Czech 6 Belarus 5
Sweden 7 Switzerland 2
Finland 5 Slovakia 2
Denmark 0 Canada 8
December 31, 2017
Switzerland vs Czech
Slovakia vs Denmark
USA vs Finland
Russia vs Sweden
January 2, 2018
Medal round begins
Czechs outgun Belarus
Captain Marek Zachar, who had the eventual winner with 6:37 left, and Filip Chytil each added a goal and an assist. Libor Hajek and Filip Zadina had the other Czech goals, and Vojtech Budik had two assists.
“We really underestimated the game,” said Hajek. “Everyone wants to score, everyone wants to play just for himself. That’s why we almost lost. We had good luck today. But it was kind of a terrible game.”
The Czechs trailed 2-0 early in the second period. After pulling goalie Josef Korenar in favor of Jakub Skarek, they stormed back with five unanswered goals, but then almost blew their hefty lead.
Yegor Sharangovich scored twice, Ivan Drozdov had a goal and an assist, and Igor Martynov and Vladislav Gabrus added singles for Belarus, which also swapped out goalies. Captain Maxim Sushko, Vladislav Yeryomenko, and Viktor Bovbel recorded two assists apiece.
Shots favored the Czechs 39-21.
“Sometimes we need to play an easier game,” said Zadina. “We’re trying to find hard passes. It was a tough game. I’m happy we won today.”
The Czechs have one more chance to shore up their quarter-final seeding when they face Switzerland on New Year’s Eve. Both nations are enduring long World Junior medal droughts. The Czechs last won bronze in 2005 and Switzerland in 1998.
It was a gutsy effort by the underdog Belarusians, but they came away with nothing to show for it. Winless in all four group games, they will play in the relegation round. The Belarusians have been outscored 20-10 so far.
“It was our best game so far, but we had a bad second period,” said Drozdov. “We played well for 30 minutes and we have to build on this.”
Sweden beats Swiss, 7-2
The win gives Sweden a 3-0 record and first place in Group B. With the loss, the Swiss are 1-2 and stuck in fourth place, but that’s as low as they can go. Belarus, winless in all four games, will be the Group B representative in the relegation round, and the Swiss will qualify for the quarter-finals.
Perhaps the nicest goal was the last of the game. Elias Pettersson danced around defenceman Simon le Coultre, cut in on goal, and swept the puck in the far side to make it a 7-2 game.
Pettersson and Lias Andersson both had two goals and an assist for the winners, who outshot the Swiss, 42-22.
“Switzerland started pretty fast today, but we got better as the game went on,” said Alexander Nylander, who played on a line with Pettersson and Linus Lindstrom. “Our third period was really strong. We showed how we can play when we’re playing well. They were forechecking hard in the first two periods, and we had to just simplify our game, which we did.”
“We played very well,” echoed defenceman Rasmus Dahlin. “We were strong out there, but we also played well against the Czechs. Those were different games, but we are playing well right now.”
The Swedes got one power-play goal and another short-handed. They opened the scoring in the first with the extra man. Nylander made a perfect slap-pass to Andersson cutting in front, and Andersson made a nice deflection past Mattheo Ritz.
Switzerland tied the game on a brilliant little play from Nicolas Muller. He noticed that Swedish defenceman Linus Hogberg cut dangerously close to his goalie heading up ice and slapped Hogberg’s stick. In the process, the puck went into the net past an unsuspecting Filip Larsson.
Finns overcome Slovaks
Markus Nurmi added a goal and an assist, and Joona Koppanen, Aapeli Rasanen and Henri Ikonen also scored for Finland. Martin Bodak and Samuel Bucek replied for Slovakia.
“Even though we are kind of the bigger country in hockey, Slovakia is a good team too,” said Finland’s Olli Juolevi. “They were a tough opponent for us today. I’m happy we got the win.”
Finland and the U.S. will face off in a likely showdown for second place in the group on New Year’s Eve. Finland has won two straight since dropping its Boxing Day opener to Canada.
“After the Canada game, we’ve improved our play and have the two wins,” said Finnish goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. “Of course, we could have been better against Canada, but we can’t do anything about that now. We have to get ready now for tomorrow and play well against the U.S.”
Could the Slovaks maintain the extraordinary focus and emotional level they reached in their 3-2 win over the defending champion Americans? Heading into this game, that was the question on everyone’s mind. Slovak goalie Roman Durny got his second straight start after his upset debut, and he was busy as Finland outshot Slovakia 39-26.
“We have already put the U.S. game behind us,” said Slovakia’s Filip Krivosik. “Today was a new day. We wanted to take at least one point from today’s game to make sure we got into the playoffs, but we didn’t do that.”
Canada finishes first
Canada now has two days off before the quarter-finals on January 2. It will not play Sweden, but could still potentially play any of Russia, Czech Republic, or Switzerland.
“We knew if we won tonight we’d finish in first place,” said Sam Steel, “so we wanted to play the right way and be prepared for the quarter-finals. Yesterday was a crazy day, and we were all a little exhausted last night, physically and mentally, but we re-focused and came to the rink ready to play today.”
“We wanted to come out and play hard, play the Canadian way, so it’s good to get back in the win column,” said defenceman Kale Clague. “But I think we still have more. Our goal is to build our game throughout the tournament, and I think going forward we’re going to get better.”
The loss leaves Denmark winless ot 0-3 and puts the team in a must-win situation tomorrow in its final round-robin game against Slovakia. If the Danes don’t win in regulation, they are off to the relegation round. If they do win in 60 minutes, the Slovakians will be off to the best-of-three survival series.
Over and above this fact is that Denmark has scored just once in three games while surrendering 21.
Carter Hart got the shutout for Canada by stopping 18 shots while Canada peppered Emil Gransoe with 44.
Brett Howden had two goals while Cal Foote had three assists in the game.
“it was a good overall effort by everyone,” enthused Hart. “Our goal was to come out flying, and we played that way the whole game. Now we have to get ready and prepare for the quarter-finals.”