Category: World Junior Championships (page 1 of 10)

Opportunistic Russians make the most of their chances in Game 5 win

By chlcanadarussia.ca

Sherbrooke, QC – For the first time in the 2018 CIBC Canada Russia Series, Russia is in control.

Four QMJHL additions and a 33-save performance from Pyotr Kochetkov powered Russia to a 5-1 win in Sherbrooke, giving them their first series lead to this point.

San Jose Sharks prospect Ivan Chekhovich (Baie-Comeau Drakkar) earned Player of the Game honours for Russia with a goal and an assist while Pavel Koltygin (Drummondville Voltigeurs) and Alexander Khovanov (Moncton Wildcats) both had a pair of assists. Calgary Flames pick Dmitry Zavgorodniy (Rimouski Oceanic) rounded out Russia’s QMJHL quartet with a goal in the win as the opportunistic Russians struck for five goals on just 17 shots.

“The effort was there, but obviously it’s not the result that we wanted,” said Team QMJHL head coach Jim Hulton post-game. “I thought we had trouble getting some momentum. We gave up the early goal. I thought we started out and had some good legs and then we were chasing the game a little bit at 1-1. The turning point was that third goal. If we get out of the second period at 2-1 I think our legs and our energy are there but unfortunately they capitalized.

“They didn’t have a lot of chances but they’re a good team and they capitalized on the ones that they had.”

The line of Koltygin alongside Ivan Muranov and Nikita Shashkov worked wonders early, opening the scoring with Shashkov’s first of the event 3:03 into action.

After Team QMJHL captain Pierre-Olivier Joseph (Charlottetown Islanders) drew the score even on a wrister from the point, Russia re-established the lead with four minutes left in the frame as Muranov displayed some quick hands from in tight to beat Matthew Welsh (Charlottetown Islanders) to the backhand.

Team QMJHL outshot Russia 13-3 in the middle stanza, but solid netminding from Kochetkov paired with a late goal from Zavgorodniy from Khovanov and Chekhovich wiped out any momentum the QMJHL had gained.

Kirill Slepets and Chekovich scored within a minute of each other just beyond the midway point of the third to put Russia up 5-1 and that’s the way things would stay as Russia climbed into a 9-6 series lead in points headed into Thursday’s series finale in Drummondville.

Kochetkov becomes the third Russian goaltender in event history to earn three wins in a series as Russia has now outscored the CHL 14-7, holding the three leagues to a collective 0-for-16 mark on the power play.

The five goals are the most Russia has scored against the QMJHL in the event since 2012.

“They delivered exactly as advertised,” said Hulton of the Russian performance. “The one thing we talked a lot about is how active their defence are in defending. They do a really good job challenging one-on-one immediately and you have to play a chip-and-support game. I think we got caught a little bit by surprise in that our guys just aren’t used to seeing that.”

For the second straight year, Game 6 will decide the series.

Kochetkov perfect as Russia blanks Team OHL in Oshawa

By chlcanadarussia.ca

Pyotr Kochetkov stopped all 23 shots he faced and Russia had goals from four different players, blanking the OHL for just the second time in event history in a 4-0 victory at the Tribute Communities Centre in Oshawa.

Alexander Romanov, Pavel Shen, Alexander Yaremchuk and Kirill Slepets provided Russian goals as they outshot the OHL 28-23, breaking a stretch of 14 straight games being outdone on the shot clock that spans back to 2011.

“It was a completely different game from start to finish,” said Team OHL assistant captain Barrett Hayton (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds), contrasting Monday’s outcome to the Game 3 win in Sarnia. “They played us tight and kudos to them, they played a good game. We weren’t able to get enough pucks to the net, get quality scoring chances and we weren’t sharp.”

The series moves east to the QMJHL tied 6-6 in points for Games 5 and 6 with Russia carrying the momentum.

“The Russians have practiced and played four games now and they’re crisp and organized so it was tough tonight,” said Canadian National Junior Team head coach Tim Hunter (Moose Jaw Warriors) who has seen all four CIBC Canada Russia Series games to this point. “We didn’t see a lot of chemistry from the OHL guys tonight who just played a weekend of action and didn’t really get a chance to practice together this morning and that showed tonight.”

A second round pick of the Montreal Canadiens this past summer, Romanov put Russia on the board inside the opening minute of action, entering the OHL zone to send a wrister on goal that found it’s way past Hunter Jones (Peterborough Petes).

Jones would come through late in the frame however, turning away Russia’s Kirill Slepets on a breakaway chance in alone.

The Russians extended their lead before the horn as captain and Boston Bruins prospect Pavel Shen cleaned up garbage in the slot with 52 seconds remaining. Defenceman Saveliy Olshansky sent a puck goalward that caromed off an OHL body, inspiring a rebound off the pad of Jones as Shen was on the doorstep for his third of the series.

A back-and-forth second period saw the OHL send 10 shots the way of Kochetkov who was up to the task to keep the shutout intact. Jones also provided key saves to keep the OHL within two, kicking out the pad on Shen from close quarters inside the final minute of play.

After the OHL seemed to gain some traction in the second, Russia wrestled back control of the game in the third as Alexander Yaremchuk struck on the power play 7:06 into the period.

Kirill Slepets would finish-off a second effort after Jones turned away Artyom Galimov with a quality save, putting the Russians in full control up 4-0 with seven minutes left to play.

Russia’s Stepan Starkov stretched his point streak to four games with a pair of assists while Olshansky and Galimov joined him with a pair of helpers each.

Kochetkov’s shutout is Russia’s first against the OHL since 2014 when Igor Shestyorkin stopped all 35 shots he faced in a 4-0 victory in Peterborough.

The OHL wraps up its 2018 leg of the series with an all-time record of 25-6-1 as Jones made 24 saves in the loss.

For the second straight year the CIBC Canada Russia Series heads to the QMJHL tied at six points apiece.

Team OHL skates to 3-1 victory in Sarnia

By chlcanadarussia.ca

Sarnia, ON – MacKenzie Entwistle (Hamilton Bulldogs) buried a penalty shot and Barrett Hayton (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds) scored a highlight reel goal to lead Team OHL to a 3-1 win over Russia in Sarnia.

The CHL takes a 6-3 series lead in points headed into the weekend as Isaac Ratcliffe (Guelph Storm) also scored and goaltender Michael DiPietro (Windsor Spitfires) stopped 18 of the 19 shots he faced.

“The big thing was our discipline,” said Hayton of Team OHL’s penalty-free performance. “We didn’t go shorthanded in the whole game and that was kind of our focus coming in. From start to finish we performed well and I think it was a great game.”

The OHL didn’t waste any time taking the lead as Ratcliffe scored on the team’s first shot of the game. Hayton won a puck battle along the boards, centering for an oncoming Ratcliffe who entered the zone with speed before reeling the puck in and snapping it past Russia’s Daniil Tarasov 4:55 into action.

Entwistle extended the OHL lead on a penalty shot with 1:55 left in the opening frame. After being hooked on a breakaway, the Chicago Blackhawks made good on his second attempt, snapping a quick release over the blocker of Tarasov. It’s the OHL’s second penalty shot goal in as many years after Taylor Raddysh converted in Hamilton.

Russia kept things interesting before the end of the period though as captain Pavel Shen scored his second of the series alone in the slot with 43 seconds left on the clock. Stepan Starkov centred for Shen who had time and space to lift a quick release over the shoulder of DiPietro, sending things to the first intermission with the OHL leading 2-1.

After just seven combined shots in the first the two teams opened things up in the second as goaltenders DiPietro and Tarasov were tested more regularly.

Hayton continued his strong showing, scoring the goal of the series to this point when he walked over the blue line, turning a Russian defender inside out before patiently tucking a move to the backhand past Tarasov midway through the period.

“I got fortunate with a lucky bounce in the neutral zone and I was coming through the middle with some speed,” Hayton said of his highlight reel goal. “I saw a hole and I was able to freeze the defender and make a little move on the goalie.”

A pair of big third period saves from DiPietro maintained the OHL lead as they’d lock down the 3-1 decision for a fourth straight victory in Sarnia dating back to 2003.

“I think our defence did a great job killing plays at the blue line tonight, making sure I could see pucks from the perimeter,” said OHL goaltender Michael DiPietro. “It made my life easier and I’m really happy with the win.”

Team OHL outshot Russia 23-19, doing so for the 14th straight game dating back to November 14th, 2011.

The OHL improves to 25-5-1 in the CIBC Canada Russia Series, winning its first Game 3 matchup since 2015.

World Juniors: Spain Junior Hockey News

By Kerry Jackson – JunioHockey.com

Spain’s junior hockey program had a year that most would expect from Canada. Or Sweden. Maybe even the U.S. In 2018, two of Spain’s national junior teams won gold. The U18 boys took first in Group B of Division II in the International Ice Hockey Federation’s World Junior Championships in Croatia, while a few months earlier the U20 squad won WJC gold in Group B of Division II in Serbia. Both earned promotions to Group A for the 2019 WJCs.

“For us, this feels like a miracle,” Frank Gonzalez, president of the Spanish Ice Sports Federation, told Inside the Games last spring. “We’re here in the southernmost point of Europe, and we’re showing that we can compete against countries with a real tradition and culture in ice hockey.

“We’re still a long way from competing at the elite level,” he added, “but the work of all our teams deserves a lot of credit.”

Two Spaniards were among the top four scorers in the U20 tournament, Joan Cerda and Dorian Donath Sanchez. Cerda finished with five goals and five assists in five games, good for third overall and two points off the lead. Donath also had five goals and assisted on three, tying him for fourth among all scorers, and was a +6 in five games.

Cerda is a 2000 forward who has been playing in France, never in North America. He had a big year in 2017-18, scoring 15 goals and 10 assists in only 20 games for Angers in France’s U20 league, earning him second in the points race. He is currently on loan to a pro team in France’s Division 2.

Sanchez is a 1999 forward born in Sweden. He has played both youth and junior hockey in Sweden, never in North America. He’s been strong in the J20 Elit League this year with eight goals and five assists in a dozen games.

Keep an eye on the development of Oscar Rubio, a 2000 who scored five points in each of the last two U20 WJC and eight points (four goals, four assists) in the 2017 U18 WJC. He could be a force on the 2019 squad.

Defenseman Alexander Torres-Gil (three goals, one assist in the 2018 U20 WJC) is one of the few Spanish players who has migrated to North America for hockey. The 1999 has played midget and junior hockey in Canada, including two years in the Central Canada Hockey League 2, where he’s totaled eight goals and 14 assists over 51 games.

The best goalie in the 2018 U20 WJC was Spain’s Raul Barbo, who posted a 1.57 goals-against average with a .901 save percentage and a shutout. Those were actually better numbers than those he generated in the U18 tournament. The 2000 also appeared in the men’s 2018 Division II Group B World Championship April. Barbo got into two games and posted a 1.000 save percentage for the gold-medal winning home-team Spaniards. After winning three world golds, he is now playing the 2018-19 season at the Ontario Hockey Academy where he has a 2.62 GAA in three games.

The U20 Division IIA will be held in Estonia in January. It will be Spain’s first tournament in Group A since 2012.

World Juniors: Great Britain Junior Hockey News

By Kerry Jackson – JuniorHockey.com

Great Britain has a rich hockey history that’s relatively unknown in North America. At least one historian says the game was actually born there, specifically in Scotland, though most Canadians would quickly dispute that claim. Nevertheless, Great Britain, a founding member of the International Ice Hockey Federation in 1908, produces quality players even though there are only 68 indoor rinks in England, Scotland, and Wales combined.

Any discussion of junior hockey in Britain starts with Liam Kirk, first British-born and British-developed player to be drafted in the NHL. He was chosen in June by the Arizona Coyotes in the seventh round. The 2000 forward is playing this year for the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League, where he has a pair of goals and a pair of assists in 16 games.

In the 2018 U20 IIHF World Junior Championship, Kirk was Great Britain’s scoring leader in Division IIA. He finished with seven goals and seven assists in five games. Second in scoring was forward Samuel Duggan. The 1998 forward found the back of the net four times and assisted on five goals in five games. He has played five games this season with the Jamestown Rebels of the North American Hockey League.

When Duggan was in the U.S. earlier in 2018 to skate with the Lincoln Stars of the United States Hockey League, he described for the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star “the main difference” between developing in Great Britain and the U.S.

“There is such a limit on facilities and time on the ice in England for the junior players,” he said. “From my personal experience, I was lucky to be on the ice three times a week for an hour at a go, and that was a good week for me.”

Matching Duggan in points was Cole Shudra, who also had four goals and five assists but racked up 22 penalty minutes, as well. The 1998 forward has not played in North America.
The other 2000-born player on this veteran-laden team is forward Jordan Buesa. In the 2018 U20 WJC, he had two goals and four assists. He also played in the U18 tournament, where he scored three times and assisted one assist. Buesa has played one season in North America. That was in 2015-16, when he skated in the Greater Toronto Minor Midget Hockey League and had four goals and six assists for the Toronto Titans AAA club.

Great Britain’s top scoring defensemen — Edward Knaggs, Thomas Stubley, Stuart Kerry — are all 1998s and will be making their last appearance in the IIHF WJC if they are on the 2019 squad.

Britain’s goalie situation is rather interesting. Both netminders had respectable goals-against averages but rather low save percentages in the 2018 WJC. Jordan Lawday, a 1998 with has some North American experience, recorded a 2.99 GAA but an .899 save percentage in four games. In two games, 1999-born Ethan James had a 2.55 GAA with an .889 save percentage. In 10 games with the Essa Stallions in the Canadian Premier Hockey League, James is posting a 2.82 GAA and an .898 save percentage.

James is only 5’6”, below average in height for today’s goaltenders, but Stallions head coach Sylvain Cloutier says he has terrific reflexes, and is quick. James himself believes size shouldn’t matter.

“If the goalie that is 5-foot-7 can stop the puck just as well as a 6-foot-plus goalie, why shouldn’t they get the chance of going professional?” he told The Color of Hockey earlier this year.

In the two previous season, James has recorded a 2.50 GAA and .933 save percentage, and a 1.37 GAA and .949 save percentage. The latter were the best numbers in the CPJHL in 2017-18, the same year he was a first-team all-star and led his team to the league title with a 2.16 GAA and 6-1 record in the playoffs.

In the 2019 IIHF WJC, Great Britain will play for the second straight year in Division IIA after being relegated from Division IB due to its performance in the 2017 tournament. Great Britain was the home team for the 2018 WJC, which was played in Dumfries, Scotland, finishing in a tie for second with South Korea. The 2019 tournament will be played in January in Estonia, and Britain probably has an eye on winning the gold and being promoted back to Division IB.

World Juniors: Belgium Junior Hockey News

By Kerry Jackson – JuniorHockey.com

Belgium last won an International Ice Hockey Federation U20 World Junior Championship in 2014, when it took Gold in Division III and was rewarded with a promotion to Division IIB. Since then, there have been four straight fourth-place finishes. If Belgium is to medal in the 2019 WJC, the team will have to improve its defense while playing up to the high-octane standard it set in 2018 on offense.

Scoring in the 2018 WJC was relatively well spread out for the Belgians. Eight players recorded four or more points in five games, while three players had three or more goals, and three had two goals each. But the team was a -6 for the tournament, allowing 28 goals to the 22 goals it scored.

No one can blame Rino Dhondt, though. The 1998 forward was not only the team’s leading scorer with four goals and four assists, he also led the team with a +7. He was tied for fourth in overall tournament scoring and his plus-minus was the second best among the top-10 scorers.

Belgian-born Métis Roelens, who has not skated for the national team, could be the difference-maker if he plays, as some are expecting, for his country in the 2019 WJC. The 2000 center, who stands 6’4″ and weighs more than 200 pounds, and moved to North America with his family in 2012, is in his second year of elite junior hockey in Canada, skating for the Gatineau Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. In 13 games this season, he’s scored two goals and set up five, and is nearly halfway to his total point production of last year of 15.

Forward Oliver De Croock had a strong 2018 tournament offensively, with three goals and four assists for seven points, second best on the team and good for a tie for sixth overall. But he finished with a -3. De Croock is playing in North America for the first time this season, skating with the Minnesota Blue Ox in the Premier Division of the United States Premier Hockey League. The 1999 forward has put up strong numbers so far, scoring three goals and assisting on five in 10 games.

De Croock has also created a web store, hockeyloverstore.com, in which he says he offers “good quality products with good prices.” He wants everyone to have “the chance to really find a good store” for buying hockey gear, an opportunity he didn’t have when he was younger.

Defenseman Lowie Cuylaerts, a 2000 who had five assists but no goals, and was a -1 (but a +10 in the U18 WJC), led Belgian blueliners in offense. Ben Coolen, a 2000 who plays both forward and defense, had three goals and three assists (and 24 penalty minutes), and finished even for the tournament. In the U18 tournament, Coolen had five goals and five assists, and was a +8 in five games with 16 penalty minutes. Neither Cuylaerts nor Coolen has played in North America.

The Belgians might want to rely more in the 2019 WJC on 1999 goalie Morgan Schaller. He appeared in only one game in the 2018 tournament and recorded a stellar 1.67 goals-against average and .929 save percentage for a team that gave up nearly six goals a game.

Belgium will open the 2019 WJC against Israel on Jan. 15 in Zagreb, Croatia.

World Juniors: Israel Junior Hockey News

By Kerry Jackson – JuniorHockey,com

After winning the Gold in Division III of the 2018 International Ice Hockey Federation’s U20 World Championship with a 5-0 record, Israel will play this year in Division IIB. IIHF reporter Ivan Tchechankov called Israel’s Gold “a historic day for Israeli ice hockey.”

No doubt the U20 national team would like to make history again in 2019. Head coach Derek Eisler will surely rely heavily on the core of his 2018 squad, which was anchored by top scorer, captain Mark Revniaga, a 1998 who’s eligible for the upcoming tournament. In the 2018 WJC played in Bulgaria, he scored 11 goals — nearly half of the team’s entire 25-goal output — and assisted on four in five games. His 15 points led all WJC scorers, so it was no surprise the center/right wing was selected as the top forward in the tournament.

Revniaga is now in his third season playing in North America. He is currently with the Northern Colorado Eagles of the Western States Hockey League, where he has three goals and a pair of assists in five games. He’s also played with the Point Mallard Ducks of the North American 3 Hockey League, and the New York Apple Core of the Eastern Hockey League.

Finishing eighth in scoring, and second on his team, at the 2018 WJC was Israeli defenseman Tomer Aharonovich, a 1999 with two years of U20 eligibility remaining. He recorded three goals and seven assists, and was named the tournament’s top defenseman. Aharonovich played 36 games in the EHL last year with the Philadelphia Revolution and tallied five goals and 17 assists.

The next three most prolific scorers were either full-time or part-time defenseman. Itay Mostovoy, a full-time blueliner, had two goals and five assists; 1999 winger-defenseman Marom Avraham, recorded a pair of goals and four assists; and Dan Hoffman, a defenseman-left winger born in 1999, had for assists in the tournament. Mostovoy, it should be noted, is only a 2001 who will continue to develop.

Center Tom Ignatovich, who finished sixth on the team with two goals and an assist, plays a tough game. He racked up 31 penalty minutes in five games in the 2018 WJC. This year he’s playing with Revniaga in Northern Colorado and is hoping to find a NCAA team after wrapping up his junior eligibility at the end of this season.

It’s no surprise that Israel was solid in goal at the 2018 WJC. Both netminders were in the top three in save percentage and both had outstanding goals-against averages.

“Our two goalies were really, really good. Without those two guys we wouldn’t be here,” Eisler told Tchechankov after Israel had wrapped up the 2018 title.

“Without good quality goaltending you can’t win gold medals. I have the luxury to alternate good goalies every game.”

Raz Werner, a 1999, played in three games and put up a 2.00 GAA, a .934 save percentage, and one shutout. Yonatan Reisinger, played in two games, allowing only five goals for a 2.50 GAA. The 2000-born goalie, who is in the net this year for the Hartford Jr. Wolfpack in the United States Premier Hockey League’s Premier Division, recorded a .904 save percentage. Werner is playing his junior hockey this season in Sweden in the J20 Elit division.

The 2018 gold these players helped win might be the spark Israel hockey needed to move the sport to the next level.

“I think with the success this U20 team just had here, the kids back home are watching it, everybody in Israel is seeing this,” Eisler said in the interview with Tchechankov. “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 2019 Division III WJC will be played in Croatia in January. Israel will be in a field of six that includes Mexico, the Netherlands, Croatia, Belgium, and Serbia.

World Juniors: Mexico Junior Hockey News

By: Kerry Jackson – JuniorHockey.com

In 1998, Mexico beat Turkey 28-0. Eleven years later, Hungary beat Mexico by the same score. No, they weren’t playing football. These were scores from International Ice Hockey Federation U20 World Junior Championship tournaments.

Mexico, which experienced both extremes in those four-touchdown shutouts, has been competing in international junior play since 1996, in what was then Pool D of the IIHF world junior championship. The team went 0-3 that year, scoring only five goals while allowing 40.

By 2005, though, Mexico won the Division III title, and then won it again in 2011.

The Mexican national team, will play in the 2019 tournament in Zagreb, Croatia, in Group B of Division II this January. The squad is likely to be led by Jorge Perez, a big 1998 center who was the top scorer for Mexico in the 2018 tournament, tallying three goals and three assists in five games. Perez has played in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League (where he was the first Latin American player to reach Junior A in Canada), and in the Heritage Hockey League in Canada in Alberta; and for The Hill Academy in Ontario, and the Banff Hockey Academy in Alberta.

Maybe Mexico’s most interesting player is Luis Cruz, a 2000 winger who is still developing. He tied for second in team scoring in the 2018 WJC with one goal and two assists. But he truly shined in the 2018 U18 Division IIIA WJC, tying for the tournament scoring lead with 10 points on eight goals (by far the highest total in the tournament) and two assists.

Forward Carlos Ramirez, a 1999, also finished with three points in the 2018 U20 tournament, as did Luis Gil, a 1998 who plays both defense and wing. Gil played one game last year for Purdue’s American Collegiate Hockey Association Division III team, recording one assist.

Defenseman Gonzalo Hagerman, a 1999 playing for Lake Forest Academy in Illinois, paced Mexico’s blueliners with a goal and an assist in the 2018 U20 WJC. As captain of the U18 team, he scored one goal and set up six. He was the second-leading scorer on the team, behind only Cruz, and was ninth in overall scoring for the U18 tournament.

Also attending Lake Forest Academy is 2001 defenseman Jorge Ortiz. He had one assist last year’s U20 WJC and one goal and one assist in the U18 WJC. Only Hagerman put up better offensive numbers from the blueline for the Mexican U18 tournament team than Ortiz.

Mexico’s best option in goal could be Santiago Gomez, a 2000 who had a 3.00 goals-against average and .921 save percentage in one game in the U20 tournament, and a 2.14 GAA and .889 save percentage in the U18 WJC.

Other Mexican junior players to keep an eye on include Brandon Linares, a 2000 forward, who had two goals and four assists, and was a plus-2 in five 2018 U18 WJC games, and is now at the Ontario Hockey Academy; and 2001 goalie Marcello de Antunano, who played two games in that same tournament and came away with sterling numbers — a 1.32 GAA and .923 save percentage.

World Juniors: New Zealand Junior Hockey News

By: Kerry Jackson – JuniorHockey.com

We recently featured the national junior team from a country where many would think hockey doesn’t even exist, only to follow up with a post on another nation that seems even less likely to support hockey.

Yet New Zealand has had a national U20 junior team competing in the International Ice Hockey Federation’s world championship play since 2004, and has twice been promoted to the next level.

Few New Zealand players have made it to the U.S. and Canada to play junior hockey, though. The short list of current players in North America includes 1998 forward Alex Egan, and defensemen John Lilly (2000) and George Hopkins (1998), all of whom are playing this season for the Bradford Bulls of the Greater Metropolitan Hockey League; and Max Hurring, a 2001 defensmen with the St. George Ravens of the GMHL.

Every player from last year’s IIHF U20 World Junior Championship team is eligible to return for this year’s tournament in Reykjavik, Iceland, in January, including top scorers Luke Hill, a 1999 center and team MVP who scored three goals and recorded two assists in five games, and 2001 forward Ryan Martinoli, who had a pair of goals and three assists in five games (and has already put up strong numbers — three goals, two assists — in five Swiss Elite Junior B games this season).

Egan finished the tournament with a pair of goals in five games while forward Felipe Aguirre, a 1998, had a goal and assist in five games. The defenseman with the best numbers was 1998-born William Morley-Hall. In five contests, he had one assist and was a only a minus-1 on a team that had several players whose plus-minus stats were in negative double figures.

New Zealand finished last out of six teams last year, putting up no wins and losing all five games in regulation. It was outscored 40-11, so goalies, defensemen, and forwards are all going to have to be more committed to playing defense in the upcoming tournament. Both the penalty kill and the power play, each of which was at the bottom in last year’s tournament, will also need tremendous improvement.

The good news, though, is last year’s team was rather young, with one 2002 (goalie Finley Forbes); three 2001s (Hurring, Martinoli, and forward Max Vesper); one 2000 (forward Matheson Graham); and seven 1999s (Hill, forwards Liam Kinraid, Mak Rawiri, and Zac Vince, defensemen Ryan Fraser and Moses Bygate-Smith, and goalie Taylor Goodall). If most of that team returns for the 2019 tournament (the roster won’t be announced for probably a month), another year of experience should allow them to be more competitive under head coach Justin Daigle.

World Juniors: France Junior Hockey News

By Kerry Jackson – JuniorHockey.com

France has played only once in the Top Division of the International Ice Hockey Federation’s U20 World Junior Championships. That was in 2002, a generation ago in hockey terms. Yet several French players have made it to the NHL, including forwards Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, and Antoine Roussel, and goalie Cristobal Huet.

Is France, promoted to Division IA after winning Division IB in 2016, ready for a breakthrough in international play and an upsurge in NHL presence? Maybe not quite yet. The French finished last year with one regulation win, two regulation losses, one overtime win, and one overtime loss, good for a middle-of-the-pack fourth place finish. So it’s going to take a little more time.

France’s big gun at this year’s Division IA U20 World Junior Championships in Füssen, Germany, should be Louis Boudon. The 1998-born center, who plays for the Northeast Generals of the North American Hockey League, recorded two goals and two assists in five games in last year’s world tournament. In seven international games during 2017-18, Bourdon scored twice and set up two others.

Generals General Manager Bryan Erikson says Boudon has been “one of the top players in every league he has played in.”

“He’s really on a another level,” says Erikson, “as far as how he sees the ice and is able to create scoring chances for himself and his teammates.”

Winger Louis Petit, also born in 1998, scored no goals in last year’s WJC, but he was tied for second on the team in points with four assists. Also with four points, all assists, was Alexandre Texier, a 1999-born center who was drafted in 2017 by the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The French were strong in goal last year. Julian Junca recorded a 2.77 goals-against average and a .977 save percentage in three games in last year’s tournament. The 20-year-old appeared in five games total in international play in 2017-18, posting a 3.08 GAA.

Gaetan Richard, a 1999-born goalie with two years of junior eligibility remaining, also saw three appearances in last year’s WJC, where he had a 3.27 GAA and a .865 save percentage. In eight games of international play, his GAA was a stingy 2.45.

Defensemen Vincent Melin (no goals, three assists, even in the WJC; one goal, four assists in 10 international games; born 1998), and Enzo Guebey (1, 1, -2 in the WJC; 2, 4 in 10 international games; born 1999) are likely to be counted on the most at the blueline in the 2019 WJC.

If the French are to make another run at a promotion, they will have to both protect their net better and put a few more goals in at the other end of the ice. In last year’s WJC, France’s goal differential was a -4 on 11 goals for and 15 against. That differential will likely have to be at least in the low double digits on the plus side for this team to move up.

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