Category: World Junior Championships (page 1 of 9)

World Juniors: France Junior Hockey News

By Kerry Jackson –

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.

World Juniors: Sweden Junior Hockey News

By: Kerry Jackson –

The Swedish national team narrowly missed in the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship, falling 3-1 in the Gold Medal game to Canada in January. The Swedes outshot the Canadians 36-28 but couldn’t turn the shot advantage into a win, though they did take the game to the wire, as Canada scored both the game winner and an empty-net goal with less than two minutes left in the third period.

Going into this year’s World Championship, to be held in British Columbia, Sweden has to be considered a favorite for the gold. But that’s expected. The Swedish national junior team has not finished lower than fourth in the U20 IIHF World Championship tournament since 2006 — when it was fifth.

The 2019 rosters haven’t been set yet, but the recent World Junior Showcase in Kamloops, Canada, gives us some idea of which players are expected to be Sweden’s core contributors.

“Top offensive defenceman Adam Boqvist, entering his first World Juniors, could see a heavy workload,” Lucas Aykroyd recently wrote in a tournament preview on the IIHF’s 2019 World Junior Championship website.

Forwards Jonatan Berggren and Isac Lundestrom “are capable of generating offense,” said Aykroyd, but head coach Tomas Monten might also find in “under-the-radar prospect” Marcus Sylvegard, an “undrafted, hard-hitting 19-year-old,” a key tournament player.

“He works hard and I think he had a really good run at home before the World Juniors last year,” Monten told Aykroyd.

Undrafted forwards Rickard Hugg (three goals, one assist in five games) and Marcus Sylvegard (one goal, two assists in five games) performed well for team Sweden in the showcase, and could be vital cogs in Sweden’s 2019 tournament team. Forward Lucas Elvenes also had a solid showcase, scoring once and setting up three in five games. Though he had only one goal in four games, Lundestrom was “arguably was Sweden’s best player,” according to Adam Kimelman of

Goalies Olle Eriksson Ek and Samuel Ersson were tremendous at the showcase and they could make things hard on opponents if they’re part of the 2019 team.

Meanwhile, 17-year-old defensemen Philip Broberg and Tobias Bjornfot might get invitations from Monten to attend camp for the World Championship, says Edmonton Journal hockey writer Jim Matheson.

“Broberg is built along the lines of Oilers’ first-rounder Evan Bouchard, having more offensive chops, while Bjornfot is a quieter, Jonas Brodin-type,” according to Matheson.

The veteran journalist also likes “six-foot-six winger Elmer Soderblom, who goes against the grain these days with scouts looking more at five-foot-six danglers rather than gangly kids.”

For Sweden, each year is just a reload. The pipeline of junior players is rich. They just keep coming.

World Juniors: Japan Junior Hockey News

By Kerry Jackson –

Japan will compete in Group B of Division I in the International Ice Hockey Federation’s U20 World Junior Championships in Tychy, Poland, this December after being promoted from Division II. It will compete in the same division with Italy, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, and Japan.

Last year’s team earned the promotion with four regulation wins and one overtime win in five games. It was a Division II powerhouse, scoring 23 goals and allowing only seven, and finishing first in the IIA group. The squad was led by 1999-born forward Tohi Kobayashi, who scored four goals and added six assists in those five games. He was tied for second in overall scoring for the tournament, and was a plus-7, a mark no other top-10 scorer was able to reach.

Kobayashi was also a force in the tournament the year before, scoring once and setting up four in five games.

The Japanese team was particularly strong in goal. Ryota Koda, a 1998, and Eiki Sato, a 2001, were the core of the team.

Koda led all goalies with a 0.99 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage in a pair of appearances. Sato played in five games, recording a 1.66 GAA and a .917 save percentage, good for second among all goalies. Sato put down a 1.80 GAA and .937 save percentage in five games in the U18 Division IB play last season. He was named Best Goaltender for 2017-18 in the U18 WJC.

Daiki Ayoama won the top defenseman award in the 2018 Division IIA world tournament. The 1999-born blueliner scored four times and had one assist in five games. In five games in previous U18 play he scored once and assisted on four goals.

Other junior players from Japan who are worthy of mention include 1998 forwards Hiroya Tokuda (two goals, four assists in the 2018 Division IIA World Junior Championship), and Jin Sawade (one goal, five assists), as well as 1999 defenseman Daika Miura (two goals, three assists).

The Division IB tournament starts Dec. 8 and runs through Dec. 14.

World Juniors: Slovakia Junior Hockey News

By Kerry Jackson –

Heading into the 2018 World Junior Championship, the Slovakian team was thought to have “the potential to emerge as a surprise contender,” according to SB Nation, and had “as good a chance as any of the lower clubs to sneak into the medal round.”

The Slovakian s never got past the quarterfinals, where they fell 3-2 to eventual silver medalist Sweden.

Roman Durny was solid in goal in that game, giving only three on 39 shots. The Anaheim Duck draft pick (147th, 2018) is a ‘98 and eligible for the 2019 tournament coming to Vancouver and Victoria, B.C. Durny was also in goal on Dec. 28, when the Slovaks upset Team USA 3-2. He had to make 43 saves for that win.

Two other goalies likely to be on the 2019 team are Dávid Hrenák and Jakub Kostelny, both of whom were on the 2018 squad. Hrenák is property of the Los Angeles Kings and will play his second season at St. Cloud State year. Kostelny is an undrafted 1999-born player. At 5’9”, 154 pounds, Kostelny doesn’t fit the mold of a modern goalie, but he did turn in a stellar performance in the 2017 U18 World Junior Championship, where he had a goals-against average of 0.58 and save percentage of .974 in a pair of games.

Defenseman Marek Korencik, also a ‘99, is an interesting undrafted prospect who will play another season in Sweden’s junior system. The big blueliner — he’s 6’3” and weighs more than 200 pounds — played five games in last year’s WJC, but recorded no goals or assists. He’s never put up big points. Will this be his breakout year?

Forward Filip Krivosik, who scored two of the Slovakian s three goals in their win over Team USA, is another fascinating prospect. He is also a ‘99, big (6’4”, 207), and undrafted. While he’s known for physical edge and corner worker, one preview noted before the 2018 WJC that he sometimes is able to make plays with the puck.

Milos Kelemen is another big forward who might impress at the 2019 WJC. He’s an undrafted ‘99 who could crack the top six in British Columbia. If he does, he’ll be expected to contribute more than just the single point — an assist — he put up last year.

Perhaps Slovakia’s most exciting player is 1999-born Milos Roman. The forward is only 5’11” and less than 190 pounds, but he is an elite playmaker. He had two goals and no assists in the last WJC, but another year of development with the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League, and a bit of a “home-ice” inspiration, should lead to some far better numbers.

Slovakia opens the tournament on the day after Christmas against the U.S. The Slovakians will be wanting to show it was no fluke. They’ll have to get A+ efforts from everyone to do that.

Denmark Canadian Junior Hockey News

By: Kerry Jackson –

It took a 3-2 shootout win over Belarus in the 2018 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship relegation round, but it was enough to return Denmark to the elite division for 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship. The Danes scored only 10 goals in six games in the 2018 tournament, so they’ll have to find some offense if they are to compete in the next one. Relying only on 1998-born Joachim Blichfeld (three goals, three assists, and 1999-born Jonas Rondbjerg (two goals, five assists) won’t be enough.

Increased offensive production should be expected from forwards Andreas Grundtvig (born 1999, one goal and one assist at the 2018 World Championship), Nikolaj Krag Christensen (1999, one goal, one assist), and Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup (1998, one goal, one assist, and the shootout winner against Belarus), if they are part of the 2019 team.

It’s the same for defensemen Jakob Jessen (1998, no goals, one assist), Jeppe Mogensen (1999, no goals, one assist), and 6”6” giant Malte Setkov (1999, no goals, two assists). Setkov had a strong showing last season for the Malmo Redhawks, scoring one goal and five assists in 14 games in Sweden’s top junior league, the SuperElit. All three will need to contribute offensively at the world championship.

In overall international junior play during the 2017-18 season, Rondbjerg led all Danish scorers with three goals and five assists in eight games. Blichfeld was second with four goals and three assists in nine games while Christensen and Grundtvig each scored three goals and earned one assist. Christensen put up his numbers in 10 games, Grundtvig in 13.

Another Dane to keep an eye on is center Phillip Schultz. The 2000-born center scored a pair in international play this past season, one of them in the World Junior Championship while playing as a 17-year-old. He is a skilled player who, at 6’0” and nearly 200 pounds, also brings a physical element to the game.

Kasper L. Krog (1998) led all Danish goalies in international junior play with a 3.96 goals-against average and an .899 save percentage in seven games. William Roerth (1999) played in one game and recorded a 1.85 GAA.

Whoever is on the Danish roster when the 2019 World Junior Championship begins this winter will have to be ready for a fast start. Denmark opens play on Dec. 26 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver against Canada, the defending champions.


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.

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