World Juniors Recap: Day 7

Scores

Czech 4 Finland 3

Canada 8 Switzerland 2

Sweden 3 Slovakia 2

USA 4 Russia 2

Belarus 4 Denmark 5 (best of 3 relegation round, Denmark leads 1-0)

Upcoming games (Medal rounds begin)

January 4, 2018

Belarus vs Denmark (relegation round)

Sweden vs USA

Canada vs Czech

January 5, 2018

Belarus vs Denmark (if necessary)

Winner of Sweden/USA vs Winner of Canada/Czech for gold medal

Losers meet for the silver medal

Necas scores SO winner

It was another uninspired start for Finland, and today it cost the team dearly. They rallied and took the lead, but the Czechs scored late to tie the game.

Kristian Reichel and Martin Necas then scored in the shootout for the Czechs while only Kristian Vesalainen scored for Finland.

Shots favoured Finland, 54-30, but that stat didn’t matter after the game. Josef Korenar was great in goal for the Czechs.

“It feels awesome,” Reichel, the son of Czech legend Robert, said. “We worked so hard for this. We deserved it. They were better but we were luckier in the shootout. Now we’re celebrating.”

Reichel channelled family history into his shootout goal. “When we were at the bench before the shootout, the coach asked us who wants to shoot first and who doesn’t,” Reichel explained. “I said I want to go first. I want to score a goal for everyone in Czech Republic. After I scored, I remembered it was 20 years ago that my dad scored on the first shot against Canada in the semi-finals at the Olympics.”

“We did it! It’s unbelievable,” enthused Filip Zadina, who scored twice for the Czechs. “We played great. I’m so happy. We owe a big thanks to our goalie. He played so well.”

“We had plenty of chances to put the puck in the net, but the Czechs kept going and their goalie was amazing,” said Finland coach Jussi Ahokas. “He played a great game, and we didn’t score. That was the difference.”

The win ends a long semi-finals drought for the Czech Republic. The team hadn’t made it as far as the semis since 2005 when it won bronze. Finland, meanwhile, won gold in 2014 and 2016 and is going home early. The Czechs will now play the winner of Canada-Finland in one semi-finals on Thursday.

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Canada rolls along, 8-2

It took Canada 48 seconds to confirm Swiss coach Christian Wohlwend’s prediction of what would happen in today’s quarter-finals.

That is, Maxime Comtois fired a hard pass to Brett Howden on a two-on-two, and Howden buried the shot to give Canada a 1-0 lead.

It would be unfair to say that the game was over at that point, but the goal confirmed what Wohlwend had predicted – that Canada was bigger, faster, stronger. Better. Plain and simple.

“That was a bit of reverse psychology,” captain Dillon Dube suggested. “But that got us focused to playing our own game. It helped a bit. We came out strong. That first one helped settle us down, and then the floodgates opened.”

The dominating 8-2 win gives Canada a place in the semi-finals on Thursday and a date with the Czech Republic. The winner of that game plays for gold.

“They’re a good team, and they’re fast,” defenceman Cale Makar said of the Czechs. “We’ll turn our focus to them now. We’re excited to play them. We haven’t played our best yet. I know we can step our game up.”

“We played the Czechs before the tournament, so we know a little bit about them,” said Brett Howden, who had a goal and three assists tonight. “They’ve changed a few things, I think, but we’ll address that tomorrow on our day off and get ready for them.”

The Swiss go home now after an 8th-place finish.

“I think we had a good team here,” offered Swiss captain Nando Eggenberger. “We won the deciding game in the preliminary round and wanted to get further, but we have to realize that they were simply stronger. Now we have to start preparing for next year. Every player must become stronger, more disciplined and smarter.”

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Swedes hold off Slovaks

Isac Lundestrom scored twice as unbeaten Sweden edged a gutsy Slovak side 3-2 at HarborCenter on Tuesday to advance to the 2018 World Junior semi-finals.

The Swedes will take on the winner of the USA-Russia quarter-final on Thursday. The result guarantees they will play for a medal for the 12th straight year. “I think we still need another level or two coming up in the next games,” said Alexander Nylander. “We’ve just got to step it up and play playoff hockey.”

Fabian Zetterlund also scored for Sweden, and Tim Soderlund had two assists. Captain Martin Bodak scored both goals for Slovakia. Sweden last medaled on home ice in Malmo in 2014 (silver) when Tomas Monten was an assistant coach. Now the 40-year-old is hoping to win gold in his second stint as head coach. The Swedes have only won gold twice before (1981, 2012).

In a showdown between two of the tournament’s top-performing goalies, Filip Gustavsson prevailed over Slovakia’s Roman Durny. Sweden outshot Slovakia 39-22. Of Durny, Bodak said: “He was all the time outstanding in this tournament. He’s a really good guy in the locker room and on the ice.”

It was Sweden’s fourth quarter-final victory over Slovakia in the last five years, but it was a much tighter result than usual. The Juniorkronorna won 6-0 in 2014, 6-0 in 2016, and 8-3 in 2017.

The Slovaks’ last quarter-final victory was 3-0 over the Czech Republic in 2015, when they marched to an unexpected bronze medal in Montreal. Despite seeing their 2018 medal hopes go up in smoke, they can be proud of what they accomplished in Buffalo, including a 3-2 upset over the United States.

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USA back to semis

Dylan Samberg fired a shoot-in into the corner at just the right angle, and as the puck caromed back into the slot Bellows tore in and one-timed a blistering shot over Vladislav Sukhachyov’s shoulder at 12:31.

This kind of goal was made famous by Gordie Howe-Ted Lindsay-Sid Abel with the Detroit Red Wings when goalies rarely roamed from their crease.

“I think it was just simple hockey,” Bellows offered. “He put the puck deep and I knew the boards are lively back there, so I thought I could just forecheck and put the puck on net. Lucky enough it went in.”

Bellows scored twice for the winners and now leads the tournament with six goals. Teammate Casey Mittelstadt had an assist and continues to lead the points race with 10.

With the win the United States will now play Sweden in the semi-finals on Thursday afternoon. Canada and the Czechs face off in the other semi.

“Obviously our goal is a gold medal, and going through Sweden right now is our focus,” said Adam Fox. “They’re a skilled team. They have a lot of great players. We’ll do our pre-scout and be ready for them.”

Russia, meanwhile, had the longest active medal streak in U20 play, reaching the podium each of the last seven years. Tonight’s result, then, can only be seen as a disappointment.

The game was chippy and emotional, and the Americans were at a disadvantage in that they dressed only 18 skaters (the Russians had the standard 20).

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