Category: World Junior Championships (page 1 of 9)

South Africa Wins Division III World Junior Qualification Tournament

By Steven Ellis –

South Africa will return to the Division III World Juniors in 2019 after beating Chinese Taipei in a best of three series 2-0.

Both games were drastically different, yet both featured one-goal games. Sky Johnson was the lone goal-scorer for South Africa in the opening game, beating Sheng-Chun Huang just before the halfway point on the power play to give his nation the opening victory.

The game was more wide-open in the second contest, with Taipei actually taking the 3-2 lead after a period of action. Kuan-Yu Lin was the star for Taipei, scoring twice in the opening frame. Weig Chiang would also score a pair for the team, with the duo potting the only four goals Chinese Taipei would score after two games.

Gareth Bremner was apart of a controversial moment when he was given a 10-minute misconduct for a check-from-behind. Three minutes after his penalty expired, Bremner put South Africa back into the lead, a lead they would never relinquish in an eventual 5-4 victory on home ice.

With the win, South Africa will replace New Zealand in the Division III World Juniors in 2019, with the Kiwis going down to face Taipei in Division IIIQ. Days before the tournament began, Turkmenistan pulled out in what is believed to be a lack of players, so the final pool for the group is unconfirmed heading into next year’s event.

Israel Wins U20 Division III

By Ivan Tchechankov –

Two days before the end of the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division III the winner was determined. In the first game of the fourth competition day Israel beat closest rival Iceland 6-2 and secured the first place in the tournament and promotion for the next’s year Division II Group B. In the previous games the Israeli hockey talents defeated China 3-2, host Bulgaria 4-3 and Australia 7-2.

After a rest day on Saturday the round robin tournament will finish on Sunday when Israel plays New Zealand, a team who is certain to finish in last place with no points so far and goals difference of 11-35.

It was a historic day for Israeli ice hockey as the U20 national team won its first IIHF U20 event in its fourth participation. The debut was in 1997 and the next two were in 2016 and 2017 with a 4th and 5th-place finish. Israel has played in 14 IIHF U18 Championships since 2001, but has just one first place in the Division III Group B in 2013. There are no players from this winning team on the current U20 roster, but 5 years ago there was one American, Derek Eisler, on the team’s officials list as “team staff”. Since 2015 he is the head coach of all Israeli teams (Men, U20, U18) in the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship program with one exception – the U18 team last year. After the deciding victory against Australia, Eisler was happy to share his feelings with

Congratulations for the great tournament! You’re the champions, how does this sound to you? Your team surprised many here in the Winter Palace.

Yeah, when you look at the schedule, the last game is China-Australia. This was supposed to be the final for the gold and silver medals. For us though, this was a motivation to make a run at China. We got the late power play goal to beat them and the next day the momentum was with us to prevail over the tough Bulgarian team. So at that point we thought we are doing pretty good here and our confidence went even higher.

Did you expect such results in Sofia or are you one of the surprised people here?

I expected that our team will be in the hunt for the medals – silver or bronze. As a head coach I had this scenario with two wins and one defeat after the first three games. I thought that we can play very well against Australia and Bulgaria, but maybe to concede to China. So my expectations were exceeded for sure.

Where are the secrets for this success? In this division some small details can make big difference.

If you look at that team, the difference is that we have many pieces to solve the puzzle. We have great goaltending, solid defence and good forwards. We have more kids that are playing overseas in North America. They are coming older and playing there on a pretty good junior level hockey. There are players from teams in Sweden and Austria. So conditionally we have our best overall roster and we also were really concentrated to be a team and to make sure to explore this team intelligence that we have been talking about. We also found the right defencemen for the power play unit and players that are ready to block shots and be solid penalty killers. We have some guys from the Israeli league who are taking their roles as contributors on the other lines, so we brought a well-rounded team here for the championships.

As a coach you want to induce the team work, but are there any players that you want to point out for their efforts in the tournament?

Our two goalies were really, really good. Without those two guys we wouldn’t be here. Raz [Werner] did a great job against China and today it was Yehonatan’s [Reisinger] turn to make big saves. So they both raised to the occasion and played that level they are supposed to. And without good quality goaltending you can’t win gold medals. I have the luxury to alternate good goalies every game. The last two years Raz was the best goalie in the U18 Division III Group A and U20 Division III Championships. Yehonatan won silver medal last year with the U18 team and was also voted as the best goaltender.

It seems that if Israel wants to develop hockey, it can be done easily with all the connections that the country has in Russia and North America. Do you see this trend coming in the future?

I see big trend coming for Israel hockey. I think with the success this U20 team just had here, the kids back home are watching it, everybody in Israel is seeing this. There are more and more projects for ice rinks and there will be more people playing hockey. So I think just the sheer volume of interest will go up. The economics is there, the connections are there, everything is in place. Now it’s just a matter of people willing to put a time and effort in growing hockey in the country and to use these connections wisely and build it up.

The silver and bronze medals were up for grabs on Sunday at the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division III in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia after Israel had secured the top spot and promotion on Friday (see story and interview).

Four teams had chances to finish in the top-three. Iceland was ahead in this race with seven points before the last game day, followed by China and Bulgaria with 6 and Australia with 5.

In the first scheduled game Israel completed its perfect record (5 wins/5 games) with a 5-0 blanking of New Zealand, which finished last with zero points. Mark Revniaga, the captain of the Israeli team, scored two goals and finished the tournament with the most goals (11) and points (15). He was selected as the best forward by the directorate of the championship. Mark, whose father was assistant coach for the Israeli team in Sofia, is playing for New York Apple Core in Brewster. Raz Werner, a goaltender for the Grastorps IK in the Swedish U20 Elite, had the only shutout in the whole event after making 26 save and finished the competition with a 2.00 GAA and a 93.41% save percentage.

“We brought a well-rounded team that had all the pieces to produce and we worked as a team the whole week. Everybody was involved and followed our game’s strategy,” said the head coach Derek Eisler. Even when his team earned the promotion on Friday, he was seen on the stands, scouting the Kiwis and preparing the tactics for the last game. So it is not a coincidence that Israel was first in almost every statistical category in the end – scoring efficiency (19,53%), power play (44,44%, 12 from 27), goaltending (92,31%) and in second place for penalty killing (84,85%).

The drama unfolded in the next matchup on Sunday: Iceland vs. Bulgaria. The hosts could finish on every position from second to fifth in the standings, depending on their match, but also on the last encounter of the day: China vs. Australia. A win for the Icelanders would guarantee them second place, a win for Bulgaria would guarantee the third place for the host nation. And the Chinese players were watching the game from closeby, cheering for the Bulgarians, so they could have a chance to finish second by defeating Australia.

Iceland was leading half of the way on an early goal by Edmunds Induss at 2:52, but in the second period Daniel Dilkov tied the score at 13:08. With his aggressive style Miroslav Vasilev took three opponents to the right circle and then passed the puck back to Dilkov, who was alone in front of the net. He was able to beat the goalie with his third try.

The third period started with power-play goal for Iceland. Six minutes later Dilkov, who plays for the MsHKM Zilina U20 team in Slovakia, scored again after carrying the puck through the neutral zone and blasting a shot from the top of the left circle. The Bulgarian top line had the upper hand on the opposition most of the time, but the score was still 2-2 when Iceland was called for icing 18.6 seconds before the end.

Stanislav Muhachev, the head coach of Bulgaria, took a time-out and drew a combination. Veselin Dikov won the faceoff and passed the puck back to Dilkov, who shot through traffic. Suddenly the puck was again on Dikov’s stick and he scored the game-winning goal from close range in the open net after the Icelandic goalie was out of position.

“I need to sit down, can’t stand on my legs right now. We thought that the faceoff will be in the right circle, so during the time-out I drew a combination for this side and then it turned out it is in the left. Nothing you can do after that. I was just watching how the puck bounced back to Dikov,” explained Muhachev immediately after the nerve-wracking game.

“It’s a great tournament for us. The only sad note is that we couldn’t beat Israel as we had our chances. But when you compare the teams in the group and our preparation, I think the third place is success. Our top line played on high level. Dilkov was impressive with his movement and skating, Vasilev showed his speed and energy. He was very emotional during the whole process and was fully involved in every moment, taking things internally. And I want of course to point out the captain – Dikov. I’ve know him since he was a child. He was a true captain and helped this team a lot with his leadership. Without him this would not be achievable.”

In the last game China defeated Australia 6-1 and took the second place having the tie-breaker against Bulgaria after beating the host badly on Thursday (10-4). The captain Rudi Ying had two goals and an assists to finish second on the tournament’s scoring list with 14 points (8+6) ahead of Dilkov (8+5) and Vasilev (5+7). The expectations were high for China as the project for developing the game in the country for the 2022 Winter Olympics is in full mode. The first two games were frustrating though – a 2-3 loss against Israel and 1-2 defeat to Iceland. After that China won three in a row with a 27-7 goal record.

“Our players are looking much better than the opposition here, but we missed our chances in the first games and made some mistakes too. We outplayed every other team, but against Israel, for example, we scored only two goals on 36 shots and allowed three on just 12 shots. If there was a playoff-system as a year ago, we would have had a chance to win it all, but this tournament is very short and you can’t afford to lose a game,” said the China’s U20 national team head coach Alexander Barkov.

“Israel won the tournament deservedly as they played smart and tactical hockey in all games. They did that against China, waiting for their chances and scored the game winning goal on a power play eight minutes to the end. Against us their coach matched his top line to our top line all the time and didn’t take any risks. It worked again,” Bulgarian head coach Muhachev explained his opinion about the tournament winner.

Iceland had to settle for fourth place while top-seeded Australia was fifth. Winless New Zealand is relegated to the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division III Qualification.

Spain moves up

By Andy Potts –

The Spanish team won the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division II Group B in Belgrade, leaving host nation Serbia in second place as Croatia took bronze. Turkey was relegated back to Division III after winning that section 12 months ago in New Zealand.

For the Spanish U20 national team it’s one of the biggest victories in recent year. Spain did in several categories lose out on first place against Serbia and seldom beats Croatia in men’s hockey. The win means promotion to the next level after five consecutive years in the Division I Group B. The four previous years Spain had finished in second place.

It was a tight group, with the top three teams all in contention going into the final day. Spain and Croatia faced off in the opening game, with the Spanish knowing that destiny was in their own hands. Victory would secure top spot regardless of other results, but defeat could be costly. A Croatian victory in regulation would have put the team in first place, but also opened the door for Serbia to top the group if it could beat Turkey in the last game of the event.

The Spanish approached their decisive fixture with a clear plan to frustrate Croatia. Across the three periods, the Iberian team allowed just 18 shots at Raul Barbo’s net and always had the upper hand in terms of generating offence. The second period was the most competitive, and Bruno Ficur’s goal midway through the session pulled Croatia back to 1-1 and threatened to put the group back into the balance.

Spain, though, rallied in the third. Two goals from Dorian Donath, the first of them a wrist shot fired in from an acute angle on the power play, secured a 3-1 victory and guaranteed gold and promotion to Division IIA. Serbia, unable to top the group, at least had the satisfaction of beating its neighbour and rival from Croatia to the silver medals thanks to a convincing 7-1 demolition of Turkey to conclude the action.

If Spain’s win over Croatia was decisive, the pivotal moment of the tournament came rather earlier, when Maurizio Mansi’s team played Serbia on the second game day in Belgrade. The host looked to be on course for a vital victory, leading 2-1 on third-period goals from Lazar Pejcic and team captain Luka Vukicevic. But a late penalty on Vukicevic proved costly: Spain, which would finish the tournament with the strongest power play in the event, snatched a dramatic last-minute tying goal through Alfonso Garcia. Serbia protested vigorously, insisting that Garcia’s stick was high when he swatted Donath’s looping feed into the net from close range. The officials were unmoved, Spain forced overtime and went on to win the shoot-out on Joan Cerda’s effort. The result tilted the balance of the group in Spain’s favour, and Serbia was unable to claw back the lost ground.

If it was tight at the top, it was even closer at the bottom. Belgium, Mexico and Turkey all finished the tournament on three points after the Mexicans’ final-day 5-4 win over the Belgians. That left Turkey needing a point from its game against Serbia to escape the trapdoor. However, that heavy loss against the host sent Turkey down to Division III.

Captain Jorge Perez was the toast of his team-mates after scoring 2+2 – including the game-winner – in that nail-biter against Belgium to keep his team in IIB. The Mexicans were clinical, especially in the early stages, when their first four goals came inside 23 minutes from just 11 shots at Belgium’s Anthony Gubbels. Gerardo Garcia del Valle came up strong in a tense third period, blanking the opposition to preserve a narrow lead until the end.

The final standings showed Belgium in fourth place, lifted by its opening day 8-3 victory over Turkey. Mexico came fifth thanks to its win against the Belgians, while Turkey’s 6-4 success against Mexico wasn’t enough to overcome that heavy loss at the start of the tournament.

Serbia could not top the table, but it did come out on top in the goalscoring chart. Vucicevic ended up with 8+4=12 points, boosted by a hat-trick in that game against Turkey. Mirko Djumic fired in… in the same match-up, moving to 3+8=11 and edging ahead of Spain’s Cerda (5+5).

Spain’s Raul Barbo was nominated as the top goalie by the directorate. In a high-scoring tournament, he played every minute of his country’s games and allowed just eight goals for a GAA of 1.57. He also recorded the only shut-out of the event, blanking Mexico in a 4-0 victory. The other directorate awards went to Croatian D-man Luka Kramaric and Serbia’s top-scoring forward Luka Vucicevic.

Canada Wins 2018 World Juniors After Late Goal by Tyler Steenbergen

By Steven Ellis –

Canada has won the 2018 World Juniors in Buffalo, New York after Tyler Steenbergen scored with time running out, giving Canada the 3-1 win over Sweden.

The game was by far the most intense, crazy game of the tournament, with both teams getting tremendous scoring opportunities. Canada thought they scored early in the first when Dillon Dube knocked the puck past Filip Gustavsson on the scramble, but the whistle had gone just in the nick of time for Sweden for the goal to be disallowed.

But Dube didn’t mind, scoring a goal early in the second to end Gustavsson’s shutout and give Canada the lead. At 1:49 in the second, Dube broke the ice after Jordan Kyrou made a pass past top draft prospect Rasmus Dahlin in the slot. Dube would then use the extra room to beat out Timothy Liljegren, who was applying some physical pressure, before sending it over Gustavsson in close, giving the team north of the border the advantage.

Sweden was the more aggressive team with the puck, and after scoring twice shorthanded against the Americans, they made it clear they weren’t to be messed with when it comes to special teams. Tim Soderlund would add to Sweden’s great tournament when he broke in on a rush and beat Carter Hart glove side, using a Canadian defenceman as a pick to create a bit of distraction on the way in.

Coming into the game, Tyler Steenbergen was the only Canadian forward to not score at some point. With 32 seconds played in the opening period, it didn’t look like he’d get the chance to change that. But with 1:40 left in the game, Steenbergen scored from the slot to score the biggest goal of his career, putting Canada up by one with time running out. Alex Formenton would score one more before the game was over on the empty net, securing the gold medal in front of nearly 18,000 people at the KeyBank Center in Buffalo.

With the win, Canada has taken gold for the first time since 2015 back in Toronto, while also taking their fourth gold in six tries in the United States, including the 2005 tournament with players like Patrice Bergeron and Sidney Crosby. Sweden has yet to beat Canada in five gold medal games, which includes back to back championships for Canada in 2008 and 2009.

USA Wins Bronze at WJC’s in Buffalo

By Steven Ellis –

The United States have won the bronze medal at the 2018 World Juniors in Buffalo after stomping the Czech Republic 9-3 on Friday evening.

The Czechs simply did not have much steam in the game, showing signs of struggles ever since their victory against Finland on Tuesday to place them in the medal round. They failed to record a shot until the 12th minute of the game and recorded just three in a 13 minute span that found its way through two periods.

The Americans, however, didn’t want to leave the tournament empty-handed. With just three seconds left in the game, Trent Frederic scored on a rush after beating out Martin Kaut to the puck, firing it past Josef Korenar to make it 1-0 heading into the second.

The game fell apart quickly for the Czech Republic after that, with USA taking the 5-0 lead into the halfway point in the game. Just nine seconds into the middle stanza, the shot after Frederic’s, Ryan Poehling got his first of two goals after Joey Anderson set him up for the rush down the ice. Poehling took a perfect shot that beat Korenar high, putting the Americans up by two.

Four minutes later, America’s leader made it 3-0. Anderson would get one of his own after tipping in Brady Tkachuk’s shot with his foot, chasing Korenar from the net in favour of Jakub Skarek.

Frederic, a Boston Bruins prospect who had an up and down tournament on the US fourth line, finished the tournament with his best game of the event. He would score two more goals, including the 6-0 goal that USA held for much of the second. Not many fans took part in the typical hat-throwing exercise, with just four hats landing on the ice following the goal.

Between Frederic’s two goals was Kieffer Bellows’ second penalty shot goal of the tournament. The goal put him among American greats after tying Jeremy Roenick for the most goals by an American in a single tournament with eight. Before the final minute would begin, however, Bellows would score one more goal, putting him in sole possession of first, and just two behind Roenick for most goals in World Junior history by an American.

The Czech Republic would get two reasons to cheer early in the third, but it didn’t matter much in the final result. Martin Kaut would score 43 seconds into the third on the power play after tipping in Libor Hajek’s shot, only to have Radovan Pavlik put one more past Jake Oettinger to make it 7-2. Frederic would score his fourth goal game and Patrick Harper would get one late, while Daniel Kurovsky would get the Czechs to smile once more, but the United States would hold on for the 9-3 victory to win the bronze medal.

The win would give the Americans their sixth bronze medal and third medal in a row, giving them the longest streak after knocking off Russia before they could take their eighth. It would also be their second medal on home soil in six attempts, both being of the bronze variety.

The Czechs could still hang their heads high with the loss, as it was still their best placement since the 2005 World Juniors. The Czechs can bring back 11 players next year, including many of their players like Jakub Galvas and Filip Zadina.

Canada Crunches Czech Effort to Advance to WJC Gold Medal Game

By Steven Ellis –

Canada is off to the gold medal game at the 2018 World Juniors thanks to a monstrous 7-2 victory over the Czech Republic on Thursday evening in Buffalo.

The first period was very intense, with both teams trading quality scoring chances at a higher rate than the two previous games at KeyBank on Monday. 5:55 in the first, the Czechs took the surprise 1-0 lead after Martin Necas fed Filip Zadina in front. Zadina, a potential top five pick at the NHL Draft this year, scored on a beautiful wrist shot goal after sending it over Carter Hart’s glove, putting the Czechs up by one early.

But Canada wouldn’t leave the first period without a pair of goals. At 15:05 on the power play, Cale Clague set up Sam Steel to the left of the Czech net, who fired a one-timer past Josef Korenar to make it 1-1. Three minutes later, on Canada’s next man advantage, Drake Batheron would tip in Cale Makar’s point shot to put Canada up in front in a game where they were dominating puck battles early on.

Batherson would come alive in the second, scoring his sixth and seventh goals of the tournament to complete the hat-trick. At 27:48 on the power play, Batherson made Radim Salda pay for taking a penalty when he sent in a shot off of a Makar feed past Korenar, putting up Canada by two. 

After Maxime Comtois and Jordan Kyrou both scored after the halfway point in the game, Batherson, Canada’s fourth line winger, would complete the hat-trick after taking the puck off of Michael McLeod and skating in, beating Korenar blocker side to cap off one of the biggest periods of his career and to give Canada the 6-1 lead.

Canada wasn’t done. At 5:17 in the third, Boris Katchouk scored after taking Robert Thomas’ pass and making new Czech netminder Jakub Skarek look silly with a great shot, giving Canada the 7-1 lead. Zadina would score one more goal to give him seven in the tournament before the game was over, but Canada did enough damage early on to give Canada the victory to advance.

For the third time in four years, Canada will look for the gold medal at the World Juniors when they take on Sweden at 8:00 PM. Canada has won gold in three tournaments in the United States, but they did lose the last time it was in Buffalo back in 2011 to Russia. Still, with 16 goals in two games in the playoff round, Canada looks strong against Sweden, a team that has never beaten Canada in the final game.

The Czech Republic are guaranteed to have their best finish since 2005 when the team last won bronze. Since then, the Czechs have failed to medal, with their last gold medal dating back to 2000. They’ll face the United States at 4:00 PM, with the Americans looking to grab a medal on home ice after a championship in Montreal last year.

Sweden Holds on to Advance to World Junior Finals

By Steven Ellis –

Sweden will play in the 2018 World Junior finals after a strong 4-2 victory over the United States on Thursday.

The first half of the contest was mostly defensive, with the teams combining for just 19 shots in 30 minutes. Joseph Woll was the star of the battle, however, making a couple huge saves, including a right foot save on Isac Lundestrom two minutes into the second.

The Swedes had five previous power play goals this season, so the last they were going to do was let the Americans off scot-free. At 33:30, Vancouver Canucks prospect Elias Pettersson make it 1-0 after sniping a fast shot past Woll’s glove, using his extra room to his advantage.

Sweden was simply outplaying the United States with the puck, despite the Americans taking more shots. New York Rangers forward Lias Andersson, who sat out against Slovakia on Tuesday, scored after an incredible passing play between him and Timothy Liljegren at 46:17, beating Woll’s blocker to make it 2-0.

Woll was having a good game, but three goals on four shots prevented him from finishing in the crease. At 7:47 in the third, Oskar Steen unleashed a tremendous wrist shot, scoring shorthanded to make it 3-0. Then, 38 seconds later, Axel Jonsson Fjallby did a very similar move, using a defenceman as a screen before he sent a wrist shot over Woll’s glove to chase him from the net in favour of Jake Oettinger.

The Americans still had time to get something on net, and Kieffer Bellows got them on board. With 12:24 done in the game, Bellows finally found a way to beat Filip Gustavsson on the power play, making it 4-1.

With an empty net and just over three minutes to go, the American sscored again. Brady Tkachuk would get it after tipping it in with the extra man, forcing Sweden to play extra defensively. The goal did nothing to change the course of the game, however, resulting in Sweden taking the 4-2 victory and eliminating the Americans from gold contention.

With the victory, Sweden will play the winner of Canada and the Czech Republic tomorrow night at 8:00 PM at the KeyBank Center. For the Americans, the team is looking for just their second medal in six tries at home, while Sweden is looking to win their first tournament since 2012 and their first in the United States, having finished second in 1989 and 1996. They also bring a perfect record to the finals, giving them momentum after years of misery.

USA Stops Russia to Advance at World Juniors

By Steve Ellis –

The United States of America will compete for another medal at the World Junior Hockey Championships after beating Russia 4-2 to advance to the semifinals.

The Americans knew scoring first, especially with their D core, would put them on the right track. That’s exactly what they did at 2:18 when Brady Tkachuk set up Kieffer Bellows on the power play, with Bellows one-timing it past Vladislav Sukhachyov to make it 1-0 early.

A few minutes later, however, Russia tied it up shorthanded. Marsel Sholokhov would make it 1-1 after he cut to the backhand and fired a weak-angle shot under Joseph Woll’s blocker, giving Russia a bit of pep in their step.

At 14:34, the Americans struck again. This time, Kailer Yamamoto gave USA the 2-1 lead after he jumped over Sukhachyov’s pad, got shoved by Sholokhov and still found a way to slide the puck in the net, an impressive goal.

Neither team could find the back of the net in the second, a rather dull period. Buit at 43:39, everything changed. Andrei Altybarmakyan would score a highlight-reel goal when he went from his own zone before fighting off Adam Fox in front of the US net. He’d wait long enough to get Woll to bite before sending one into the empty cage, tying the game up and electrifying the Russian faithful at KeyBank.

With just over seven minutes to go, and the action heating up, the Americans took back their lead and never looked back. Once again, Bellows would find the back of the net, after he unloaded a blast of a shot after chasing down a chip-in by Dylan Samberg, giving the Americans a lead they’d never relinquish. Joey Anderson would score one more to pour salt in the wound, finishing off USA’s 4-2 victory.

The United States will take on Sweden in a major heavyweight battle, a 4:00 PM start at KeyBank on Thursday. Russia will leave the tournament without a point in an event the team seemed inconsistent in from the start. It was also the fourth time in five years that the Russians were eliminated by the host country, a tough stat to swallow

Swedes hold off Slovaks

By Lucas Aykroyd –

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.

“We tried to play our best, and I think we played our best,” said Bodak. “A little luck was missing for us.”

You couldn’t fault Slovakia’s effort in this do-or-die affair, but Sweden had the skill to execute a little better. After getting injured against Switzerland and missing the final group game against Russia, forward Jens Boqvist returned to the Swedish lineup for this crucial victory.

Both teams rang shots off the goal post in the early going, and the Slovaks showed defensive tenacity to keep their opponents on the outside, blocking plenty of chances despite being outshot 13-4 in the first period.

However, in the middle frame, Sweden picked up the pace, getting offensive contributions from throughout its lineup.

Just nine seconds in, Lundestrom barged over the blue line into the slot and wristed home his first goal of the tournament.

Zetterlund made it 2-0 Sweden at 6:55, splitting the Slovak defence and tucking a backhand between Durny’s legs to complete a dazzling solo rush.

“I skated the puck into the offensive zone, took the backhand and went five-hole,” said Zetterlund.

As the period wore on, the Swedes also took it to Slovakia physically. Defenceman Timothy Liljegren crunched Viliam Cacho next to the Slovak bench, and Boqvist knocked Bodak down with an open-ice hit.

Top Swedish defenceman Rasmus Dahlin was penalized for delay of game for flipping the puck over the glass in his end, and at 17:41, Bodak got some revenge. The Slovak captain stepped in off the right point and beat a screened Gustavsson on the short side to make it 2-1. The underdogs were still in it.

“I was trying to pass first far side, but I couldn’t because there was a player from Sweden,” said Bodak. “Then I saw our two players in front of the net and one Swedish guy. I tried to put it in the net and it went in, so I was really happy.”

To kick off the third period, Slovakia had a glorious opportunity with a two-man advantage for 1:44. Marian Studenic put one off the post from the slot, but the Slovaks failed to bulge the twine.

“We tried to pass and shoot as much as possible there,” Bodak said. “I got a shot and I broke my stick, so that was also unlucky. It was good play from us, but we just didn’t score a goal.”

“It was really big,” said Nylander. “Great job by our penalty-killers to not let them score. We just kept going from there.”

Lundestrom gave Sweden some breathing room with his second goal at 10:17. Soderlund found him all alone to Durny’s left, and the Lulea forward just had to slide the puck into the gaping net.

But Slovakia wasn’t done. Just 1:41 later, Bodak charged to the net to finish off a great line rush, putting the puck over Gustavsson’s glove to make it 3-2.

Durny foiled Lundestrom’s hat trick attempt from close range with under four minutes remaining. The Slovaks kept on coming hard, but the Swedes pressed right back and Slovakia couldn’t get its goalie out for the extra attacker. It was a gallant but doomed effort.

“In the game against Canada, we didn’t play well,” Bodak reflected. “We were a little bit scared or something. But otherwise, our game was pretty good. I’m happy and proud of my team. I think we should get to play in the semi-finals, but it’s hockey, you know?”

Slovakia’s three best players of the tournament were honored afterwards: Roman Durny, Martin Bodak, and Samuel Bucek.

Canada Squishes Switzerland for Quarterfinal Victory

By Steve Ellis –

Canada has advanced to the semifinals at the World Juniors following a convincing 8-2 win over Switzerland on Tuesday.

It only took 48 seconds for Canada to score on their first shot. Anaheim Ducks prospect Maxime Comtois waited for Brett Howden to get into a proper position to take a pass. Howden was able to unleash a one-timer past Philip Wuthrich, putting Canada up 1-0 early.

Before the period was half over, Canada found themselves leading 2-0. Cale Makar, Canada’s only blueliner with a goal in the tournament despite being their seventh defenceman, stepped up in a big way with his third goal of the tournament, beating Wuthrich high glove to double up Canada’s advantage.

Wuthrich made a couple of big saves early, but Canada was able to take the 3-0 lead with 7:54 to play in the first. Drake Batherson would get the rebound on the play, putting Canada up by three heading into the first break.

The Swiss would get one in the second period, giving them a bit of hope. Early in the period, Dario Rohrbach tipped a shot from the point, with the puck hitting Dante Fabbro’s skate before it landed in the net.

But that wouldn’t spark anything out of the Swiss, who trailed 6-1 after 40 minutes of play. Batherson would score his second and his stick would be in Jordan Kyrou’s possession for his goal, only to have Conor Timmins finish off the explosive second period for Canada.

Halfway through the period, the Swiss scored shorthanded. Axel Simic broke free from a scramble at the blueline and ripped a shot past Carter Hart blocker side, making it 6-2. Comtois and Dillion Dube would score before the game was over, however, giving Canada the 8-2 victory in the second quarterfinal game of the tournament.

Canada will meet up with the Czech Republic at 8:00PM on Thursday, taking on a team that hasn’t made it past the quarterfinals since 2005.

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