Category: World Junior Championships (Page 1 of 14)

Croatian juniors win in Belgrade

The Croatian players celebrate with the gold medal trophy after winning the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division II Group B in Serbia.

By Henrik Manninen – IIHF.com

Croatia sweeps through the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division II Group B in to win gold. The Netherlands also celebrates after blanking hosts Serbia 4-0 on the final day to claim the second promotion spot.

The tournament in Belgrade was the last of the tournaments played in summertime after being moved from January due to Covid-19.

Advancing in emphatic style, Croatia took maximum points and sealed promotion ahead of Saturday´s concluding 4-2 win versus Belgium. Played in the newly refurbished Pionir Ice Hall in Belgrade, the triumph tasted even sweeter for Croatia, winning it at the home ice of their fierce rivals, Serbia.

Coming from behind to beat Serbia 3-1 in a high-octane opening day encounter set the tone for the Croats. They followed it up by grinding out a 4-2 win against the Netherlands. Against Iceland, they sparked into life scoring four unanswered third-period goals in a 7-3 victory. Four wins out of four in a highly competitive tournament bodes well for Croatia’s promising next generation.

“All of the games were tough, but this is a very good team that works hard. With seven players on this team playing their hockey outside of Croatia the future looks good,” said head coach Marko Sertic as  Croatia’s U20 national team steps up to a level they most recently competed at in 2017.

“We are all very good friends and working very hard as a group. That I think is the key for our win and I think this team will have a good chance of winning a medal at the higher level,” said Croatia’s Alex Dimitrijevic, one of six players on the victorious Croatian U20 roster who also skated for Croatia’s senior team winning bronze at the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division II Group A.

The key win for Croatia en route to their gold medals came in their tricky opener against arch-rivals and hosts Serbia. The Pionir Ice Hall erupted in a rousing cheer following Matija Dinic´s opener for Serbia at 4:01. But the joy was to be short-lived as Fran Zavrski tied the game for Croatia just 32 seconds later. Working themselves into the game, Serbia´s Minja Ivanovic sat out a two-minute minor when Karlo Marinkovic found the tournament´s top scorer, Vito Idzan, who converted at 6:18 on the power play as Croatia went ahead 2-1.

With emotions running high both on and off ice, the penalty-laden second frame finished goalless. 967 onlookers in the stands were backing Serbia relentlessly in their hunt for goals as the third period wore on. When Croatia’s Bruno Idzan was serving a minor and Serbia charged ahead, his older brother came to the rescue. The tournament’s top scorer Vito Idzan raced clear to cooly slot home the 3-1 shorthanded goal past Akim Padalica with 5:05 left in regulation time.

“We knew that there were going to be a lot of people and Serbia would be favourites playing at home. It was hard, but it was expected. We knew what we were coming for when arriving here,” said Dimitrijevic.

The original six teams skating in Belgrade had been cut down to five following China’s withdrawal due to their current Covid-19 countermeasures and quarantine rules. The suspension from participation at the top of the World Championship pyramid of the Russian and Belarusian U20 national teams until further notice also directly impacted this tournament. With two places for promotion up for grabs and nobody suffering relegation, it gave way to a week full of offensive and adventurous hockey.

Heading into the final game of the tournament, the Netherlands went head to head with Serbia for the second promotion spot. Entering the game with a two-point advantage over their opponents, the Dutch head coach Ron Berteling and his young team were relishing the challenge ahead of them.

“It’s a Saturday night game at eight o’clock against the hosts. When you hit the ice during the warm-up there are already people in the stands. If you are not ready then something is wrong, but these guys will be ready,” he said.

Berteling was not to be disappointed. The Netherlands had gone behind in all of their previous three games, but against Serbia they were switched on right from the start.

Following a goalless first frame, the Dutch broke the deadlock to go ahead on the power play at 8:22 of the middle frame thanks to their top scorer Jay Huisman. He then turned provider three minutes later as Mike Collard doubled the Dutchmen’s lead.

Despite Serbia winning the shots 28-20 in the game, the crowd of 826 was silenced at 2:11 of the third when Rolan Loos stretched the Dutch lead even further. Desperate four goals, Serbia head coach Spiros Anastasiadis went for bust pulling Padalica from the net with 6:47 left of the third frame. 53 seconds later Pim van der Meulen hit the final nail in the coffin with his empty netter.

“We dreamed of winning the gold medal, but our goal was promotion and to go up to a higher group,” said Berteling as the Netherlands sealed a return to a level, they last competed at in 2018.

A dejected Serbian team had to settle for bronze. A slight consolation is that Serbia’s Padalica was voted best goalkeeper of the tournament. Wesley de Bruijn of the Netherlands won the best defender award and Croatia’s Vito Idzan was selected as the top forward.

The tournament also marked the end of the 2021/22 season in the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship program with the final remaining tournament being concluded after being pushed ahead from its original date due to Covid-19.

The 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division II Group A will be played in Kaunas, Lithuania between 11 and 17 December 2022 with players born 2003 and later eligible to play and return. Croatia and the Netherlands will then play against Great Britain, Spain, Lithuania and Romania.

Canada claims summertime gold in OT

Team Canada players celebrate a goal in the 3-2 gold-medal game win against Finland.

By  Andrew Podnieks – IIHF.com

Kent Johnson knocked in a loose puck at 3:20 of overtime to give Canada a 3-2 win over Finland and take the gold medal at the 2022 World Junior Championship. It capped the wildest three-on-three imaginable, one that included great saves by both goalies. But the biggest save came from Canada’s captain, tournament MVP, and leading scorer, Mason McTavish, who swept a puck off his goal line to keep play alive and allow Johnson to score soon after.

Logan Stankoven toe-dragged the puck in front of the Finnish goal and was stoned by Juha Jatkola, but the puck bounced free and Johnson smacked it in, sending the raucous crowd of 13,327 into a frenzy. Finland had taken the game to overtime by rallying from 2-0 down with two goals in the third.

Yes, World Junior fans, it felt like Christmas!

Canada finished the tournament with a perfect record, seven wins without a loss, including an earlier 6-3 win over the Finns during the preliminary round. They have now won their record 19th all-time gold medals at the World Juniors. The win also marks the 15th time in 16 hostings that Canada has earned a medal, the lone exception coming in 2019. For Finland, they take silver, their fifth U20 medal since 2014.

The win is especially sweet for coach Dave Cameron, who was behind the bench in 2011 when Canada lost a 5-3 heart-breaker in the gold-medal game that year against Russia after leading 3-0 after two periods.

Dylan Garand was the winning goalie and finished the tournament with a 6-0 record. McTavish led all players in the game with 26:50 of ice time, including 1:55 of the 3:20 in the OT.

At the other end, Juha Jatkola was sensational in the Finnish goal, the only reason the game went to an extra session.

Backed by the biggest, loudest, and most raucous crowd of the tournament, Canada came out guns a-blazin’, getting the puck deep, hitting every white sweater in sight, and getting pucks on the net. All Finland could do was withstand the barrage and hope it wouldn’t last 60 minutes. Wave after wave attacked Juha Jatkola’s net, and he made some fine saves while his nervous mates tried to adjust.

But before they did, Canada took the lead thanks to McTavish. He drove around the goal and fired a quick shot. Jatkola made the save, but the puck dropped at the feet of Joshua Roy, and he smacked it in before defender Aleksi Heimosalmi could check him.

That goal came at 11:18, by which time Finland had yet to register a shot on goal. They finally did half a minute later, but soon after that, the McTavish-Roy combination almost clicked again. This time the captain fired a pass from the corner to Roy alone in front, but Jatkola made the save on the deke.

Finland skated their way into the game and got a few pucks on Dylan Garand, the most dangerous off the stick of Roni Hirvonen, but the goalie was perfectly positioned to take the shot to the midsection.

Finland had every right to feel pretty good heading to the dressing room, down a single goal in a period it was overwhelmed, but Canada reversed their opponenets’ happy feelings quickly in the middle period. Coming in on the rush, William Dufur fired a bullet past Jatkola just 41 seconds after the faceoff to make it 2-0. 

That set off a series of chances both ways. Kasper Simontaival made an expert tip of a Joel Mattaa shot, but Garand stuck out the right pad just in time for the beautiful save. Johnson then had a long breakaway but was stoned by Jatkola.

Canada then had a whopping five power plays intermittently created by their intensity and pressure in the Finland end. They had plenty of possession and some good chances, but although they didn’t add to their lead virtually the rest of the period passed in the Finland end again as a result. 

That failure to score with all those power plays became a problem early in the third when the Finns got their first goal of the night. It started when Dufour lost his stick and went off on a change, leaving Canada down a skater for a precious couple of seconds. Heimosalmi got the puck and fired a quick shot through traffic that beat Garand at 4:09 and changed the complexion of the game entirely.

The Finns nearly tied the game seconds later, but Garand made a fine stop on Sami Helenius, and then Tyson Foerster had an empty net only to shoot into Jatkola’s glove, the best save of the night by far. Finland responded with dominating play that eventually resulted in the tying goal. 

They were relentless in the Canada end, just as the hosts were in the opening period, and tied the game after more pressure induced a turnover. Topi Niemela spotted Joakim Kemell to the back side and fired a pass across, and Kemell wired a one-timer in to make it 2-2 at 10:46.

Canada acquired a sixth power play, but before much happened it incurred its first penalty of the night to negate the advantage. And then Finland got another penalty that went to video review. In the end, it all went for naught and teams headed to the dressing room for a full intermission before playing 20 minutes of three-on-three unlimited overtime.

It didn’t last long, but every second was thrilling. Junior hockey might not be a summer sport on a reguar basis, but for one night, well, it was a dream.

Sweden defeats Czechia in bronze game

Sweden celebrates the bronze medal win after beating Czechie 3-1 at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship in Edmonton.

By Lucas Aykroyd IIHF.com

Buoyed by goalie Jesper Wallstedt’s 27-save performance, Sweden beat Czechia 3-1 to win the bronze medal at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship in Edmonton on Saturday.

Fabian Lysell, Isak Rosen, and Linus Sjodin scored for Sweden.

The Swedes earned Tomas Monten another medal in his final outing behind their World Junior bench. As a head coach, Monten, 44, also won the 2018 silver medal and 2020 bronze medal. Sweden previously captured World Junior bronze in 1979, 1980, 1987, 1995, 2010, and 2020.

“It was a tough loss yesterday,” said Swedish captain Emil Andrae of falling 1-0 to Finland in the semi-final. “We had to re-group and come together and we talked about having a responsibility to our country. Of course, it was for Tomas Monten, too. It was his last game. We had to do it for him. He’s had six years of grinding, so I’m happy to get a bronze medal for him. He’s a good coach. That’s what this last game was all about.”

Michal Gut replied for Czechia.

To be going home emptyhanded is a genuine disappointment for the Czechs. Everything came together for them when they ended the U.S.’s reign as World Junior champions with a 4-2 quarter-final shocker. However, the host Canadians overpowered coach Radim Rulik’s boys 5-2 in the semi-finals. The Czechs just didn’t have enough left in their tank to top Sweden.

“It wasn’t hard to get up for the game,” Gut said. “We were playing for a medal. It doesn’t matter if it was gold or silver or bronze. We haven’t won a medal for 17 years, so we wanted anything. We were ready to play today.”

Both teams opted for the starting netminders that carried them into the medal round, and Wallstedt more than held down the fort versus Tomas Suchanek. Final shots favoured Czechia 28-23.

“For me, it’s my last junior game, so I also wanted to finish with a medal,” Wallstedt said. “We wanted gold, but bronze is quite good, too. Right now, the feeling is just as good as winning a gold. We’re so happy, and finishing the last game with a medal makes the traveling back home much easier.”

Defensively, Sweden performed well in Edmonton. The Juniorkronorna boasted the best combined goaltending numbers (1.44 GAA, 94.1 save percentage) with the duo of Wallstedt and backup Calle Clang. Their penalty kill ruled at 85.7 percent (three goals allowed on 21 disadvantages).

The Swedes didn’t have an easy time scoring in these World Junior playoffs. They edged Latvia 2-1 in the quarter-final before getting blanked by Finland in the semi-final.

The bronze medal game promised to be a defence-first struggle, and it was. The Czechs fared best against tournament powerhouses by taking away time and space in the neutral zone, while Sweden has come close to overdoing it in the patience department at these World Juniors.

Both sides came out hustling hard, but with little to show for it. Swedish captain Emil Andrae rang one off the post during the first Czech penalty to defender Stanislav Svozil.

Lysell opened the scoring at 14:22 on a dynamic solo rush, fighting off Jiri Tichacek’s check on the right side and looping behind the net to surprise Suchanek with a wraparound. It was Lysell’s second goal of the tournament. The 19-year-old Frolunda product, a 2021 Boston Bruins first-rounder, had 22 goals and 62 points with the WHL’s Vancouver Giants last year.

In the second period, the Czechs increased their tempo. Still nada. Sweden’s best mid-period opportunity saw Daniel Ljungman and Oskar Magnusson narrowly fail to make an odd-man break click. A couple of minutes later, Wallstedt didn’t bite when Petr Hauser stole the puck from Anton Olsson in close and tried a backhand deke. The tension mounted.

With 6:38 left in the middle frame, stud Swedish defenceman Simon Edvinsson was sent off for tripping. It took Czechia just eight seconds to tie it up with the man advantage. Off the faceoff in the Swedish end, Jiricek floated a wrister from the blue line that deflected off Gut and fooled Wallstedt, trickling past his right pad.

Less than three minutes later, Sweden regained the lead, likewise off an offensive-zone draw. Theodor Niederbach won it and Rosen jumped into the slot with the puck. As Jiricek turned to block the shot, Rosen used him as a decoy to zing his fourth goal of these World Juniors past Suchanek.

Rosen praised Sweden’s mentality for this third-place showdown: “We said to ourselves, ‘We have to decide if we want to win a bronze or not.’ I think we had a pretty good game today.”

Wrapping up the middle stanza, the teams vigorously traded chances. Jakub Kos slammed one off the iron to Wallstedt’s right, and Suchanek came across with the blocker to stymie an incoming Niederbach.

About 3:30 into the third, Wallstedt foiled Kos from the slot to keep it 2-1 Sweden. After Andrae went off for slashing, the Swedish goalie stayed sharp, sliding across to block a Jiri Kulich PP one-timer.

Of Sweden’s PK prowess, Gut said: “It’s hard. They played us well, but sometimes you score, and sometimes you don’t.”

At the other end, Oskar Olausson sifted through a pair of Czech defenders and barely failed to beat Suchanek for a third Swedish tally. Mid-period, the Czechs squandered another power play after Andrae flipped the puck over the glass in his own zone for a delay-of-game minor. Kos set up Matous Mensik for a fabulous look in front, but again, Wallstedt said no.

With 3:26 left, Sjodin, taking a nice pass on the rush from William Wallinder, beat Suchanek stick-side from the right faceoff circle to make it 3-1. At last there was some breathing room for the blue-and-yellow team.

Suchanek came out for the extra attacker just moments later, but all the Czech pressure was for naught. A mini-scrum erupted in the Swedish end at the buzzer, momentarily interrupting the bronze celebrations.

“We really didn’t want to leave Edmonton without a medal,” Wallstedt said. “We came out today full of confidence and wanted that medal maybe a little bit more than the Czechs.”

In the post-Czechoslovakia era, Czechia has won just three previous World Junior medals: back-to-back golds under coach Jaroslav Holik (2000-01) and a bronze (2005) with a squad featuring Rostislav Olesz, Roman Cervenka, and David Krejci.

Sweden will look to break another long gold medal drought at the 2023 World Juniors (Halifax and Moncton, 26 December to 5 January). Despite their deep talent pool, the Swedes have won the tournament just twice (1981 in West Germany, 2012 in Calgary).

“We have a bronze medal, not a gold medal, so probably it wasn’t a successful tournament,” Andrae said candidly. “That was our target. It’s a tough event, physically and mentally. We had our ups and downs. We did our best.”

2022 World Junior Championship Group A preview

Mason McTavish Canadian Captain.

By Adam Kimelman NHL.com

Mason McTavish was chosen as captain for Canada at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship for a very simple reason.

“He’s the guy that sets the bar that everybody else is going to aspire to get to,” coach Dave Cameron said. “We think we have a lot of guys that were captain material but picking ‘Mac’ actually was pretty easy.”

McTavish will try to lead Canada to a WJC title after it lost to the United States in the 2021 championship game.

The 2022 WJC will be held Aug. 9-20 at Rogers Place in Edmonton. The tournament originally was scheduled for Dec. 26-Jan. 5 but was postponed Dec. 29 because of concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

Canada will play in Group A, along with Finland, Czechia, Slovakia and Latvia. The United States, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany and Austria will play in Group B.

Latvia was added to replace Russia, which has been banned from international play because of its invasion of Ukraine.

McTavish, selected by the Anaheim Ducks with the No. 3 pick of the 2021 NHL Draft, began last season with three points (two goals, one assist) in nine NHL games, and after a short stint with San Diego of the American Hockey League, the 19-year-old was returned to the Ontario Hockey League. He played five games with Peterborough before being traded to Hamilton on Jan. 9. McTavish helped Hamilton win the OHL championship with 16 goals in 19 playoff games, and his eight points (six goals, two assists) in five games tied for the lead at the Memorial Cup.

“In simple terms, he’s a hockey player,” Cameron said. “Everything about him shows that. Very attentive in meetings, asks the right questions, works as hard as anybody off ice, has no ego, and his on-ice performance speaks for itself. He’s played in the NHL, and he’s got a long NHL career ahead of him.”

The top four teams in each group will play in the quarterfinals Aug. 17. The semifinals are Aug. 19, and the championship and third-place games are Aug. 20. All games will be shown on NHL Network in the United States and on TSN in Canada.

There will be no relegation round, meaning the same 10 teams will play in the 2023 WJC, which will be held Dec. 26-Jan. 5, 2023, in Halifax, Nova Scotia and Moncton, New Brunswick.

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

Canada 

Coach: Dave Cameron

2023 NHL Draft Watch: Connor Bedard, F, Regina, WHL

Schedule: Aug. 10, Latvia (6 p.m. ET); Aug. 11, Slovakia (6 p.m. ET); Aug. 13, Czechia (6 p.m. ET); Aug. 15, Finland (6 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Canada’s strength is its depth, especially at center. McTavish, Logan Stankoven (Dallas Stars), Ridly Greig (Ottawa Senators) and Elliot Desnoyers (Philadelphia Flyers) likely will start the tournament in the middle, but another option could be Connor Bedard. The likely No. 1 pick of the 2023 NHL Draft displayed his dazzling skills in two games as a 16-year-old when the tournament initially was held in December, including a four-goal game against Austria. Now he’s older and more experienced after finishing fourth in the Western Hockey League with 100 points (51 goals, 49 assists) in 62 games with Regina, and could be ready for an even bigger breakout. Seven of the eight defensemen are left shots, but Olen Zellweger (Anaheim Ducks), the top defenseman in the WHL last season, is part of a versatile group of strong skaters who should be fine on their off side. With goalies Sebastian Cossa (Detroit Red Wings) and Dylan Garand (New York Rangers) likely sharing time, Canada again will be a favorite to reach the championship game.

Finland

Coach: Antti Pennanen

2023 NHL Draft Watch: Ruben Rafkin, D, TPS, FIN

Schedule: Aug. 9, Latvia (6 p.m. ET); Aug. 11, Czechia (2 p.m. ET); Aug. 14, Slovakia (2 p.m. ET); Aug. 15, Finland (6 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Finland will have five defensemen back from its third-place finish at the 2021 WJC, led by Topi Niemela (Toronto Maple Leafs), voted the best defensemen at the tournament after he had eight points (two goals, six assists) in seven games. They’ll have to be good with three inexperienced goalies behind them in Leevi Merilainen (Ottawa Senators) and Juha Jatkola (2023 draft eligible), each of whom played one game in December, and Jani Lampinen (2023 draft eligible). Forward Brad Lambert (Winnipeg Jets), who had five points (one goal, four assists) in two games before the tournament was canceled in December, will be counted on to play at a similar level now. Also expected to chip in on offense will be Aatu Raty (New York Islanders), who had 40 points (13 goals, 27 assists) in 41 games with Jukurit in Liiga last season, as well as Kasper Simontaival (Los Angeles Kings), who scored four goals in seven games at the 2021 WJC. If the goaltending holds up and the offense delivers, Finland could push Canada for the top spot in the group.

Czechia

Coach: Radim Rulik

2023 NHL Draft Watch: Daniel Hercik, F, Pardubice, CZE; Adam Mechura, F, Tri-City, WHL

Schedule: Aug. 9, Slovakia (2 p.m. ET); Aug. 11, Finland (2 p.m. ET); Aug. 13, Canada (6 p.m. ET); Aug. 14, Latvia (6 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Jan Mysak (Montreal Canadiens), Matyas Sapovaliv (Vegas Golden Knights) and Jiri Kulich (Buffalo Sabres) likely will key the offense. Mysak had 64 points (34 goals, 30 assists) in 61 games for Hamilton of the OHL last season, and is one of five returning players from the 2021 WJC, where he had three points (two goals, one assist) in five games. Sapovaliv was fourth among OHL rookies with 52 points (18 goals, 34 assists) in 68 games for Saginaw. Kulich was named most valuable player of the 2022 IIHF Under-18 World Championship after he led all players with nine goals in six games. Two defensemen are among the returnees from the 2021 WJC, Columbus Blue Jackets prospects David Jiricek and Stanislav Svozil. Jiricek’s status for the start of the tournament is in question after testing positive for COVID-19, but the hope is he’ll arrive in time for the opener. Czechia will need him if it hopes to finish ahead of Slovakia and push Finland for second place in the group.

Slovakia

Coach: Ivan Fenes

2023 NHL Draft Watch: Dalibor Dvorsky, F, AIK Jr., SWE-JR; Samuel Honzek, F, Vancouver, WHL

Schedule: Aug. 9, Czechia (2 p.m. ET); Aug. 11, Canada (6 p.m. ET); Aug. 12, Latvia (6 p.m. ET); Aug. 14, Finland (2 p.m. ET) 

Outlook: Dvorsky is a potential top-five pick in the 2023 draft after he had 40 points (20 goals, 20 assists) in 33 games with AIK’s team in Sweden’s junior league. In addition to Dvorsky, forward Servac Petrovsky (Minnesota Wild), who was third among OHL rookies last season with 54 points (28 goals, 26 assists) in 65 games with Owen Sound, also should have a big role in the offense. Goalie Simon Latkoczy returns after he had a .922 save percentage in three games at the 2021 WJC despite facing 34.0 shots on goal per game, and he’s played the past three seasons in the United States Hockey League, which means he’s experienced on the smaller North American ice. Slovakia won’t have forward Juraj Slafkovsky (Montreal Canadiens) and defenseman Simon Nemec (New Jersey Devils), the first two picks of the 2022 NHL Draft, but still has a talented group. If Latkoczy can steal them a game, they could challenge Czechia for third place in Group A.

Latvia

Coach: Artis Abols

2023 NHL Draft Watch: Niks Fenenko, D, Baie-Comeau, QMJHL

Schedule: Aug. 9, Finland (6 p.m. ET); Aug. 10, Canada (6 p.m. ET); Aug. 12, Slovakia (6 p.m. ET); Aug. 14, Czechia (6 p.m. ET)

Outlook: It’s the first time Latvia has played in the top level of the World Juniors since 2017, and being placed in a group with the second-place (Canada) and third-place (Finland) finishers from 2021 won’t help their cause. Three players on the roster have been drafted by NHL teams, including forward Klavs Veinbergs (Tampa Bay Lightning). He had seven points (four goals, three assists) in nine playoff games to help Zemgale win the championship in Latvia’s top professional league. It will take a lot for Latvia to win a game, but with no relegation round to worry about, the experience the players gain could help them for the 2023 WJC.

2022 World Junior Championship Group B preview

Devils defenseman prospect Luke Hughes leads United States attempt at back-to-back titles.

By Mike G. Morreale – NHL.com

Luke Hughes, selected No. 4 by the New Jersey Devils in the 2021 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.

The 2022 WJC is Aug. 9-20 at Rogers Place in Edmonton. The tournament originally was scheduled for Dec. 26-Jan. 5 but postponed Dec. 29 because of concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

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

Latvia was added to replace Russia, which has been banned from international play because of its invasion of Ukraine.

Hughes, the youngest brother of Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes and Devils center Jack Hughes, had 39 points (17 goals, 22 assists) in 41 games as a freshman at the University of Michigan last season. The 18-year-old defenseman was a top-10 candidate for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award presented annually to recognize the top NCAA men’s hockey player.

“It’s an honor to wear the jersey whenever you can,” Hughes said. “To go back there and try to defend that is super important for USA Hockey and our country. I think it’s really exciting, and we’re going to do our best. We’re going to go game by game, and we’re really excited as a team.”

The top four teams in each group will play the quarterfinals Aug. 17. The semifinals are Aug. 19, and the championship and third-place games are Aug. 20.

There will be no relegation round, meaning the same 10 teams will play in the 2023 WJC in Halifax, Nova Scotia and Moncton, New Brunswick from Dec. 26-Jan. 5.

All games will be shown on NHL Network in the United States and TSN in Canada.

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

United States

Coach: Nate Leaman

2023 NHL Draft Watch: Charlie Stramel, F, USA U-18 (NTDP)

Schedule: Aug. 9, Germany (10 p.m. ET); Aug. 11, Switzerland (10 p.m. ET); Aug. 13, Austria (2 p.m. ET); Aug. 14, Sweden (10 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Leaman will incorporate a fast and supportive game up front and on the back end with the help of returning forwards Logan Cooley (Arizona Coyotes), Brett Berard (New York Rangers) and Landon Slaggert (Chicago Blackhawks), and defensemen Brock Faber (Minnesota Wild), Tyler Kleven (Ottawa Senators) and Hughes. Goalies Andrew Oke (2023 draft eligible) and Kaidan Mbereko (2023 draft eligible) each impressed during development camp and are the frontrunners to compete for playing time. Cooley, a freshman center at the University of Minnesota, was second on the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 team with 75 points (27 goals, 48 assists) in 51 games last season. He was second for the second-place United States at the 2022 IIHF Under-18 World Championship with 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in six games. Stramel (6-foot-3, 212 pounds), a right-shot center who will be a freshman at the University of Wisconsin, had 22 points (10 goals, 12 assists) in 26 games for the United States under-18 team last season. Faber is team captain. He was traded to the Wild with the No. 19 pick in the 2022 NHL Draft by the Los Angeles Kings for forward Kevin Fiala on June 29.

Sweden

Coach: Tomas Monten 

2023 NHL Draft Watch: Mans Forsfjall, D, Skelleftea (SWE)

Schedule: Aug. 10, Switzerland (2 p.m. ET); Aug. 12, Austria (2 p.m. ET); Aug. 14, United States (10 p.m. ET); Aug. 15, Germany (10 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Sweden won’t have forwards Alexander Holtz (Devils) or William Eklund (San Jose Sharks) to lead the offense but remain solid in goal with Jesper Wallstedt (Wild), Calle Clang (Pittsburgh Penguins) and Carl Lindbom (Vegas Golden Knights), and at defenseman with Simon Edvinsson (Detroit Red Wings), Helge Grans (Kings) and William Wallinder (Red Wings). Offensively, Monten will look to Daniel Ljungman (Dallas Stars), Theodor Niederbach (Red Wings), Oskar Olausson (Colorado Avalanche) and Jonathan Lekkerimaki (Vancouver Canucks). Wallstedt will play for Iowa in the American Hockey League this season after going 12-10-0 with a 1.98 goals-against average and .918 save percentage for Lulea in the Swedish Hockey League last season. The 19-year-old was 2-0-0 with a 1.50 GAA and .962 save percentage at the 2022 WJC in December before the tournament was postponed.

Germany

Coach: Tobias Abstreiter

2023 NHL Draft Watch: None

Schedule: Aug. 9, United States (10 p.m. ET); Aug. 10, Austria (10 p.m. ET); Aug. 13, Switzerland (10 p.m. ET); Aug. 15, Sweden (10 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 (Senators), JJ Peterka (Buffalo Sabres), and Lukas Reichel (Blackhawks). Defenseman Luca Munzenberger, who averaged 21:41 of ice time in five games at the 2021 WJC, will be counted on heavily. The 19-year-old, selected by the Edmonton Oilers in the third round (No. 90) of the 2021 draft, will be a sophomore at the University of Vermont this season. Goalie Florian Bugl (2023 draft eligible eligible), who helped Germany to wins against Slovakia and Switzerland at the 2021 WJC and finished with a 2.95 GAA and .896 save percentage in three games, is returning but will be pushed for the starting job by Nikita Quapp (Carolina Hurricanes). 

Switzerland

Coach: Marco Bayer

2023 NHL Draft Watch: Rodwin Dionicio, D, Niagara (OHL)

Schedule: Aug. 10, Sweden (2 p.m. ET); Aug. 11, United States (10 p.m. ET); Aug. 13, Germany (10 p.m. ET); Aug. 15, Austria (2 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 (20-19-4, 2.87 GAA, .903 save percentage) of Omaha in the United States Hockey League to remain competitive. Forward Simon Knak (Nashville Predators) returns for his third World Juniors after he was captain for ninth-place Switzerland in 2021. Defenseman Brian Zanetti (Philadelphia Flyers) had 26 points (four goals, 22 assists) in 56 games for Peterborough of the Ontario Hockey League last season and should play a big role. Dionicio (6-2, 207) had 31 points (six goals, 25 assists) in 57 games for Niagara in his North America debut last season and is on NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch list for the 2023 draft.

Austria

Coach: Philipp Pinter

2023 NHL Draft Watch: None

Schedule: Aug. 10, Germany (10 p.m. ET); Aug. 12, Sweden (2 p.m. ET); Aug. 13, United States (2 p.m. ET); Aug. 15, Switzerland (2 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Austria finished 10th in 2021 and returns looking for its first win in its fifth tournament appearance (0-17), but it will not be easy against its preliminary-round competition. It will be without Marco Kasper (Red Wings), the No. 8 pick in the 2022 draft. Forward Senna Peeters, who scored Austria’s only goal and will play his third WJC, will be counted on to provide some offense. The 20-year-old had 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) in 34 games for Halifax of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season. Kasper, who signed a three-year, entry-level contract with Detroit on July 13, decided to take a break from hockey in August because of a heavy workload on an international level and with Rogle BK in the Swedish Hockey League last season.

Chinese Taipei earns promotion

Chinese Taipei’s dramatic 5-4 overtime win over host Mexico at the U20 Division III Worlds sees it promoted for the first time in IIHF history.

By Lucas Aykroyd – IIHF.com

Hung-Li Chou scored the overtime winner as Chinese Taipei’s U20 men topped host Mexico 5-4 to win the gold medal at the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division III in Queretaro.

On a 2-on-1 break, Mo Peng passed over to the 18-year-old sniper and he slammed a one-timer home at 2:19, throwing away his gloves and helmet in ecstasy. It was Chou’s tournament-leading tenth goal.

“After three years of the pandemic, winning this tournament is just unreal,” said Chou, who was named Best Forward. He also got the sudden-death winner in a 6-5 semi-final victory over Israel.

Under coach Chung-Yu Cheng, Chinese Taipei earns promotion to the Division II Group B in 2023. Meanwhile, Mexican coach Diego de la Garma’s troops will have to dream of what could have been, at least for now.

“I think we played a pretty well-rounded tournament with a lot of heart and second effort,” said de la Garma. “We didn’t lose a single game in regulation, which is always great. And yeah, at the end of the day, we came up a little bit short.”

Chinese Taipei, which debuted in IIHF U20 competition in 2010, has never advanced out of Division III before.

“This is a huge step forward,” Chou said. “We’ll keep developing our skills and our environment for hockey and strive for new goals.”

For this tournament, the Lakeside Ice Park was a great host venue and a change of pace from staging IIHF events in Mexico City. The recently constructed rink is situated just outside the state capital of Santiago de Queretaro in central Mexico. Festooned with the home country’s flags, the arena shook with cheers and chants on Saturday night from the adrenalized partisan crowd.

Mexico, which has iced U20 teams in IIHF events since 1997, peaked when it was promoted to Division II in 2010. Also under Diego de la Garma, Mexico finished last in Group A with five straight losses that year.

It was a duel between starting goalies who both sport #25, Mexico’s Tomas Payro and Chinese Taipei’s Po-Yu Hsiao. Final shots favoured Mexico 32-28. Payro took home Best Goalie honours.

The first period started with a scrappy battle in all three zones, with little open ice. Mexico’s Max Rullan, who took the game’s first minor penalty, made amends at 8:42 with a shorthanded breakaway goal to open the scoring.

At 14:12 Alexander Valencia scored his team-leading fifth goal for coach Diego de la Garma’s team with the man advantage. This was particularly delightful for the locals since assists went to Valencia’s brothers Luis and Eduardo, and their roots are in the Queretaro area.

But just 44 seconds later, Cheng’s squad cut the deficit to 2-1 on Yo-Chen Lin’s goal.

Chinese Taipei wasted no time in taking an early second-period lead. After Yo-Chen Lin potted his second goal of the night at 3:14, Zheng-Wei Li made it 3-2 with a snipe from the right faceoff circle at 3:31.

Undaunted, Ignacio Soto Borja got loose for a power play one-timer at 8:41 that made it 3-3. The 16-year-old defenceman fell to the ice and spread his arms in glee as his Mexican teammates rushed to him to celebrate. However, Chou struck back at 15:14 for a 4-3 edge.

In the third period, the Mexicans came out hungry as the crowd’s fervor hit new heights. They exerted great pressure around Hsiao’s cage during a mid-period man advantage with Yi-Kuan Lin in the box. With just 1:01 left in regulation, Soto Borja’s seeing-eye shot from the left point – with Payro pulled for the extra attacker – bulged the twine. It was a thrilling moment, even though the game ended in disappointment for the hosts.

“I think the people really enjoyed it,” de la Garma said. “There were a lot of people here that didn’t know anything about hockey. And they just came to see one game and then they bought tickets for the entire tournament. So I think for Queretaro and for Mexico, it’s going to be a huge step forward to develop hockey in new cities in our country.”

The gold medal game score was reminiscent of the preliminary round, where Chinese Taipei edged Mexico 6-5 in a shootout. The Asian victors understand the importance of simply persevering, as they hail from an island nation with just three indoor rinks.

“It’s really difficult for us to train,” said Cheng. “We have to train late at night and in limited hours. This is one of the difficulties we struggled with and overcame in the end. Now, after being promoted to Division II Group B, we want to win another championship and just keep going up.”

Due to the pandemic, it was the first time this tournament has taken place since 2020. This year’s eight-team edition was originally slated for 6 to 16 January, but got bumped to the end of July for health and safety reasons. Australia originally elected to pull out of the January tournament, but participated here.

In Saturday’s bronze medal game, Australia edged Israel 1-0 on a second-period power play goal by captain Ethan Hawes, who was named Best Defender. Israeli goalie Daniel Reiner was heroic in defeat as the Australians outshot his side 43-15. Between the Aussie pipes, Jeremy Friederich recorded his first shutout. Australia was coming off an excellent group stage with a 33-3 goal difference through three games, and lost narrowly to Mexico, 3-2, in the semi-finals.

Israel’s Mike Levin led the tournament scoring race with 16 points.

In other notes from these U20 Division III Worlds, Kyrgyzstan returns home with good memories after upsetting Chinese Taipei 3-1 in the preliminary round and coming seventh. That win was the first ever for the Central Asian newcomer as it made its IIHF U20 debut this year.

Bosnia and Herzegovina, another first-timer, fared even better, falling 5-1 to Türkiye in the fifth-place game. South Africa, outscored 26-7 in the preliminary round, came eighth, as it also did in 2020.

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.

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