Month: December 2016 (page 2 of 8)

Canada routs Latvia, 10-2

By Andrew Podnieks IIHF.com

Canada moved into a tie atop Group B with the United States with a crushing 10-2 win over Latvia tonight at the Air Canada Centre.

Both teams remain a perfect 3-0. The result means that the winner of the New Year’s Eve classic between the two North American nations will earn first place moving into the quarter-finals matchups.

“We’ll be ready,” said Raddysh. “It doesn’t matter who we play; we’ll just stick to our system, get pucks low, play strong defensively. We have to limit their chances and play in the offensive zone as much as possible.”

The loss leaves Latvia in a last-place tie with Slovakia. Both teams have yet to earn a point, but that will change tomorrow night when, in all likelihood, the winner will avoid the relegation round.

Taylor Raddysh led Canada’s  attack with a Canadian record four goals and an assist. Dylan Strome had four assists.

“I have to be happy with what happened,” Raddysh said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever get another four-goal game. It was a lot of fun.”

Canada scored five of its goals in the second period and now has eleven goals in the middle period so far after three games, the most of any nation (USA has 7).

Despite sloppy play and poor decisions for the first half of the period, Canada took a big 3-0 lead to the dressing room after 20 minutes. All goals came courtesy of man-advantage situations. 

Matt Barzal opened the scoring short-handed. He came out of the penalty box with Ricards Bernhards, but a terrible line change by the Latvians allowed Barzal to scoop a loose puck at centre ice and go in alone. He made a nice deke and roofed a backhand over a sprawled Mareks Mitens.

A minute later, Canada made it 2-0 on a power play when a Thomas Chabot point shot was tipped in front by Nicolas Roy.

Then, with only 19.5 seconds left, Chabot drew half the Latvian team to him as he threatened to shoot, then fired a pass against the grain to a wide open Raddysh. He roofed a quick shot to make it 3-0.

Canada made it 4-0 at 9:11 of the second when Raddysh got his second of the night. Soon after, Latvian coach Rriks Miluns switched goalies, inserting Gustavs Grigals, who promptly allowed four goals in a span of 2:43, including Raddysh’s hat trick marker.

The only bright note for Latvia in the period was a short-handed goal from Renars Krastenbergs, who beat Carter Hart with a weak shot to the far side off a rush down the left wing.

Raddysh got his fourth early in the third, tipping in another point shot.

Latvia got its second goal off a sensational burst of speed by Martins Dzierkals to create a breakaway and then deke Hart out of his equipment at 7:59.

Julien Gauthier got a late goal to make it an even ten and close out the scoring.

NOTE: Linesman Dmitri Golyak of Belarus took a puck to the chin midway through the first period and was forced to leave. He was replaced by Lukas Kohlmuller of Germany for the remainder of the period. Golyak was then so eager to get back out for the second period that he put on the wrong sweater, wearing 55 instead of his normal 53 for the remainder of the game (55 is usually worn by Canada’s Nathan Vanoosten). In short, the game featured three linesmen wearing a total of four numbers!

Sweden clinches Group A

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By Lucas Aykroyd IIHF.com

Finland’s dreams of repeating as champs are fading, while Sweden is dialed in so far. With a 3-1 win over Finland, the Swedes wrapped up first place in Group A.

If the Swiss beat Denmark on Friday, Finland will be eliminated from quarter-finals contention, which would be a truly shocking outcome.

“The good thing is Denmark has played so well here,” said Finnish captain Olli Juolevi. “They have surprised everyone. But this is not the way we wanted to go.”

Alexander Nylander scored twice and added an assist, and Lias Andersson added a single for Sweden, which rallied after trailing 1-0 for more than 32 minutes.

Of Nylander’s star turn, Andersson said: “He’s been in the right spot every time. He steps up every night for us. He’s scoring big goals for us and making good plays.”

Aapeli Rasanen had the lone goal for Finland.

Swedish starting goalie Felix Sandstrom won the Thursday night duel in Montreal with his Finnish counterpart Veini Vehvilainen as Finland outshot Sweden 29-20.

Sandstrom felt good about his performance after allowing two goals on 15 shots in a 4-2 win over Switzerland: “Yesterday’s game was a bit too bad from my side, so it was nice to come up big today and show the guys on the team that they can trust me.”

The Swedes are seeking their first gold since 2012 and first medal of any shade since 2014. The Tomas Monten-coached squad entered this battle with a 10-3 goal differential, and have been full value since Day One.

“We’re feeling very good,” Andersson said. “It was a big win for us to win the group.”

This wasn’t just a grudge match between the two classic Nordic rivals. It was supposed to be desperation time for the Finns, mired in last place in the group. Even without firepower to match last year’s top line of Jesse Puljujarvi, Sebastian Aho, and Patrik Laine, nobody expected the defending champs to have zero points at this stage.

Under head coach Jukka Rautakorpi, Finland’s pop-gun offense has been a huge problem. Heading into this game, only Slovakia had scored fewer goals (two).

The Young Lions need to stop pussyfooting around. But it may already be too late.

“We lost to Sweden, Denmark, and the Czechs,” said Finland’s Eeli Tolvanen, who took seven shots on Sandstrom. “We can’t be happy.”

On New Year’s Eve, the Finns will need a regulation win over Switzerland to move on — and that’s only if the Swiss lose to Denmark. Earlier that day, Sweden takes on the Czech Republic.

The Swedes had one little problem here: they spent too much time in the penalty box, taking eight PIM to Finland’s zero. But it didn’t stop them from winning.

It was a tight-checking affair, and the Finns only got some momentum going on their first power play. Forward Otto Koivula drew the penalty when he got past Rasmus Dahlin at the Swedish blue line and the 16-year-old wunderkind tripped him up. Then, Tolvanen attempted a shot that defenceman Kristofer Gunnarsson blocked, and it deflected across to a wide-open Rasanen, who fired the puck into the gaping cage at 16:35.

Tolvanen and Rasanen, who play together with the USHL’s Sioux City Musketeers, were an effective duo for the gold-medal U18 team in April, but had been blanked in Montreal until now. It was Finland’s first power play goal of the tournament.

Midway through the second period, the Finns got a 5-on-3 for 1:55 with Dahlin off for interference and Carl Grundstrom for putting the puck over the glass in his own end. But it came to naught, despite lots of puck movement around Sandstrom’s cage.

Andersson got his second of the tournament to knot the score at 12:16. Nylander backhanded a sweet feed from the side boards, and Andersson surprised Vehvilainen with a low wrister from the high slot.

“There were two guys coming up in a screen, and I tried to shoot through the screen, and it went in,” said Andersson. “So, perfect. Great pass from Alex, too.”

At 1:24 of the third, Nylander put Sweden up 2-1 on a gorgeous passing play. He controlled the puck outside the Finnish blue line and sent it right to Grundstrom, who dished it cross-ice to Joel Eriksson Ek. The Swedish captain found Nylander cruising in the slot, and the ever-cool 19-year-old whizzed it into the top corner.

Finland pressed in the dying stages, and pulled Vehvilainen for the extra attacker. But it was futile. Nylander intercepted the puck in the Swedish zone and scored into the empty net with one minute remaining to seal the deal.

“We got scoring chances in the last period, but we couldn’t score,” said Tolvanen. “That’s been our problem the whole tournament. We just can’t score.”

Montreal has not been friendly to the Finns. At the 2015 World Juniors, they also played at the Bell Centre, and scored just five goals in four games en route to sixth place.

At the World Junior level, Sweden-Finland is historically one of international hockey’s most even rivalries. In fact, prior to this game, the two nations shared a record of 16 wins, two ties, and 16 losses apiece, dating back to 1976.

However, the Swedes came in seeking revenge here after Finland ended their hopes of gold last year with a 2-1 semi-final victory. Consider that mission accomplished.

“Our goal at this tournament is to win the gold,” said Sandstrom. “I think our team is feeling stronger and stronger. I think we’ve played better and better.”

U.S. hangs tough to beat Russia

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By Andrew PodnieksIIHF.com

The U.S. came out a-blazin’ but Russia slowly worked its way into the game. In the end, the U.S. played a perfect third period. Next up, New Year’s Eve!

The win puts the U.S. in first place in the group, but an expected Canada win tonight against Latvia will give both teams nine points leading up to their clash on New Year’s Eve. 

“It’s going to be a great game,” said Clayton Keller, one of the scorers this afternoon. “It’s not something you get to experience too often, so we’re looking forward to it.”

The Russians are now 1-2, but their three points will almost certainly be enough to get to the quarter finals as both Latvia and Slovakia have no points yet.

The Americans got goals from three players today, once again spreading the scoring.

“We showed a lot of heart today and did a great job shutting them down in the third,” Keller added. “All lines can score and have skill, but our best is yet to come. We’re on the right track.”

Despite coming out lights out and outshooting the Russians 18-6 in the first period, the U.S. left the ice after 20 minutes in a 1-1 tie.

The Americans got the opening goal at 4:14 on a crazy-good play by Keller to the side of the goal. He got the puck, faked goalie Ilya Samsonov and a defencemen into next week, and tucked the puck into the open net. That was a goalscorer’s goal, to be sure.

“Casey Fitzgerald took the puck down the wall and threw it across to me,” Keller described. “I just tried to make a move, and I was lucky enough to beat him.”

Keller and linemate Colin White were effective all afternoon, seemingly knowing each other’s every move. “We have great chemistry,” Keller agreed. “We played on the same line two years ago at the under-18s. We’re both fast and Joey Anderson fits well on our line as well.”

But despite incredible territorial advantage and puck possession—not to mention the only three power plays—they couldn’t add to the lead. In fact, the Russians tied the game with the second short-handed goal of the tournament (Sweden has the other). 

Sergei Zborovski got a loose puck in centre ice and made a nice clearing into the U.S. zone where Yakov Trenin chased it down. He lobbed a pass in front where Kirill Urakov batted it in at 11:59.

“We talked about not getting frustrated,” Troy Terry said of the mood in the dressing room after 20 minutes. “We didn’t want to take any shortcuts offensively. We knew we’d get our chances.”

The U.S. kept skating and went ahead at 4:03 of the second. Charlie McAvoy’s quick shot from the point was bobbled by Samsonov and Colin White knocked in the rebound.

Midway through they went up by two goals on a nifty pass from behind the red line by Erik Foley. It was beautifully tipped at the near post by Terry at 11:41 for a 3-1 lead.

“I was calling for the puck,” Terry said. “I knew I had a bad angle, so I just tried to direct it on net. I got a little lucky, but I’ll take it.”

Just when it seemed the Americans had taken control of the game, they took their first two penalties, and the Russians pounced on the second. Yegor Rykov waited at the point before shooting, and his high wrister was tipped in front by Kirill Kaprizov to bring the Russians to within a goal. They dominated the rest of the period.

The Americans settled down and played a near flawless third, though. The only glitch was a penalty to Erik Foley, but the Russians, despite some great chances, couldn’t count the equalizer.

“We’re really starting to come together,” Terry said. “We know what kind of a team we are, and when we play like we did today, we can be successful.”

Danes pull another surprise

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By Lucas Aykroyd IIHF.com

Mathias From scored the 3-2 overtime winner at 0:47 as Denmark beat the Czechs for the first time in World Junior history at the Bell Centre on Thursday.

From, who plays for Sweden’s Rogle Angelholm, beat Czech goalie Daniel Vladar with a high backhander on a solo rush. The 19-year-old forward made a memorable 2017 World Junior debut after being sidelined with an injury since mid-December.

“I knew yesterday that I was going to play,” said From. “It was hard to come into the game at first because I didn’t play for some time. [My injury] happened on the first day of training camp.”

“He brings a ton of speed and a lot of skill as well,” said Danish captain Alexander True.He’s dangerous, as you could see when he scored that OT winner. It’s really nice to have him back.

Joachim Blichfeld and Nikolaj Krag added a goal and an assist apiece for Denmark. Martin Necas and Filip Hronek scored for the Czechs.

The Danes are on a roll. They got bombed 6-1 in their opener versus Sweden, but then shocked Finland 3-2. They were outshot in that game, and again versus the Czechs, 34-22. Yet they’re winning anyway.

“That’s unbelievable,” said Blichfeld. “We’re a small country, so it’s amazing.”

Czech coach Jakub Petr’s group has points in three straight games, but is still struggling with consistency. They opened with a 2-1 win over defending champion Finland but then lost 4-3 in overtime to Switzerland.

“I think the first period was really good for us, but after that, we just stopped playing,” said Czech forward Filip Chlapik. “We were scared. In the third period, we were scared to do something. There is nothing much to say. It wasn’t a good game for us.”

It was another historic milestone for Denmark, who had never beaten Finland until this tournament either. The Czechs won the previous three World Junior meetings with Denmark 5-2 (27 December, 2007), 7-0 (27 December, 2011), and 4-3 in overtime (29 December, 2014).

“We know that we are a strong skating team,” said Blichfeld. “When we meet big opponents like the Czech Republic and Finland, we know we just need to go out there and skate as hard as we can. That paid off.”

Denmark wraps up its round-robin slate on Friday against Switzerland. The Czechs will face Sweden on New Year’s Eve.

“We gotta keep our feet on the ground,” said True of facing the Swiss. “We know they’re a really good team, so it’ll be a tough game to play.”

In this game, two odd plays required video reviews in the first period.

The Czechs dominated play early on, keeping Danish goalie Lasse Petersen busy. Adam Musil went hard to the net, sliding a backhand and bumping Petersen’s pad. Necas nudged the puck over the line at 7:56, and the officials did not spot it until play stopped a minute and a half later. Video review confirmed it was good, and the 17-year-old HC Kometa Brno centre had his first World Junior goal.

Denmark then had a great chance on a breakaway, but Vladar foiled Blichfeld’s backhand deke. On the backcheck, Czech defenceman Daniel Krenzelok, took the net off its moorings and was assessed a delay of game penalty at 12:40, as his actions denied Jonas Rondbjerg a great scoring chance.

The Czechs thought they’d taken a two-goal lead shorthanded after the puck crazily bounced off the back boards for Lukas Jasek to put in at 14:26. But video review came to the rescue again. It showed that Jasek, standing in the crease, kicked the puck in, and it was waved off.

In the middle frame, the Danes picked up their pace. The Danish power play clicked on its fourth opportunity of the afternoon to make it 1-1. Blichfeld faked a slap shot before stepping into the left faceoff circle and beating Vladar high to the glove side through traffic for his second goal of the tournament at 8:41.

“In the last two periods, we didn’t play the same hockey as we did in the first,” said Hronek, the Czech captain. “We made a couple of bad plays in our D zone.”

At 10:29 of the second, the Czechs had an answer. After the Danes failed to clear the puck out of their zone, Hronek stickhandled into the middle and then flung a high shot past Petersen at 10:29.

In the third period, the Danes came on despite being outshot 12-6. Krag tied it up on an in-tight one-timer beautifully set up by Blichfeld at 13:36. With under four minutes left, Vladar denied Jonas Rondbjerg, fishing for a rebound on the doorstep.

Vladar, who backstopped the Czechs to their surprising 2014 World U18 silver medal, finally made his World Junior debut. The 19-year-old member of the AHL’s Providence Bruins was a spare goalie at the last two World Juniors, and Jakub Skarek got the start in the Czech Republic’s first two games in Montreal.

“Vladar played very well,” said Hronek. “We must block shots for him. On their second goal, there was bad communication in our D zone.”

Looking for the go-ahead goal in regulation, the Czechs called their time-out with 26 seconds left and a faceoff in the Danish end, but it didn’t pay off.

Blichfeld was in a chipper mood post-game: “We have played two good games now. So we’re probably going to win the next one too!”

Day Four Recap of the Spengler Cup

By spenglercup.ch

Team Canada eases into semifinals

Team Canada qualified for the semifinals on Thursday night with a convincing 5-1 victory over HK Mountfield. There the defending champions will face off against Dynamo Minsk on Friday afternoon.

The Canadians set things straight early on. In the opening period they took advantage of two of their four power play opportunities. After no less than 259 seconds it was Andrew Ebbett who put the team from overseas ahead on the first power play. Maxim Noreau, the second “Bernese” on Team Canada, then increased the lead 19 seconds before the first intermission with a snipe from long range. Midway through the game Brandon Gormley made it 3-0 during 4-on-4 play. Shortly before the second intermission Mountfield’s captain Jaroslav Bednar put the Czechs on the board on the power play, thus avoiding the potentially first shutout of the current Spengler Cup tournament. Mason Raymond and Francis Pare added a goal apiece in the closing period to seal the walkover victory for the Canadians. In an absolutely fair game played in a harmless, non-aggressive way, the referees, due to the zero-tolerance interpretation of the rules, handed out 16 minor penalties – ten against Mountfield and six against Team Canada.

In Friday afternoon’s semifinal there will now be a reunion of sorts. Dynamo Minsk and Team Canada already played each other in the first game of Group Cattini on December 26. The Belarusians handily took that matchup 7-4.

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Senn magical as Davos moves into semifinals

Thanks to a fantastic Gilles Senn in net, HC Davos qualified for the Spengler Cup semifinals on Thursday evening with a 3-1 victory over Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg. Next, a Swiss showdown versus HC Lugano awaits them on Friday evening.

The outstanding atmosphere amongst the 6300 spectators at the once again sold out Vaillant Arena obviously fired up the HCD players. Davos showed no signs of fatigue in their third tournament game within 50 hours. Only in the opening period were the Russians, on a day’s rest, superior on the ice. Yet that is when the hosts shone with efficiency on the finish. Tuomo Ruutu (6.) scored the go-ahead goal on the power play. And three minutes later Drew Shore doubled up for his team. He securely finished a textbook combination that Sven Jung had initiated with a through pass to Ruutu. Gilles Senn showed a fantastic game in net for Davos. Only Anatoly Golyshev (18.) was able to beat the HCD netminder with a snipe to the top net corner. Senn stopped 31 Russian shots, leading to a lofty save percentage of 96.88%. In the game with the fewest goals scored this tournament, it came as no surprise that Senn and his Russian counterpart Ivan Lasutin were awarded best player honours after the game.

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Americans look sharp in 5-2 win

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By Andrew Podnieks IIHF.com

Team USA built on its improved play as its first game progressed, and the players came to the rink ready for a full 60 minutes of skating tonight.

They worked effectively in all facets of the game, beating Slovakia 5-2 and improving to 2-0 in the tournament. There were five goal scorers, and 12 players recorded at least one point for the winners.

“We were focused and ready to play,” said captain Luke Kunin. “We did what we needed to do to be successful. We needed to get a good start and get pucks to the net. Everyone on the team contributed.”

The Slovaks were much improved over their one-sided loss to Canada last night but were still decidedly the second best team on the ACC ice tonight. They are now 0-2.

Moving the puck with confidence and using their speed, the Americans pressured their opponents all night long and generated countless good scoring chances. In all, shots were 50-20 for the U.S., and the Slovaks have now been outshot in two games by a cumulative total of 94-26.

Slovakia coach Ernest Bokros decided to rest goaltender Adam Huska in favour of Matej Tomek tonight, and Tomek was busy and mostly impressive.

At the other end, coach Bob Motzko did the same, playing Joseph Woll and resting Tyler Parsons.

“Coach Motzko always says you have to come to the rink ready to play every day,” noted defenceman Jack Ahcan. “That’s what we did today. It’s about our heart and our effort.”

The U.S. opened the scoring at 10:15 of the first despite a great save by the goalie off a point-blank shot by Tanner Laczynski, but Tomek couldn’t control the rebound and Laczynski knocked in the loose puck.

The Americans went up 2-0 near the end of the period off a gaffe by Andrej Hatala at the U.S. blue line. As he prepared to play the puck he lost his balance and fell awkwardly, allowing a two-on-one with Clayton Keller and Colin White.

Keller waited, fired a nice saucer pass to White at the blue ice, and White redirected the puck in for a 2-0 lead.

But Slovakia showed some life. Midway through the period it had a power play and almost scored, moving the puck well and creating several chances. The Slovaks had a second man advantage later in the period and built on the success of the first, scoring at 18:08 on a great back-door pass from Oliver Pataky to Martin Fehervary who didn’t miss the open net.

The U.S. went up 3-1 at 2:03 of the second on a delayed penalty. Jack Ahcan got the puck to Tage Thompson in the slot. The pass was behind Thompson, who spun and roofed a shot in one motion over an unsuspecting Tomek. The highlight-reel goal seemed to deflate the Slovaks.

Six minutes later, a Charlie McAvoy point shot beat Tomek cleanly, and soon after Troy Terry added a fifth goal. The U.S. had just the comfortable lead it deserved.

Michal Roman got the only goal of the third, with 36.5 seconds remaining, on a long point shot to make the score marginally closer.

Swedes stay perfect

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By Lucas Aykroyd IIHF.com

Sweden beat Switzerland 4-2 for its second straight Bell Centre win on Wednesday. Captain Joel Eriksson Ek scored twice, including the third-period winner.

Eriksson Ek accepted Carl Grundstrom’s lovely backhanded feed from behind the net and zipped the puck through Swiss goalie Joren van Pottelberghe with 5:08 remaining.

“I’m playing with good players,” said Eriksson Ek.”They set me up and I just try to shoot. Today I was lucky and two went in.”

Lias Andersson and Lucas Carlsson also scored for Sweden, and Grundstrom and Alexander Nylander had two assists apiece. Jonas Siegenthaler notched a goal and an assist for Switzerland, and Calvin Thurkauf had the other goal.

Van Pottelberghe did his best to keep his team’s hopes alive as Sweden outshot Switzerland 46-15. In Switzerland’s opening 4-3 overtime win versus the Czechs, he faced 39 shots.

“It’s a great booster when we know we have a guy in the back that can make saves when we need them,” said Thurkauf. “Joren has been astonishing over the last two games. We hope we can count on that for the rest of the tournament.”

The Swedes, who sit first in Group A, face winless Nordic rival Finland on Thursday. Switzerland battles Denmark in a crucial matchup on Friday.

Last year, the Finns edged Sweden 2-1 in the semi-finals en route to gold in Helsinki. So there’s a grudge match coming up.

“I think it’s going to be a good battle,” said Nylander. “They’ve lost two, so they’ll be coming at us hard. But we are mad from last year, so we’ll be on top of our game too, I think.”

This game was tied 2-2 heading into the third period, and Swiss fans prayed their team could emulate Denmark’s 3-2 upset over Finland the night before. Alas, it was not to be.

“For sure we’re proud that we played a pretty good game,” said Thurkauf. “But in the end, we lost a very important game that we should have won, or at least gotten one or two points out of it.”

Sweden struck early. On a Nylander set-up, Eriksson Ek fooled van Pottelberge with his quick release from the edge of the left faceoff circle at 4:13.

Nine seconds into their first power play, Switzerland made it 1-1 at 5:08. Siegenthaler’s centre point blast, the first Swiss shot on goal, eluded goalie Felix Sandstrom.

The blue-and-yellow boys looked unfazed. Grundstrom burst down the left side and dished it to Andersson, who corraled the puck and snapped a shot high glove side for a 2-1 lead at 6:38. It was the first World Junior goal for the 18-year-old HV71 forward, who had nine points for Sweden’s silver-medal U18 team in April.

Sandstrom slid across to make a nice save on Damien Riat’s late-period one-timer. He wasn’t busy overall, as Sweden outshot the Swiss 15-6 in the opening frame.

However, Switzerland valiantly persevered in the second period, tying it up at 6:17. It took just 21 seconds to cash in on the power play. Hischier fed Thurkauf down low, and the Swiss captain slammed in a wrap-around for his second of the tournament.

The Swedes kept firing away, but couldn’t convert. With just over three minutes left in the middle frame, van Pottelberge made a sharp glove save on Oliver Kylington, who cut to the net with a quick backhand.

“We had a lot of shots, but the goalie was playing good,” said Eriksson Ek. “We need to be in front and not allow him to see the puck.”

The Swiss called their time-out to strategize before a power play early in the third period, but it proved ineffective.

After Eriksson Ek’s go-ahead goal, Lucas Carlsson gave Sweden some insurance, scoring on a high shot with 2:49 left. It was deserved, as shots favored Sweden 17-4 in the third.

“We played a little bit complicated in some of the areas,” said Nylander. “We need to keep it more simple and we’ll do better. But they had a good game. They played good too. It was nice to get the win.”

Highly touted 16-year-old Swedish blueliner Rasmus Dahlin didn’t crack the scoresheet in this game, but impressed again with his skating, positioning and playmaking. He had two points in the opening 6-1 win over Denmark, a Swedish World Junior record for a player his age.

It was Sweden’s eighth straight win over Switzerland at the World Juniors. The last Swiss victory over Sweden was on 3 January, 2003, 5-3 in relegation play.

In 2010, Sweden trounced Switzerland 11-4 in the bronze medal game, the largest margin of victory ever in a World Junior medal game.

Day Three Recap of the Spengler Cup

By spenglercup.ch

Lugano takes direct route to semifinals

With a 4-3 victory over HK Mountfield on Wednesday afternoon HC Lugano secured top spot in Group Torriani and, thus, a direct semifinal berth at the 90th Spengler Cup.

The matchup between the Ticinesi and the Czech club from the town of Hradec Kralove was decided halfway through regulation time. Within 88 seconds Luca Fazzini with an accurate wrist shot and reinforcement Ryan Vesce extended Lugano’s lead to 4-1. Up that point the game had been even. Gregory Hoffmann had put the Ticinesi ahead on a long-range shot redirect on the man advantage, and, after Jiri Simanek’s equalizer, gave the Swiss the lead again with a fine solo for his second marker. Mountfield had the upper hand in the opening period outshooting their opponents 16-7. And, shortly before the third goal against them, Radislav Dej missed the 2-2 equalizer, when he failed to beat Lugano keeper Daniel Manzato on a short-handed breakaway.

After the 4-1 goal Ondrej Katecl took over for Patrik Ryber, who was not at fault for any of the goals, in net for Mountfield. The number 2 goaltender shut the door, while Andris Dzernis short-handed and Rudolf Cerveny brought their team within one goal to make for a highly exciting end to the game. But the final eight minutes and, in the end, an extra skater were not enough for the Czechs to even the score.

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Davos only finish in second place despite win

At the 90th Spengler Cup HC Davos defeated Dynamo Minsk 5-4 in an particularly spectacular game. Based on the goal differential the Belarusians still secured first place in the group ahead of the hosts and Team Canada, who both finished with the same point total.

The sell-out crowd of 6300 at Vaillant Arena witnessed a wild game. In the middle period Davos was, in theory, temporarily in first place of the group, when they took a 4-1 lead. The “Bündner” resolutely took command of the game after an unlucky start with a short-handed goal by Minsk’s Canadian Rob Klinkhammer. Still in the first period Adam Hall tied it up on the power play. Noah Schneeberger used the next man advantage for a Davos lead. Then it was Perttu Lindgren, who finished a textbook combination and Drew Shore marked the 4-1. The Belarusians reacted promptly as Danila Karaban and Alexander Pavlovitsh cut the deficit after some carelessness on Davos’ defence. In the middle period no fewer than 5 goals were scored within nine minutes and ten seconds. When Enzo Corvi netted the 5-3, Davos’ first place hopes sprung again. But Pavlovitsh put in his veto by bringing Minsk within a goal on the power play.

While Minsk has directly qualified for the semifinals on Friday, Davos will play on Thursday evening at 8.15pm in the quarterfinal versus Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg. In the first quarterfinal, Team Canada will face HC Mountfield at 3pm.

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Canada explodes in 2nd for 5-0 win

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By Andrew Podnieks IIHF.com

The winners got goals from five different players and points from a dozen skaters while Connor Ingram got the easiest shutout he’ll ever get, stopping just six harmless shots. Only when Russia limited Belarus to six shots on December 27, 2000, has a team had so few pucks on net in U20 history.

Playing in their first game of this year’s U20, the Slovaks might have been an equally physical team, but their inability to generate any offence cost them against what was an impressive Canadian attack. The final score flattered the Slovaks.

“This was our first game, and it was against the best team in the tournament,” said Slovak captain Erik Cernik, playing in his record-equalling fourth U20. “It was pretty hard. Canada plays offensively all the time, and that was too powerful for us tonight.”

“We’re a really fast team, and I think that wears other teams down,” noted Taylor Raddysh, one of the goalscorers. “We have to keep leading with our strengths.”

“Everyone knows the depth we have on this team,” added Michael McLeod, another scorer. “We have shut-down guys who have great scoring ability when they get the chance. This tournament is all about winning, and everyone buys in, even if they’re only playing two shifts a period.”

It wasn’t until 5:30 of the second period that the opening goal was posted on the scoreboard. It came courtesy of a nicely executed three-on-two rush. Tyson Jost carried the puck over the blue line, and as the defence closed in on him he dropped it back to Jeremy Lauzon, trailing on the play. Lauzon had a moment to take aim and ripped a shot over the shoulder of Adam Huska.

Less than six minutes later, Canada doubled its lead courtesy of a power play. This time it was a nice pass from behind the net by Pierre-Luc Dubois to Raddysh in front. Raddysh fired quickly over Huska’s glove, and the pro-Canadian crowd could breathe a sigh of relief.

Canada extended its lead to 3-0 at 12:37 off the draw. Lauzon’s point shot was tipped in front by Anthony Cirelli. By this point, Canada had as many goals in the game as the Slovaks had shots—three. Canada had 23 shots.

Canada got its second power-play marker of the period thanks to Thomas Chabot off a pass from Matt Barzal at 16:25, making the shots 30-3 in the process. 

Michael McLeod added a fifth Canada goal in the third.

Canada has a day off before playing Latvia on Thursday while the Slovaks get back at it tomororw against the United States.

“We have a lot of big guys, so we have to play hard in the defensive zone,” Cernik added. “We have to be better, be stronger on the puck. You can’t win with six shots, and you can’t win giving up five goals.”

Danes stun defending champs

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By Lucas Aykroyd IIHF.com

Denmark scored twice on three first-period shots and went on to edge defending champion Finland 3-2 in one of the biggest upsets in tournament history.

Tuesday’s result marks an historic moment for the Danish program. It is the first time they have beaten anyone at the World Juniors aside from two wins over Switzerland (4-3 in a shootout on 30 December 2014; 2-1 on 27 December 2015).

“It’s always a special feeling when you get a win against another country you’ve never had a win against,” said Danish assistant captain Christan Mieritz. “It’s a special team, the 1997-age. We have really good chemistry on the team. I guess that’s why we won today.”

Goalie Kasper Krog made 34 stops for the shocking victory. He might be Denmark’s shortest player at 175 cm, but the blue-masked 18-year-old from SonderjyskE Vojens stood tall in his World Junior debut, boosting his team’s hopes of making the quarter-finals for the third straight year.

“It’s incredible to get a win in my first World Junior game, but the most important thing is that we get the three points,” said Krog. “That’s what counts.”

William Boysen, David Madsen and Joachim Blichfeld scored for the opportunistic Danes, who took just 10 shots. Urho Vaakanainen and Kasper Bjorkqvist replied for Finland.

“We always should beat Denmark, or at least score more goals than two goals with those shots,” said Finnish captain Olli Juolevi. “I don’t know. There are no excuses.”

Finland, the defending champions, could be in trouble here after falling 2-1 to the Czechs on Michael Spacek’s late winner on Day One. Finnish goalie Veini Vehvilainen was yanked in favour of backup Karolus Kaarlehto after a shaky first period. Last year, the JYP Jyvaskyla product was also the starter, but was replaced by Kaapo Kahkonen during the playoff games en route to home-ice gold.

Still, it’s hard to blame your goaltending when your team produces just three goals in two games.

So far, the Finns look as snake-bitten offensively as they were in 2015, the last time Montreal hosted the World Juniors. Like this year, they came to the Bell Centre as the reigning World Junior gold medalists, but the Artturi Lehkonen-captained squad scored just five goals in four group games, and finished seventh.

“We don’t feel good, but the most important thing is for us just to believe in ourselves and keep going,” said Kaarlehto. “It’s just hockey.”

Only a handful of upsets compare to this one.

In 1998, newly promoted Kazakhstan beat Canada 6-3, but that was in the seventh-place game, when Canada, the ‘97 champion, had little to play for. That same year, Switzerland beat the Swedes 2-1 in the quarter-final and the Czechs 4-3 in the bronze medal game. Belarus beat the host U.S. 5-3 at the 2005 tournament and edged Finland 4-3 at the 2007 tournament. 2009 saw Slovakia trump the U.S. 5-3 in the quarter-final, and 2010 witnessed another quarter-final upset with Switzerland shocking Russia 4-3 in overtime.

The Danes were looking to bounce back after falling 6-1 to Sweden in their opener. And boy, did they ever. Special teams were key, as they killed off all six minors they took.

They also capitalized with their first man advantage. Nicolai Weichel’s centre point shot was bobbled by Vehvilainen, and Boysen backhanded in the loose puck at 5:20.

Subsequently, the Danes were almost completely hemmed in their own zone. But they were alert when the Finns turned the puck over in the neutral zone. Madsen took a pass from Morten Jensen and zapped one past Vehvilainen’s glove from the top of the left faceoff circle at 17:40.

In the last minute of the first period, Otto Koivula split the Danish defence on a breakaway, but Krog foiled his five-hole attempt. Denmark was up 2-0 after 20 minutes despite being outshot 14-3.

In the second period, the Finns kept firing away from every angle. Three minutes in, Krog stymied Julius Nattinen while sitting down in his crease under siege.

“Krog did an amazing job out there,” said Mieritz. “Incredible job. He kept us in the game. I take my hat off to him today.”

Denmark jumped into a 3-0 lead with 4:07 left in the middle frame. Jonas Rondbjerg centered the puck from the corner to Blichfeld, who was unchecked on the doorstep and knocked it in. It was Denmark’s second shot of the period.

“It’s unbelievably tough,” said Juolevi. “It’s not easy, especially when the other team is just putting the puck into the neutral zone and you have to try to run their wall. But we should have done that.

Finland struck back to make it 3-1 at 4:17 of the third. Vaakanainen’s high shot sailed through traffic and spoiled Krog’s shutout bid.

Guts and willpower kept the Danes going as the clock ticked down. Christian Mathiasen-Weisje blocked two shots during a Finnish man advantage with 10 minutes to go.

“For sure there were a lot of ice packs in the room,” said Danish captain Alexander True. “I think we need to bring some more shotblockers for the skates for the next game! But that’s what it takes to win games sometimes.”

The Finns made it exciting when Bjorkqvist scored on the rush at 15:30 to cut Denmark’s lead to 3-2. But the comeback attempt was destined to fail. The Danes mobbed Krog at the final buzzer.

One thing is for sure: without Jesse Puljujarvi, Sebastian Aho, and Patrik Laine, the Finns are nowhere near last year’s offensive juggernaut. They don’t even have the one-two punch of Teuvo Teravainen and Saku Maenalanen from the 2014 gold-medal team.

Denmark’s only previous World Junior meeting with Finland was a 10-1 loss on December 20, 2011 in Edmonton. The lopsided defeat came with five players suspended by then-head coach Todd Bjorkstrand for staging a mock press conference after a 10-2 loss to host Canada. Danish hockey has certainly come a long way since then.

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