Czech Republic 5 Russia 4
Belarus 1 Sweden 6
Canada 4 Finland 2
Denmark 0 USA 9
December 27, 2017
Switzerland vs Belarus
Slovakia vs Canada
December 28, 2017
Finland vs Denmark
Russia vs Switzerland
Sweden vs Czech Republic
USA vs Slovakia
Czechs stun Russia, 5-4
The improbable win came in the opening game of the 2018 World Junior Championship and was only the second victory for the Czechs in the last eleven meetings between the two teams.
“We scored five times against the Russians, so that was big for us,” said Czech defenceman Vojtech Budik. “They’re always such a good team, but our coaches prepared us really well for this game, and we played with a lot of intensity.”
The U20 has been an event that has been as favoured by the Russians as it has been disappointing for the Czechs. Indeed, Russia has earned a medal in 22 of the last 26 U20 tournaments while the Czechs haven’t reached the medals since 2005 (bronze).
This afternoon, however, the Czechs took the initiative from the get-go and proved resilient when pressed. They opened the scoring with a power-play goal just 4:42 into the game, Martin Necas wiring a shot from the slot off a nice corner feed from Martin Kaut who had three assists in the game.
Sweden tops Belarus
“We just talked about keeping going and doing what we do,” said Andersson. “Obviously, the first game is the first game. It was a bit shaky from us, but we kept going.”
Elias Pettersson and Erik Brannstrom had a goal and an assist apiece, and Glenn Gustafsson and Jens Boqvist also scored for Sweden, which is seeking a medal after three straight fourth-place finishes. Alexander Nylander, Rasmus Dahlin, and Fredrik Karlstrom all chipped in two assists.
“We got the win and the job done, so that’s good,” said Pettersson.
Yegor Sharangovich replied for Belarus.
Sweden’s Filip Gustavsson, named Best Goalie at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship in North Dakota made just 8 saves for the win in front of the HarborCenter crowd. Andrei Grishenko, making his World Junior debut between the pipes for Belarus, had 30 saves.
Canada off and running
Canada got goals from four scorers and solid goaltending from Carter Hart, the goalie of record in last year’s heart-breaking loss to the U.S. in the gold-medal game in Montreal.
In addition, Canada got two beneficial video reviews to allow its first goal and to disallow a possible Finnish goal. Good teams get lucky sometimes, and Canada was both good and lucky, to be sure.
“We had a pretty strong game,” offered defenceman Victor Mete, on loan from the Montreal Canadiens. “We took it to them in the first period, set the tone, and came out with the win. We have a lot of great skaters on this team, so if we can use our speed to our advantage, we will. It could have been a lot more than a 4-2 game, I think.”
Canada’s first goal was impressive. Boris Katchouk simply skated past two Finns to get to a loose puck and create a breakaway. He made a quick deke on goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, hitting the post as he pushed the puck past the goalie.
The puck then caromed off Luukkonen’s skate and went in. As this was happening, though, Katchouk crashed into the crossbar and pushed the net off its moorings. Video review showed the puck crossed the goal line while the pegs were still in contact with the holes, thus making for a “good hockey goal.”
Home of the brave
Fan favorite Casey Mittelstadt and Kieffer Bellows delivered two goals apiece. Patrick Harper and Max Jones each had a goal and an assist, and Kailer Yamamoto, Andrew Peeke and Dylan Samberg also scored for the United States. Quinn Hughes and Josh Norris had two assists apiece. The U.S. outshot Denmark 36-17.
“We came out ready to go,” said Mittelstadt. “We got a nice goal from Jonesy right away to start it off. That got us rolling. In a tournament like this, it’s big to get the first one.”
Goalie Joseph Woll, who backed up Tyler Parsons for last year’s gold-medal team, recorded his first career World Junior shutout and third win. Danish starter Kasper Krog, whose 91.9 save percentage was third-best among 2017 goalies, will have a hard time cleaning up his stats in Buffalo. He only allowed nine goals in total last year.
The Danes are seeking their fourth consecutive quarter-final berth, but set the wrong tone at Key Bank Arena. This was their third all-time meeting with the Americans. Although not favored to prevail, they would have preferred to at least keep the score closer to their previous encounter (a 4-1 U.S. win on 31 December 2015) than their inaugural flop (an 11-3 U.S. win on 26 December 2011).