World Juniors Recap: Day 8

Scores

Denmark 3 Belarus 2 (Denmark wins relegation round)

Sweden 4 USA 2

Canada 7 Czech 2

Upcoming games

January 5, 2018

Czech vs USA (Bronze medal game)

Sweden vs Canada (Gold medal game)

Denmark survives for 2019

Denmark edged Belarus 3-2 in a shootout to sweep their best-of-three relegation series on Thursday at KeyBank Center.

Denmark will return to the elite division for the fifth consecutive year at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship in Canada (Vancouver and Victoria). Half the team is eligible to play there. “I’m happy about it and I’m also proud,” said Denmark’s Daniel Nielsen. “It’s good for my country. It’s so nice to see our country, when we are so little, that we can stay in the [elite division] and keep fighting with the other teams in the top 10. It’s awesome.” Battling through a spate of injuries and illness, the Danes blew a 2-0 third-period lead in Game Two, but Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup got the shootout winner, and Andreas Grundtvig and Jonas Rondbjerg, with the final shootout tally, also converted. “I tried that move a few times in practice and it worked out,” said Rondbjerg of his high backhand tally, which prompted a wild celebration. “So I just thought I’d do the same. Lucky it went in.” In regulation, team points leader Rondbjerg had a goal and an assist, and Nielsen also scored. Joachim Blichfeld, who left midway after being injured, added two assists. Shots favored Belarus 30-28. Captain Maxim Sushko led the way with a goal and an assist for Belarus, and Ilya Litvinov had the other goal. “It’s so hard right now,” said Sushko. “In my head there are only bad Russian words right now. It’s life and it’s really tough for us.”

The Danes heartstoppingly won Game One 5-4 on two third-period goals at 19:26 and 19:45.

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Swedes dethrone Americans

Sweden scored shorthanded twice in 38 seconds in a 4-2 semi-final win over the defending champion U.S. to advance to Friday’s World Junior gold medal game.

Sweden will face the winner of the Canada-Czech Republic semi-final in the final at 20:00 Buffalo time. The unbeaten Swedes, who finished fourth at the last three World Juniors, now have the opportunity to win gold for the first time since 2012 in Calgary. Their last medal was silver in Malmo in 2014. “We have a big chance, but we’re not going to forget how we got here,” said Elias Petersson. “It’s hard work and believing in ourselves.”

Amazingly, this was the first Swedish playoff win over the U.S. since a 3-0 quarter-final decision in 1996 — the same year the IIHF instituted the playoff system at the World Juniors.

It was a disappointing and anti-climatic ending for an American team that hoped to make history with its first World Junior gold ever on home ice. In the words of American poet T.S. Eliot: “This is how the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.”

For head coach Bob Motzko and the seven returning players from 2017, the dream of winning two straight titles for the first time since Canada’s last five-peat (2005-09) is over. The four previous U.S. golds came in Finland (2004), Canada (2010, 2017), and Russia (2013). “We were all playing for each other, but we didn’t execute,” said U.S. defenceman Ryan Poehling. “Sweden did a better job at that than we did.”

Captain Lias Andersson led the way with a goal and an assist, and Pettersson scored the opening goal for Sweden. Oskar Steen and Axel Jonsson Fjallby had the shorthanded markers.

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Tips of hat to Drake

In the end, it was close for only a brief time. And then it wasn’t. Canada used its high-powered offense and fantastic power play to blast through the Czech defence and win decisively, 7-2.

Drake Batherson had three goals for the winners while Filip Zadina had both goals for the Czechs. Those two players are now tied for the goalscoring lead in the tournament, each with seven.

Canada has never lost to the Czechs in the playoff round since the format was introduced in 1996. The win puts Canada in the gold-medal game with Sweden tomorrow night. It’s the third time in four years the Canadians are in the finals.

“It’s good to celebrate now, but tomorrow we’ve got to get up and do it again,” said winning goalie Carter Hart. “This win is over with now. It’s time to prepare for the real deal. The thing that makes this win sweeter is if we win tomorrow. That’s the only thing that matters.”

“I think we need to be having our best game tomorrow,” said Canada’s coach, Dominique Ducharme. “It’s going to be quite a game.”

The Czechs will play the United States for bronze in the early game tomorrow.

“It was a tough loss,” said Zadina. “We tried to play how we wanted, and in the first period we did it. In the second and last period, it was so hard to play on the PK. We will do anything for the win tomorrow. We will die on the ice. We want to win a medal for the Czech Republic.”

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