 p.m. ET); Dec. 30, Austria (4:30 p.m. ET)

Outlook: The group of defensemen could be a strength led by David Jiricek (6-3, 189), an A-rated player in Central Scouting’s players to watch list who is playing in the top pro league in Czechia. He scored two points (one goal, one assist) and averaged 16:11 of ice time in five games at the 2021 WJC and will be joined by Stanislav Svozil (Tampa Bay Lightning) and Michael Krutil (Chicago Blackhawks) from the 2021 group of defensemen. Forwards Jan Mysak (Montreal Canadiens), captain of the 2021 team, and Pavel Novak (Minnesota Wild) will be counted on to supply offense. Mysak leads Hamilton of the Ontario Hockey League with 17 goals in 24 games; Novak leads Kelowna of the Western Hockey League with 31 points (13 goals, 18 assists) in 24 games.

Germany

Coach: Tobias Abstreiter

2022 NHL Draft Watch: Florian Elias, F, Mannheim, GER; Yannik Burghart, F, Kaufbeuren, GER-2

Schedule: Dec. 26, Finland (2 p.m. ET); Dec. 27, Czechia (7 p.m. ET); Dec. 29, Canada (7 p.m. ET); Dec. 31, Austria (2 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Germany will have a tough time matching its sixth-place finish at the 2021 WJC without its best eligible players, forwards Tim Stutzle (Ottawa Senators), JJ Peterka (Buffalo Sabres), and Lukas Reichel (Blackhawks). Elias, who played on the top line with Stutzle and Peterka last year, will be counted on heavily. Another player who could generate offense is Burghart, who scored 14 goals in 12 games in Germany’s junior league. Goalie Florian Bugl (2022 draft eligible), who helped Germany to wins against Slovakia and Switzerland at the 2021 WJC, will return but will be pushed for the starting job by Nikita Quapp (Carolina Hurricanes). 

Austria

Coach: Marco Pewal

2022 NHL Draft Watch: Marco Kasper, F, Rogle (SWE); Vinzenz Rohrer, F, Ottawa (OHL)

Schedule: Dec. 27, Finland (2 p.m. ET); Dec. 28, Canada (7 p.m. ET); Dec. 30, Czechia (4:30 p.m. ET); Dec. 31, Germany (2 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Austria finished 10th at the 2021 WJC and returns looking for its first win in its fifth tournament appearance (0-17). It won’t be easy against its preliminary-round competition, but it should be able to score more than the one goal it had in four games last year. Kasper (6-1, 183) is an A-rated forward for the 2022 draft who has scored six points (two goals, four assists) in 24 games for Rogle in the Swedish Hockey League. He had one assist in four games as a 16-year-old at the 2021 WJC and is one of 10 returning players. Among them is forward Senna Peeters (2022 draft eligible), who scored Austria’s only goal and will play in the WJC for the third time. The 19-year-old has scored 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) in 26 games for Halifax of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

France fit for promotion

The French players pose for a team photo after winning the gold-medal trophy at the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division I Group B in Tallinn.

By Chapin Landvogt – IIHF.com

As if a crystal ball had been made use of by the schedulers of the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division I Group B, the final day of tournament play featured a winner-take-all match-up of France against Slovenia. Coming in, Slovenia was undefeated in four games, outscoring opponents 26-10, while France had only lost one game, a wild one that came to a conclusion in favour of Ukraine in overtime. 

Adding seasoning to this fiery stew, France’s Tomas Simonsen entered the contest as the tournament’s clear-cut top scorer with seven goals and 13 points while Slovenia’s Marcel Mahkovec was tied for second overall with three goals and 10 points, while being tied for first overall with a +10 rating. In short, the two most prevalent offensive weapons were going up head to head for promotion.

And the game proved to be every bit the thriller a match of this magnitude should be.

France was able to get on the board fairly early in the first period when Jordan Herve, battling in front of the Slovenian net, tapped in a beautiful pass from Theo Gueref after he had gotten the puck from Simonsen. That was at the 5:25 mark and was followed up by France’s second goal of the period in the ninth minute of play, when Herve was once again Johnny on the spot, rifling in the rebound of a quick wrister from the blueline by Antoine Fermine. Slovenia reacted like a team stunned and concentrated on stopping the bleeding for the rest of the first period.

Whatever words of motivation Slovenian coach Lovro Bajc was able to find in the first intermission, they eventually bore fruit. The team came out of the gates looking like men on a mission and were able to cut the lead to one already in the third minute when Jure Povse broke through the French defence and saw his flailing shot attempt, interrupted by a French defenceman’s stick in the last second, nonetheless slip by French goaltender Antoine Keller.

The game continued to see chances created by both teams until Miha Bercic tied things up in the fourth minute of the third period, knocking in a centre-slot rebound of a shot from the right circle while on the power play. Despite this new lease on life, Slovenia joined France in playing a careful game from there on out, as neither team appeared ready to make what could prove to be a fatal mistake.

Alas, one was ultimately made.

Maintaining puck control in the Slovenian zone, France’s Gueref received a sly pass from the blueline and found defenceman Maxime Corvez all alone at the blueline. Corvez made use of the traffic created by Simonsen in front of the net, who managed to attract the ire of two Slovenian defenders and rocketed a perfectly placed wrister over the shoulder of Slovenian netminder Luca Kolin, whose view was clearly blocked. With just a little over six minutes to play, the intensity picked up across the board with France in the pole position.

Slovenia created several chances but couldn’t get the puck in the net right on up to the last minute of play. They continued giving their all to create pressure, but a French forward got hold of the puck with more than enough time to skate it to centre ice and at least dump it in to eat away the final seconds. Instead, he attempted to hit the empty net from France’s half of the ice, hitting the post and leading to a crucial face-off in France’s zone with 10 seconds to go. With everything on the line, France won the face-off and the final 10 seconds were pushed and shoved away below France’s goal line, leading to an ensuing rush of the team from the bench once the siren roared, with sticks and gloves and helmets being tossed all over the place.

By the slightest of margins, France had gained promotion in a most fitting manner, in the tournament’s most fitting match-up.

With two goals and some clutch defensive play to wrap things up, Herve was named the player of the game for France, his line with Gueref and Simonsen proving to be the most potent in the tournament.

The road to final

Thanks to a four-goal outburst in the 3rd period of the team’s opening-day game against an upstart Japanese squad, Slovenia won its first game 7-3 and then edged out Poland with a tight 3-1 win, which entered the final day of play at the bottom of the standings. The Slovenes had obviously enjoyed the taste of victory and would go on to roll over its next two opponents.

Despite a 2-2 score after 20 minutes of play, Slovenia knocked off host Estonia 8-2 and then barrelled over a potent Ukrainian attack 8-4, doing so primarily on the strength of four first period goals. That had the team rolling on all cylinders heading into the final.

France’s route to the final was more arduous, despite dominating Poland in Game 1 to the tune of a 6-2 final. That was followed by a labouring 2-0 victory over Estonia and a wild 7-6 overtime loss to Ukraine, one that had seen Les Bleus come back from a 5-1 deficit to take a 6-5 lead in the third period, only to allow the 6-6 equalizer with over two minutes left in regulation time. By the third minute of overtime Ukraine had snuck away with a second point. 

This led to an extremely important match-up against the similarly successful Japanese side, one it would go on to take 6-4. Interestingly, France scored four times in the second and entered the third period with a 4-0 lead only to allow four goals against in the third, making that period the second one in the tournament in which France would open up the floodgates. Fortunately, it too was able to pop in a few goals in the third as well, allowing it to play for promotion on the tournament’s final day.

Relegation and returnees

Despite many periods of solid hockey, even against France and Slovenia, Estonia and Poland entered the last day of play both within reach of relegation. This was due in part to the 4-3 overtime victory for Estonia against Poland the day before, allowing each team to collect at least a point and stay within striking distance of maintaining the class. On the final game day, both teams would have an uphill battle, with Poland having to face neighbour Ukraine while Estonia would go up against Japan. Both Ukraine and Japan had a solid tournament, with Japan having lost only to Slovenia and France, even having beaten Ukraine in their direct match-up.

The top players

Simonsen, who takes a regular shift for Amiens in France’s top circuit Ligue Magnus, where he has 17 points in 17 games, would go on to lead the tournament in scoring with seven goals and 15 points in five games. After that, a trio of Ukrainians dominated the scoresheets, with forwards Danylo Korzhyletsky (14 points), Mykhailo Simchuk (13), and Denys Honcharenko (10) coming in 2nd-4th. Slovenes Mahkovec and Luka Gomboc came in 5th and 6th in scoring with 10 and nine points respectively, but both were held off the scoresheet when it mattered most against France. 

Herve, Gueref and the NHL-drafted Artur Cholach of Ukraine, playing defence, also had fine tournaments with eight points in five games apiece. Likewise, Japanese forwards Yu Sato and Kotaro Murase each collected points at over a point-per-game pace.

Looking forward

France will now head back up into the Division I Group A, replacing Hungary, which is on its way down after losing to Denmark in an all-decisive final day match-up pitting two teams that had yet to register  a point. It’s been a few years since current Columbus Blue Jacket Alexandre Texier was making music for France in the Division IA, but that is where the program sees itself, with the proof now in the pudding after this tournament. Slovenia was not able to completely live up to its billing as the group favourite heading in but should maintain that status heading into next year’s contest, despite Hungary joining the ranks. Both Japan and Ukraine showed that they clearly belong at this level and have much to build on after this year’s tournament experience.

For Poland, this year’s tournament ends with a demotion into the Division II Group A, and it’ll surely come with the disappointment of knowing that they were able to skate and perform against just about all opponents at this level for periods at a time but ended up being one overtime goal away from maintaining the class. Thanks to some convincing play in Brasov, Romania, Italy will replace Poland in the Division IB, meaning next year’s tournament will feature this year’s host Estonia, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Slovenia, and Ukraine.

Belarus promoted to World Juniors

Belarusian players celebrate after the win in the deciding game against Norway.

By Henrik Manninen – IIHF.com

Following a five-year absence Belarus will be back competing among the top-ten nations at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship in Novosibirsk and Omsk, Russia.

Five straight victories, including a final-day rally against Norway, sees Belarus win promotion from the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division I Group A with 15 points out of a possible 15.

But despite a perfect record, Belarus’s procession to promotion in Denmark´s Horsholm wasn´t as straightforward as the final standings might suggest. During a pulsating final day encounter against fellow promotion hopefuls Norway, the Belarusian promotion campaign briefly looked in danger of derailing.

With Norway leading 2-0 midway through the second frame, the Scandinavians went dangerously close to further stretch their lead.

Only seconds later, Yegor Chezganov pulled a goal back for Belarus kickstarting their fightback. Alexander Suvorov then scored the game-tying goal at 8:17 of the third period, which guaranteed promotion for Belarus. Valentin Demchenko sealed their victory and perfect record with an empty netter with 42 seconds left in regulation time.

“When the score became 0-2 everyone understood that there was no turning back. They all had to give the best, leave everything on the ice,” said Belarusian forward Alexander Palchik. “In the third period we started to play more aggressively, to forecheck and Sanya Suvorov scored a great goal.”

Team captain Suvorov of Dynamo Minsk led by example and finished as top scorer of the tournament notching 4+7 in 5 games. Latvia’s Raivis Ansons tallied 4+5 to finish second, followed by another Belarusian, Vitali Pinchuk on 2+7 in third.

Belarus returns to the top division of the World Juniors for the first time since 2018. Eight players from the gold-winning Division 1A roster will be eligible to defend the Belarusian colours in Russia next year. The triumph in Denmark also marks a winning start for new head coach Sergei Stas.

“It turned out to be a difficult game. We beat one of the best teams. It was not easy, we endured it, withstood the pressure and showed character. The emotions are indescribable and they will be unforgettable,” said Stas.

Latvia finished second in the standings. They won silver following four victories and a narrow 2-1 defeat against Belarus. Norway ended up with the bronze medals. But heading into the final round of games, all three teams still harboured hopes to strike gold at the Bitcoin Arena.

For Norway to finish top, the Scandinavians needed to beat Belarus with a four-goal margin or more. Latvia on the other hand kept their fingers crossed for a Norwegian win against Belarus but with no more than three goals. Latvia would then be required to do their job by beating Kazakhstan in regular time in their final game sneak past and finish top on a better head-to-head record.

Despite Norway emphatically outshooting Belarus 15-5 in the first frame, the game was still goalless at the first intermission. The Scandinavians were finally rewarded for their offensive endeavour during a high-octane second frame. Mikkel Oby-Olsen outmuscled Pinchuk in the corner, found Sander Engebraten who fed it along the blue line to Ole Julian Holm. The Norwegian captain’s one timer was tipped past Alexei Kolosov by Martin Johnsen as Norway went in front at 9:21 of the middle frame.

Having finally managed to find a chink in Kolosov’s armour, the Norwegians doubled their lead 65 seconds later thanks to a lighting quick move. Jonas Haughom won the puck behind his own net, fed Patrick Elvsveen who hit a pin-point pass to Eskild Bakke Olsen, who raced past Arseni Sazanovich and one-on-one deked Kolosov to finish in style.

With the Belarusians momentarily struggling to find their composure, pesky Norwegian attackers surged ahead in their hunt for more goals. Elvsveen missed a fine opportunity to increase Norway’s lead as Belarus only seconds later got back into the game. Demchenko picked up the puck, backhanded it to the burly Artyom Levshunov, who barrelled down centre ice towards the Norwegian net. Surrounded by four Norwegians the puck dropped to an unmarked Chezganov in the slot, who ripped a wrister past Markus Stensrud at 13:46 of the second period.

The pulsating see-saw battle of offensive hockey continued in the third frame as both teams needed to score. The speed and skill from Norway´s Philip Granath and Sander Wold caused visible problems for the Belarusian rearguard. But as Norway failed to capitalize on their chances, Belarus tied the game with a fine move at 8:17. Instigated by the influential Pinchuk, his cross-ice puck found Suvorov on the left flank. On a two-on-one rush, the Belarusian captain tried to pass it across to Sergei Kuznetsov, but hit Norway´s blueliner Haughom before reacting quickest on the rebound to tie the game at 2-2.

With 2:15 left of the game, Norway called a time-out with head coach Tobias Johansson pulling Stensrud from the net in a final effort to grab a winner and salvage a silver medal. Instead, Demchenko with 42 seconds from the end scored an empty netter and the game-winning goal for Belarus.

En route to the gold triumph, Belarus had gotten off to a flying start in Division IA. Nine different players scored as hosts Denmark was mauled 9-1 in their opener. Belarus continued their free-scoring form in their next game against newly-promoted Hungary. 5-1 up after the first frame in a game they eventually won 8-2. Pinchuk enjoying a fine afternoon tallying 1+4. Another fine individual display came against Kazakhstan with Chezganov tallying 2+2 in a disciplined 4-2 victory.

But as was on display in their final game against Norway, this crop of Belarusian players was also capable to grind out results. Against second-placed Latvia, Belarus was outshot but narrowly toppled its neighbours in a 2-1 win. Metallurg Zhlobin’s Ilya Spat scored with a close-range backhand at 13:33 of the middle frame to put Belarus ahead. On a two-on-one rush Suvorov finished high past Latvia’s netminder Bruno Bruveris at 12:52 of the last period. Latvia’s top scorer in the tournament, Ansons, pulled a goal back with 4:43 left of the third period. Despite Latvia going for bust pulling Bruveris from the net with two minutes left of regular time, Belarus withstood the storm.

Kazakhstan who came down from the top division, finished fourth under new head coach Alexander Istomin. At the bottom end, hosts Denmark got their first three points on board when it mattered the most. Blanking Hungary 4-0 in the relegation decider keeps the Danes in the group, while Hungary heads straight back to Division IB following five straight defeats.

Italy bounces back

The Italian players during the national anthem after the deciding win against Korea for first place in the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division II Group B.

By Henrik Manninen – IIHF.com

Getting off to a flyer and never looking back, Italy needed only four games to secure a top-place finish at the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division II Group A in Brasov, Romania.

Securing promotion in emphatic style, Italy took maximum points from its first four games to open up an unassailable advantage over the rest of the chasing pack ahead of Sunday’s concluding game against Great Britain.

Italy’s gold medal triumph was confirmed while lounging in the stands of Brasov’s Olympic Ice Hall. They had looked on as their only remaining contender for the top spot, Great Britain, suffered a second-period meltdown as Romania hit four unanswered goals to record a memorable 4-3 victory.

Competing at the 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division I Group B, Italy will be able to call up 10 players from their gold medal-winning roster from Brasov to skate at the higher level next year.

Thomas Galimberti led in scoring for the Italians tallying 4+2 points in four games. He was closely followed by 17-year-old debutant Tommy Purdeller of the Red Bull Hockey Academy from Austria, who notched a couple of goals and three helpers. But Italy’s recipe for success was not down to individual efforts, but to a team full of attacking options. Head coach Giorgio de Bettin witnessed 12 different players net Italy’s 19 goals en route to winning promotion.

While the Italians enjoyed versatility going forward, they were rock solid at the opposite end. 71:07 minutes of play was required before conceding their first goal in Brasov. Carlo Muraro and Damian Clara shared goaltending duties with almost identical save percentages. With Italy only conceding four goals in as many games, their two goaltenders both enjoyed two wins and a shutout each with a GAA of 0.50. 16-year-old goalie prospect Clara enjoyed a shutout at his U20 Worlds debut for Italy and still has three more years left to shine at this level. Clara wrote history earlier this year by being named to the World Championship roster of the senior national team at his young age.

As Italy celebrates gold, the surprise package of the tournament was undoubtedly newly promoted Korea. They showed few signs of any jet lag seeing off Romania 4-1 in their opener. Woojae Kim’s team followed it up by edging Spain 2-1 in overtime, before rallying back from a two-goal deficit to beat Great Britain 5-4 after penalty shots. In the end, it wasn’t enough to deny Italy, though, when the two teams clashed in a key game between the two only undefeated teams on Friday night.

An interference penalty against Johannes Gschnitzer gave Korea the first power play of the game, which they took full advantage of as Heegon Jang converted at 11:24. But with 20 seconds left of the first frame, Italy was level. Leonhard Ludwig Hasler and Purdeller combined for Jakob Prast to tie the game at one apiece.

16 out of 22 Italian players on their roster skate in their home country. One of those, Hasler currently on loan at Sterzing-Vipiteno in the AlpsHL, enjoyed a particularly fine afternoon against Korea. He provided his second assist of the game as Enrico Larcher put Italy ahead at 8:40 of the middle frame. With Korea’s Minjae Park sitting out a holding minor, Hasler himself converted on the powerplay at 13:35 to stretch the lead to 3-1.

Italy powered on in the third frame. At 2:28, the red-hot Hasler notched his fourth point when providing the assist for Marco Zanetti to hit home 4-1. With the Koreans chasing a goal and running out of steam, Galimberti, who plays his hockey at Pelicans Lahti’s U20 team in Finland, closed the scoring for Italy on the powerplay with 1:27 left to record a fine 5-1 win.

The event was played in Brasov’s Olympic Ice Rink, a venue named at a time when the Transylvanian city hosted the European Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF) in 2013. Then future NHL stars such as Finland’s Sebastian Aho and Kevin Fiala of Switzerland both skated in Brasov at the EYOF hockey tournament. Perhaps a new generation of future Italian stars now saw the light at the very same venue hosting the U20 Division IIA tournament almost nine years later.

Earlier in the tournament, Italy had ruthlessly blanked both Lithuania and Romania 7-0 and 5-0 respectively in their opening two games. The Azzurri then rallied back from a goal down to edge Spain 2-1 during game three, with Italy’s top scorer Galimberti netting Italy’s winner midway through the contest.

The competition concludes Sunday, and there’s still plenty to play for during the final round of games. Korea and Great Britain, level on points are both in contention for silver or bronze. At the bottom end of the table, Romania, Lithuania and Spain will all be fighting to avoid relegation to Division IIB.

Perfect Knight for U.S. gold

Arthur Kaliyev and Alex Turcotte celebrate a Team USA goal in the gold-medal-game win against the U.S.

By Andrew Podnieks – IIHF.com

Trevor Zegras had a goal and assist and Spencer Knight was terrific in goal for the Americans as they won their fifth all-time gold medal with a flawless 2-0 win over Canada. It was a game of tight checking and stifling defence, blocked shots, great saves, and few great scoring chances.

This was the fifth time the North Americans have met for gold, and after losing the first one the U.S. has now won the last four.

Knight was particularly sensational in the third period as Canada tried everything to get a goal. Shots were 15-1 in the last 20 minutes, and 34-21 overall for Canada, but Knight stopped them all.

With his two points,  Zegras wins the scoring title with 18 points to go with being named tournament MVP.

This game was also the 12th shutout of the tournament, surpassing 2004 for the most in one U20 event. And, it was the lowest-scoring game between the two countries since a 1-1 tie in Winnipeg in 1999.

It was clear from the early going that Canada was going to continue its game of puck pressure, but equally clear that the Americans could handle the strategy by moving the puck quickly. Canada controlled the early going in this way, but unlike all previous games when it got an early goal to create some forward momentum, the U.S. held the fort and slowly but surely wrested control from the hosts.

This change of pressure from Canada to the United States resulted in a period of sustained pressure inside the Canada end, and as the defensive players wore down the Americans forced the issue. Zegras got the puck back to the point where Drew Helleson took a quick shot that was tipped in front by Alex Turcotte, beating Levi at 13:25.

That goal alone ended Levi’s bid for a record fourth shutout, another bid for the longest shutout sequence, and Canada’s bid for going through the tournament without trailing.

More important, the goal energized the U.S., and they came right back with another great shift. That momentum was dulled by a tripping penalty, the first to either side in a period in which the referees let the players play. On the ensuing power play Canada was all over the Americans, but Knight stood tall in goal and Canada misfired when it mattered most. 

It was still a 1-0 game after 20 minutes, but Canada went to the dressing room feeling better while the U.S. was very happy with its period.

It was the Americans, though, who started the second firing on all cylinders, and just 32 seconds in they made it 2-0. Canada failed to get the puck out, and a quick shot by Arthur Kailyev went wide. But Levi thought the puck was coming out to his left, and instead it came out the other side where Zegras flipped it into the empty cage.

Canada dominated the rest of the period, but it encountered two problems it hadn’t previously. One, the players started to miss great chances they usually buried. Two, Knight was playing flawlessly in the blue ice.

Bo Byram joined the rush on a short-handed odd-man rush, and his shot off the deke hit the post. Quinton Byfield had a great chance in front but shot wide, and Braden Schneider was stopped from in close by the glove of Knight.

In all, Canada couldn’t buy a goal despite leading the tournament with 41 through six games.

In the third, Knight was the difference, to be sure, but the Americans gave Canada the puck but little time to do anything. The result was plenty of puck possession but not many bona fide chances. 

Lundell leads Finns to bronze

Finland celebrates after captain Anton Lundell (#15) opens the scoring in the 4-1 bronze medal win over Russia

By Lucas Aykroyd – IIHF.com

In a tight battle, captain Anton Lundell scored twice as the Finns beat Russia 4-1 to win the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship bronze medal game.

It was Finland’s first bronze medal since star goalie Tuukka Rask backstopped his nation to third place in Vancouver in 2006. In the 2010’s, the Finns won either gold (2014, 2016, 2019) or nothing. All-time, this is Finland’s seventh bronze, with five wins and two losses.

Coach Antti Pennanen’s boys, who trailed 1-0 after the first period, staged comebacks in all three of their medal-round games, including the 3-2 quarter-final win over the Swedes and the 4-3 defeat against the Americans.

Russia lost a bronze medal game for the first time in nine tries and finished out of the medals for just the second time in the last 11 years (fifth in 2018). The Russians, who took silver in 2020 with a 4-3 final loss to Canada, have one gold in their last 18 World Juniors (2011).

Both Pennanen and Russian head coach Igor Larionov gave their starting goalies a vote of confidence for the bronze medal game. Kari Piiroinen and Yaroslav Askarov each made their sixth appearance. Finland outshot Russia 32-29. Askarov performed markedly better after a rough outing in the 5-0 semi-final loss to Canada.

The Russians stormed out of the gate, firing seven shots on goal before Finland got one. Piiroinen was forced to stop Yegor Chinakhov with his blocker on a clear break. Minutes later, Russian captain Vasili Podkolzin barged to the net and just tipped a cross-crease pass off the post.

Ilya Safonov made it 1-0 at 6:03. The AK Bars Kazan winger capitalized on some spadework by Maxim Groshev, who stickhandled to the middle before launching a backhander on goal. Safonov converted the rebound for his second goal of the tournament.

To open the second period, Finnish defenceman Ville Heinola inadvertently clipped Chinakhov in the face. However, the Finns killed the penalty off with ease, and at 5:05, they got the equalizer.

Topi Niemela, who leads all World Junior blueliners with eight points, wristed a shot that Lundell tipped in. Lundell and Heinola are the only two returnees from the golden 2019 team.

Late in the period, with Finland pressing, Lundell pivoted to make a marvelous cross-crease feed to Eemil Viro, but the puck bounced off Viro’s stick and he was shaken up after going hard into the end boards.

In the third period, Mikko Petman made it 2-1 Finland at 1:13, getting his stick on Viro’s left point shot to deflect it past Askarov. It was a great time for the 19-year-old Lukko winger to notch his first World Junior goal.

At the Russian bench, Podkolzin urged his team to keep giving it their all. Unfortunately, he bumped into teammate Shakir Mukhamadullin in the neutral zone and his stick then hit Mantykivi in the face.

Taking a double minor for high-sticking with under seven minutes to play was a tough blow for the trailing Russians. The Finns, whose PP came in clicking at 40 percent (8-for-20), couldn’t get a shot here, but it killed valuable time.

Larionov called his timeout and yanked Askarov for the extra attacker with 1:55 left and a faceoff in the Finnish end. The Russians stormed Piiroinen’s crease, but couldn’t jam one in. Time ran out as Lundell, with his team-leading sixth goal, and Juuso Parssinen added empty-netters to round out the scoring.

The Finns, not as talented on paper as in previous years, did well with their relentless five-man commitment to two-way hockey. The jury is still out on whether Larionov’s vision of resurrecting a more creative, Soviet style of Russian hockey will spawn gold someday.

After not suiting up against Canada, forward Vladislav Firtsov slotted into Larionov’s lineup here in place of the injured Arseni Gritsyuk. Finland, meanwhile, replaced forward Petteri Puhakka with Roby Jarventie.

Both Finland and Russia will be looking to top the podium when the IIHF World Junior Championship returns to Edmonton and Red Deer in 2022.

U.S. edges Finns to make final

Matthew Boldy scores Team USA’s third goal in a tight 4-3 win over Finland

By Lucas Aykroyd – IIHF.com

In a hard-fought semi-final, Arthur Kaliyev scored the winner with 1:16 left as the U.S. defeated Finland 4-3 on Monday to advance to the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship gold medal game against host Canada.

“It’s something that you dream about, USA and Canada in a gold medal game,” said John Farinacci, who also scored for the Americans. “It’s gonna be a fun game, and we’ve got to play a full 60 minutes if we want to get that gold medal.”

Versus Finland, Kaliyev, set up by Alex Turcotte, fired a laser over goalie Kari Piiroinen’s glove to give coach Nate Leaman’s team the victory.

“My eyes lit up and I just ripped it to him and he had an unbelievable shot,” said Turcotte.

The Finns rallied from a two-goal second period deficit to make it 3-3 in the third, but couldn’t pull off another sensational comeback like their 3-2 quarter-final win over Sweden. Finland will face Russia for the bronze medal.

“It’s gonna be tough for sure,” said Finnish head coach Antti Pennanen. “But of course, it’s our last game. So I hope we bring the team effort tomorrow.”

Tuesday will mark the fifth Canada-USA final in World Junior history (1997, 2004, 2010, 2017). Surprisingly, given Canada’s overall dominance at this tournament, the U.S. has won the last three gold-medal clashes.

This semi-final provided revenge for the Americans after two consecutive medal-round losses to Finland. The Finns edged the U.S. 3-2 in the 2019 gold medal game in Vancouver. Finland also won the 2020 quarter-final 1-0 in Trinec.

“It was a hump we had to get over, and I’m really proud of the guys,” said Leaman.

U.S. goalie Spencer Knight, who has recorded two shutouts in Edmonton, and Finland’s Piiroinen, who has one, both got their fifth starts of the tournament. Finland outshot the U.S. 36-26.

Like Kaliyev, Turcotte had a goal and an assist for the U.S., and Matthew Boldy had the other goal. Kasper Simontaival scored twice and Roni Hirvonen added a single for the Finns, while Ville Heinola chipped in two assists.

The Americans are looking for their fifth all-time gold medal (2004, 2010, 2013, 2017). Meanwhile, the Finns will try to win bronze for the first time since 2006 in Vancouver.

“It’s been a really awesome trip with these guys to be here in the bubble,” said Finland’s Kasper Puutio. “We still want to get a medal and be proud of this team. So we’re still definitely going to be giving the best that we have tomorrow and trying to get the bronze medal.”

The Finns carried the early play territorially, hounding the Americans around the rink. U.S. scoring leader Trevor Zegras (16 points, tied with Canada’s Dylan Cozens) unsuccessfully attempted the lacrosse move that Carolina’s Andrei Svechnikov used to score twice last season.

Turcotte opened the scoring at 12:39 with his second goal of the tournament. Kaliyev fired a shot that bounced off Turcotte’s leg at the side of the net, and he banged the puck past Piiroinen’s right skate.

This semi-final pitted the tournament’s two top power-play teams against each other. The U.S. came in clicking at 42.1 per cent, while the Finns were at 40 per cent (6-for-15).

At 14:06, Simontaival tied it up on Finland’s first man advantage. Heinola took a centre-point shot that Kasper Puutio directed to a wide-open Simontaival in front for his third of these World Juniors.

“There were points in the game where we really played good hockey and were on our toes, but there were points where we were just falling back too much and letting the Finns dictate,” said Leaman.

In the second period, Finland’s hustle continued to frustrate the more talented Americans. A stretch pass from Turcotte to Zegras looked promising, but Eemil Viro was there to intercept it.

On a mid-game Finnish man advantage, the offensive pressure was relentless. Knight came up big to deny Puutio on a dangerous one-timer. And then the Americans’ quick-strike attack shifted the momentum.

An opportunistic Farinacci took a beautiful stretch pass from Jackson LaCombe when the Finns were completing a line change, and he beat Piiroinen on a breakaway to make it 2-1 at 15:53.

“I love the fact that Jackson LaCombe made that great play today to send Farinacci in,” said Leaman.

Less than a minute later, life got tougher for Finland as Aku Raty took a double-minor for high-sticking Boldy, giving the Americans their first power play. And Boldy, although slightly bloodied, went straight to the net to tip in Zegras’s heads-up pass from the high slot at 17:00 for a 3-1 lead.

Early in the third, Finland got a tremendous opportunity when Cole Caufield got dinged for delay of game after flipping the puck over the glass while exiting the U.S. zone. But it came to naught, and the blue-and-white team simply had to take more chances offensively.

At 11:38, Simontaival cut the U.S. lead to 3-2 on a play similar to his first goal, rushing to the net and converting Puutio’s smooth cross-ice pass as Knight lunged with his glove fruitlessly.

“We showed that character that we had in the previous games against Sweden,” said Puutio. “So we knew what we can do. And we were just believing and trusting the process and trying to find a way to come back in the game.”

Incredibly, the Americans took a second delay-of-game minor with 4:42 left, with Henry Thrun the culprit this time. With 3:43 remaining, Hirvonen was right at the crease to bang in the rebound from Finnish captain Anton Lundell’s bad-angle shot.

The Finnish bench went wild. Hirvonen also potted the game-winner with 25 seconds left against Sweden in the 3-2 quarter-final comeback win. But against the U.S., this was as close as Pennanen’s boys would get, despite some late pressure.

“Obviously, that was probably the craziest period of hockey I’ve ever played in,” Farinacci said.

The result gives Finland an all-time World Junior record against the U.S. of 18 wins, one tie, and 17 losses.

Canada rolls into gold

By Andrew Podnieks – IIHF.com

As it has every game this tournament, Canada roared out to an early lead and never looked back. Tonight, Russia was the victim, and the 5-0 score was richly deserved by the more determined and aggressive Canadians.

The win vaults Canada into the gold-medal game tomorrow night and puts the Russians in the bronze-medal game earlier in the day.

Devon Levi stopped 28 shots for his third shutout, tying Justin Pogge for the U20 record for one tournament. For Russia, it was their most one-sided loss in the semi-finals since the playoff format was introduced in 1996.And, it was Canada’s first shutout over Russia since 2006 (14 games).

Canada now has scored 40 goals and allowed just 4 in six games.

Dyman Cozens led Canada with a goal and two assists. He now leads the tournament in both goals (8) and points (16).

“That’s hockey,” Russian captain Vasili Podkolzin said. “It’s a game, and these things happen. Congrats to team Canada. They did a great job and deserved the win. We should have played better.”

The fun started early and in the strangest way imaginable. Alex Newhook had a great opening shift, culminating with a quick shot in front after he picked up a loose puck to the side of the net that Zakhar Bardakov tried to bat out of harm’s way.

Newhook whipped a shot that went in and out so quickly even he didn’t realize it. Play continued for 30 seconds and then the official timekeeper blew his horn to stop play, a most unusual occurrence. The referees then reviewed the play and quickly ruled it a goal, the official time being 0:59.

“I actually had no idea it went in,” he acknowledged. “I thought it hit the crossbar, but when you get an early chance like that and put it away, it’s great for the team.”

The Canadians increased their lead midway through the period thanks to a great pass by Jacob Pelletier to Connor McMichael to the back side of the play. He fought off defenceman Yan Kuznetsov and snapped the puck into the open cage.

Canada’s sensational period continued with a third goal, this from Cole Perfetti during a four-minute power play. He came off the point and from the top of the circle wired a shot under the glove of Askarov to the far side at 15:05, and the Russians left the ice after 20 minutes in a state of shock.

Nothing changed after the intermission, and Canada’s incredible puck pressure led to its fourth goal at 4:09. This time Askarov lost his stick and whole he was trying to get it from Semyon Chistyakov the Canadians moved the puck around, setting up Braden Schneider. His shot beat the goalie to the glove side again.

The Russians finally got their first power play of the night late in the period and scored after some good puck movement, but no sooner was it in the net than Canada challenged the play for offside. After a lengthy review, it was clear the puck entered the Canadian zone ahead of the play, and the goal was cancelled.

Captain Dylan Cozens was awarded a penalty shot with 29.4 seconds remaining after a determined effort in centre ice created a breakaway, but he was slashed on the play from behind. Askarov made a nice right-toe save, though, keeping the score at 4-0.

Canada stifled every Russain attempt in the third period to rush the puck, pinch, create offence. The closest they came to getting back into the game was a his post off a drifting point shot by Shakir Mkhamadullin with about seven minutes remaining.

Levi brought a moment of excitement to the game when he fielded the puck behind his own goal and took aim at the empty cage at the other end. His shot, however, hit a teammate in the back.

Cozens scored an empty netter at 18:31 to finish the scoring.

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