Belarus 2 Russia 5
Canada 3 USA 4 (shootout)
December 30, 2017
Czech vs Belarus
Sweden vs Switzerland
Finland vs Slovakia
Denmark vs Canada
December 31, 2017
Switzerland vs Czech
Slovakia vs Denmark
USA vs Finland
Russia vs Sweden
January 2, 2018
Medal round begins
Juolevi rides again
Let’s recap. 2016 was a dream year for this Helsinki native. After earning U20 gold and a tournament all-star berth in his hometown on a team featuring Patrik Laine, Sebastian Aho, and Jesse Puljujarvi, Juolevi won the Memorial Cup with the OHL’s London Knights. He was also selected fifth overall by the Vancouver Canucks in the NHL Draft.
But the following season proved painful. Juolevi was named the captain of the Finnish U20 national team at the World Juniors in Montreal, but losses to the Czechs, Danes, and Swedes doomed his team to the relegation round and a ninth-place finish. Critics also claimed the development of his low-key, puck-moving game had stalled.
Now, as the lone returnee who played for both the 2016 and 2017 Suomi squads, Juolevi seems to have found stability. The Canucks loaned the Jokerit-schooled player to TPS Turku this season, and he’s put up 14 points in 20 games. His World Junior defence partner, Henri Jokiharju of the Portland Winterhawks, has nothing but praise.
“Of course, you can see the experience he has,” said Jokiharju. “He’s a role model for me. He’s a year older than me and did the same thing, going to the Canadian Hockey League and stuff like that. I enjoy playing with him a lot and I think we have good chemistry.”
We chatted with Juolevi after Finland’s dominating 4-1 win over Denmark on Thursday. This evening they will play Slovakia.
Russians down Belarus
“I can’t talk about myself personally,” said Kostin. “I can just talk about my teammates, who made sure that I scored. I think their performance was 100 percent today.”
German Rubtsov and Artur Kayumov notched a goal and an assist apiece, and Alexei Polodyan also scored for Russia. Artyom Manukyan and Andrei Svechnikov both chipped in two assists.
For Belarus, Sergei Pishuk led the way with a goal and an assist, and Dmitri Deryabin had the other goal.
Russian coach Valeri Bragin doesn’t have as much talent to deploy as in recent years, but his team seems to be getting back on track after a surprising 5-4 loss to the Czechs and a 5-2 win over Switzerland that was harder than it needed to be.
“We play together as a fist,” said Kostin of suiting up for Bragin. “His teams are always extremely close-knit, like a family, and I always enjoy playing for him.”
Russia has medaled at every World Juniors since last winning the tournament in Buffalo in 2011 under Bragin. It took bronze last year.
The Russians often experience peaks and valleys during the preliminary round. They will get a better test of their mettle against the talented Swedes on New Year’s Eve in a game that will likely decide first place in Group B.
USA wins Snow Bowl, 4-3
Aesthetics aside, the U.S. rallied from 3-1 down in the third to send the game to overtime, then scored the only two goals of the shootout to defeat Canada in an outdoor classic.
Kieffer Bellows and Brady Tkachuk scored in the shootout while all three Canadians missed the target. The first Canadian shooter, Sam Steel, hit the post, but that was as close as they got.
“I just came down the left side,” Bellows described of his shootout. “I kind of analyzed what I was going to do, depending on the goalie’s position. I just thought five-hole was the best opportunity for me, and I tried to shoot it as quick as possible.”
Buffalo Sabres 2017 draft choice Casey Mittlestadt followed up his sensational goal yesterday with three assists today and now leads all scorers with six points in three games.
“The game, the crowd, everything was amazing,” Mittelstadt enthused. “The snow came down hard especially in the second period. At the same time, it made it that much more fun. It was a little different than a normal game. It felt like you’re back outside on the pond.”
“I think the biggest thing was just staying positive throughout this whole game,” suggested American defenceman Mikey Anderson. “We didn’t lose any belief in our room that we were going to come back, and we knew that if we got that first one, we were going to get the next one. We just stuck with it and kept plugging away.”
The game was played before a record crowd for a World Junior Championship game, and fans were treated to another North American classic that included a magnificent snowstorm as the backdrop to events at New Era Field in Buffalo.