Category: World Junior Championships (page 2 of 13)

WJC Day 8 roundup:

Finland rallies past Canada in OT in quarterfinals

By NHL.com

Finland 2, Canada 1 OT

Toni Utunen (Vancouver Canucks) scored 5:17 into overtime to give Finland a 2-1 win against Canada in the quarterfinals at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Wednesday.

Canada defenseman Noah Dobson (New York Islanders) broke his stick on a one-timer and Utunen scored on the ensuing rush with a wrist shot glove side from the right face-off dot.

“I am just starting to realize what I just did,” Utunen said. “It felt amazing. It was my first goal this season (plays for Tappara in Liiga). A huge goal for me and even bigger for our team.”

Aleksi Heponiemi (Florida Panthers) tied it 1-1 with 47 seconds left in the third period, and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (Buffalo Sabres) made 24 saves for Finland, including stopping Max Comtois (Anaheim Ducks) on a penalty shot 1:14 into the 4-on-4 overtime. 

Finland will play Switzerland in the semifinals here on Friday.

“As a coach, there is no better situation in the world, to play against Canada and [defeat] them on their home soil,” Finland coach Jussi Ahokas said. “Everything, a [penalty shot] in overtime and then you win yourself. You can’t really write better drama than that.”

Michael DiPietro (Vancouver Canucks) made 32 saves and Ian Mitchell (Chicago Blackhawks) scored for Canada, which won the gold medal in 2018.

“We deserved a better fate,” DiPietro said. “Sometimes you are going to get the bounce in the game and sometimes you’re not. But for the game to end like that, it’s disappointing. For our group, it’s a tough pill to swallow.”

It is the first time Canada has failed to win a medal as host of the tournament (13 times as host, once co-host with United States) and the second time in past 21 years it won’t play for a medal. It lost in the quarterfinals in the 2016 WJC, also to Finland.

It is also the fourth time in the past seven years Canada won’t medal and assures it won’t play the United States at any point in the tournament for the first time since the 2005 WJC.

“It’s a tough loss,” Comtois said. “Canada is never expected to go that early, but it was a good battle out there. This tournament is about a fine line winning and losing.”

Mitchell gave Canada a 1-0 lead at 1:30 of the second period. Barrett Hayton (Arizona Coyotes) sent a pass from his knees to Mitchell, who scored with a quick wrist shot over Luukkonen’s glove from just inside the right face-off dot.

Luukkonen, selected in the second round (No. 54) in the 2017 NHL Draft, stopped Brett Leason on a breakaway with 5:10 remaining in regulation before Eeli Tolvanen sent a shot from behind the net that deflected off Heponiemi into the net to tie it 1-1 with an extra skater on the ice. 

Finland defenseman Ville Heinola, a B-rated skater in NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch list , left the game with 5:19 left in the second period after a hit by Comtois.

United States 3, Czech Republic 1

Jack Hughes had an assist in his return for the United States in a 3-1 win against the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals of the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, British Columbia, on Wednesday.

Hughes, an A-rated skater in NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch list and the projected No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, had missed the past three games with an undisclosed injury.

“It was a lot of fun to be back on the ice with the boys and we played a really good game, so it was really good for our team,” Hughes said. “I thought I was ready to play a couple of days ago (prior to Finland game), but it was good to feel better each and every day and I feel good now, so that’s all that matters.”

Noah Cates (Philadelphia Flyers), Josh Norris (Ottawa Senators) and Alexander Chmelevski (San Jose Sharks) scored, and Cayden Primeau made 18 saves for the United States, which will play the Russia/Slovakia winner in the semifinals in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Friday.

Martin Kaut (Colorado Avalanche) scored and Lukas Dostal (Anaheim Ducks) made 38 saves for the Czech Republic. 

“We have great offensive guys, but it just didn’t work out,” Kaut said. “Filip Zadina didn’t score a goal (in the tournament). It’s not normal for him. We took just 19 shots and the USA had 41 in this game, and that’s not normal for us. Now we’re out so I’ll be coming back to the American Hockey League (Colorado) soon.”

Cates gave the United States a 1-0 lead at 12:12 of the first period, taking a pass from Hughes and scoring with a backhand. 

Norris made is 2-0 when he controlled a lead pass from Jason Robertson (Dallas Stars) and scored on a breakaway at 6:10 of the second period. 

Kaut cut it to 2-1 with a power-play goal at 11:29 of the third period, but Chmelevski scored an empty-net goal to make it 3-1 at 19:21.

The United States is 11-7 in the WJC quarterfinals (5-1 against Czech Republic) and has won five straight playoff games against the Czech Republic. 

“I don’t think we’re peaking but getting on the right track” Norris said. “I think confidence is really high and the guys trust each other a lot right now. The biggest thing is we’re playing well defensively and going into these medal rounds, that’s really big.”

Switzerland 2, Sweden 0

Luca Hollenstein made 41 saves for Switzerland in a 2-0 win against Sweden in the quarterfinals at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, British Columbia, on Wednesday.

It was Hollenstein’s second shutout of the tournament (4-0 win against Denmark in preliminary round). He has a 0.66 goals-against average and .978 save percentage in three games.

Forwards Yannick Bruschweiler and Luca Wyss scored for Switzerland, which was the fourth seed in Group A after going 1-0-1-2 in the preliminary round. It will play the Canada/Finland winner in the semifinals in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Friday.

“I think we knew from the beginning of the tournament that we could beat any team, and we saw it in our preliminary round games when we got more comfortable and now it worked out for us,” Bruschweiler said.

Samuel Ersson (Philadelphia Flyers) made 33 saves for Sweden, which entered the game as the top seed in Group B after going 3-1-0-0 in the preliminary round. The loss was its first in the quarterfinals since 2006 (Finland).

“They work really hard and we couldn’t compete at the same level,” Sweden coach Tomas Monten said. “We lost our tempo with the puck, which happened against Slovakia and then the last two periods against Kazakhstan. [Switzerland] did a remarkable job defensively and we had two breakaways. You have to score on those chances if you want to win a tight playoff game.”

Bruschweiler scored on an end-to-end rush to give Switzerland a 1-0 lead at 15:23 of the first period. Wyss poked in a loose puck at the right post to make it 2-0 at 13:59 of the second period.

Hollenstein, who is making his first appearance for Switzerland at the WJC, made 19 saves in the third period to preserve the lead.

Russia 8, Slovakia 3

Klim Kostin (St. Louis Blues) scored two goals and Pyotr Kochetkov made 32 saves for Russia in an 8-3 win against Slovakia in the quarterfinals at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Wednesday.

Kochetkov, who wasn’t ranked in NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch list in November, got the start ahead of Danil Tarasov (Columbus Blue Jackets) after making 30 saves in a 2-1 win against Canada on Monday. 

Russia, which has won all five of its games after going 4-0-0-0 in the preliminary round, will play the United States in the semifinals here on Friday.

Grigori Denisenko (Florida Panthers) had one goal and two assists, Alexander Alexeyev (Washington Capitals) had a goal and an assist, and Alexander Romanov (Montreal Canadiens) and Nikolai Kovalenko (Colorado Avalanche) each had two assists. Defenseman Ilya Morozov and forwards Nikita Shashkov, Stepan Starkov and Kirill Slepets, who are each eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft, also scored for Russia.

Martin Fehervary (Capitals), Milos Roman (Calgary Flames) and Michal Ivan scored for Slovakia. Samuel Hlavaj was pulled after allowing three goals on six shots in the first period. He was replaced by Juraj Sklenar, who made 19 saves in relief. 

 

 

 

 

WJC Day 6 roundup

United States tops Finland, finishes second in Group B

By NHL.com

United States 4, Finland 1

Tyler Madden (Vancouver Canucks) scored two goals, and the United States earned the second seed in Group B with a 4-1 win against Finland at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, British Columbia, on Monday.

Jason Robertson (Dallas Stars) had a goal and an assist, Ryan Poehling (Montreal Canadiens) scored, Josh Norris (Ottawa Senators) had two assists, and Cayden Primeau (Montreal Canadiens) made 27 saves for the United States (3-0-1-0), which will play the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals in Victoria on Wednesday.

Jesse Ylonen (Montreal Canadiens) scored and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (Buffalo Sabres) made 35 saves for Finland (2-0-0-2), which will play Canada in the quarterfinals at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Wednesday.

Robertson scored from the left circle at 19:51 of the first period to give the United States a 1-0 lead.

Madden scored at 11:40 of the second period to make it 2-0, and Poehling scored his team-leading fifth goal of the tournament at 16:42 to extend the lead to 3-0.

Madden scored his second of the game 2:02 into the third period for a 4-0 lead, and Ylonen cut it to 4-1 at 13:16.

Russia wins top spot in Group A with a 2-1 win against Canada

Russia 2, Canada 1

Pavel Shen (Boston Bruins) scored the tiebreaking goal at 11:00 of the third period, and Russia earned the top spot in Group A with a 2-1 win against Canada at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Monday.

Shen got behind Canada defenseman Markus Phillips (Los Angeles Kings) on the right wing and cut back across the top of the crease before beating goalie Michael DiPietro (Vancouver Canucks) to the far post.

“It was a good win and tough game, but it’s just preliminary, so we should forget about this game and think about future games,” Shen said through a translator.

Grigori Denisenko (Florida Panthers) also scored and Pyotr Kochetkov made 30 saves for Russia (4-0-0-0), which will play Slovakia in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.

Cody Glass (Vegas Golden Knights) scored and DiPietro made 29 saves for Canada (3-0-0-1), which will play Finland in the quarterfinals.

“Tonight’s the last rehearsal for it,” Canada coach Tim Hunter said. “Because next game, you don’t have a gimme where you can lose a game and still move on.”

Glass, who was selected by Vegas with the No. 6 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, gave Canada a 1-0 lead after forcing a turnover in Russia’s zone 2:20 into the first period.

Denisenko, selected by Florida with the No. 15 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, tied it 1-1 on a power play at 5:21 after Morgan Frost (Philadelphia Flyer) received a two-minute penalty and 10-minute misconduct for checking from behind.

Kochetkov (2019 draft eligible) made his best save of the game at 4:24 of the second period, stopping Max Comtois (Anaheim Ducks) with his left pad on a backdoor chance.

Sweden 4, Kazakhstan 1

Rasmus Sandin, a first-round pick (No. 29) in the 2018 NHL Draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs, had two goals and an assist to help Sweden earn the top seed in Group B with a 4-1 win against Kazakhstan at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, British Columbia, on Saturday.

Emil Bemstrom (Columbus Blue Jackets) and Nils Lundkvist scored, and Olle Eriksson Ek (Anaheim Ducks) made 10 saves for Sweden (3-1-0-0), which was without five players because of a stomach virus and will play Switzerland in the quarterfinals in Victoria on Wednesday.

Sweden won its 48th straight preliminary-round match at the World Junior Championship. It last lost 3-2 in overtime against the United States on Dec. 31, 2006, at the 2007 WJC.

Batyrlan Muratov scored at 9:46 of the third period, and Denis Karatayev made 52 saves for Kazakhstan (0-0-0-4).

Sweden took a 3-0 lead in the first period on goals by Bemstrom at 7:10, Sandin at 12:13, and Lundkvist at 16:49. Sandin scored into an empty net at 19:21 of the third period.

Czech Republic 4, Denmark 0

Martin Necas (Carolina Hurricanes) had a goal and an assist, and Lukas Dostal (Anaheim Ducks) made 19 saves for the Czech Republic in a 4-0 win against Denmark in Group A at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Monday.

Jakub Lauko (Boston Bruins), Martin Kaut (Colorado Avalanche) and Filip Kral (Toronto Maple Leafs) also scored for the Czech Republic (1-1-0-2), which got its first regulation win and passed Switzerland to finish third in the group. The Czech Republic will play the United States in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.

Mads Sogaard, a B-rated goalie on NHL Central Scouting’s players to watch list for the 2019 NHL Draft, made 30 saves for Denmark (0-0-4), which became the first team to not score a goal in the preliminary round since the tournament switched to its current 10-team format in 1996.

Denmark will play Kazakhstan in a three-game series to avoid relegation in the 2020 WJC.

Czech Republic defenseman Michael Gaspar (2019 draft eligible), left on a stretcher after a collision into the side of his net early in the third period.

“The doctors took him to the hospital and he went through some tests and examinations and it looks like it’s the lower side of the ribs that is damaged,” Czech Republic coach Vaclav Varada said. “We don’t know how long he is going to be (out). Michael is feeling better, but we kept him there for another examination that’s going to decide if there is some damage inside the stomach or around it.

“For now, we are down to 6 [defensemen] and we will see how Michael is feeling by tomorrow.”

WJC Day 5 roundup

Russia stays undefeated with win against Switzerland

By NHL.com

Russia 7, Switzerland 4

Dmitri Samorukov (Edmonton Oilers), Alexander Alexeyev (Washington Capitals), Grigori Denisenko (Florida Panthers) and Vitali Kravtsov (New York Rangers) each had a goal and an assist to help Russia defeat Switzerland 7-4 in preliminary round Group A action at the IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on Sunday.

Forward Kirill Slepets, who is eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft, put Russia ahead 4-3 with a shorthanded 2:04 into the third period.

Kirill Marchenko (Columbus Blue Jackets) and Pavel Shen (Boston Bruins) also scored for Russia (3-0-0-0), which plays Canada (3-0-0-0) for the top spot in Group A on Monday.

Danil Tarasov (Blue Jackets) made 27 saves for Russia, including two penalty shots awarded on the same play with 3:05 left in the second period and the game tied 3-3.

Marco Lehmann scored twice, and Valentin Nussbaumer and Yannick Bruschweiler each had a goal and an assist for Switzerland (1-0-1-2), which failed to protect 2-0 and 3-1 leads.

Akira Schmid (New Jersey Devils) made 34 saves for Switzerland.

Slovakia 11, Kazakhstan 2

Andrej Kollar scored a hat trick in Slovakia’s 11-2 win against Kazakhstan in a Group B preliminary-round game at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, British Columbia.

Adam Ruzicka (Calgary Flames) had two goals and an assist, Marcel Dlugos scored two goals, Adam Liska, Milos Roman (Flames), Filip Krivosik and Pavol Regenda each had a goal and an assist, and Samuel Hlavaj made 15 saves for Slovakia (1-0-0-2).

Artur Gatiyatov scored two goals for Kazakhstan (0-0-0-3).

WJC Day 4 roundup

Blackhawks prospect Boqvist wins it after Americans rally to tie with four goals in third period

By NHL.com

Sweden 5, United States 4 OT

Adam Boqvist scored with 1:09 remaining in overtime, and Sweden overcame blowing a four-goal lead in the third period for a 5-4 win against the United States in Group B at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, British Columbia on Saturday.

Boqvist (Chicago Blackhawks) scored from the left circle off a pass from Jacob Olofsson (Montreal Canadiens).

The United States (2-0-1-0) scored four unanswered goals in a span of 7:07 of the third period to tie the game 4-4.

“For sure we have to make better plays but these are young players, they’re still kids so that’s what could happen and it’ll probably happen again,” Sweden coach Tomas Monten said. “Hopefully not in this tournament but for sure in their hockey careers. We came back strong, and in the overtime we had some good chances, and then we capitalized on the 2-on-1 so it was a great win.”

Michael Anderson, the U.S. captain, started the rally with a power-play goal at 9:34 to make it 4-1 before Ryan Poehling (Canadiens) had a natural hat trick. He scored a power-play goal at 13:25 to cut it to 4-2, scored with the goalie pulled for an extra attacker at 19:23 to make it 4-3, and tied it 4-4 off a turnover at 19:36.

“We were being more direct towards the net,” Poehling said. “After the first two periods we had 11 shots so for us to rebound as we did (with 16 shots in the third period) we minimized our turnovers in the neutral zone a lot more and that helped out too.

“I think it was just something where we wanted to show a little bit of pride and I think we did that. We ended up losing but I think this is going to help us in the long run as a team.”

Emil Bemstrom (Columbus Blue Jackets), Filip Westerlund (Arizona Coyotes), Rickard Hugg and Erik Brannstrom (Vegas Golden Knights) scored, and Samuel Ersson made 24 saves for Sweden (2-1-0-0).

The U.S. was without center Jack Hughes for a second straight game because of an undisclosed injury. Hughes is projected as the No. 1 selection in the 2019 NHL Draft.

Westerlund scored on a one-timer from the right circle to give Sweden a 1-0 lead 4:47 into the first period. Hugg made it 2-0 when he knocked in a puck from the slot 9:21 into the second, and Bemstrom took advantage of a turnover at 12:39 for a 3-0 lead.

Brannstrom scored his team-leading fourth goal 2:33 into the third for a 4-0 lead.

The win gives Sweden 47 straight victories in preliminary-round play. Sweden’s last loss was 3-2 in overtime against the United States on Dec. 31, 2006. The Swedes have outscored the opposition 241-80 during the streak, which includes 41 wins in regulation, two in overtime and four in a shootout.

Canada 5, Czech Republic 1

Max Comtois (Anaheim Ducks), Brett Leason and Alexis Lafreniere scored in the first period to help Canada to a 5-1 victory against the Czech Republic in Group A at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on Saturday.

MacKenzie Entwistle (Chicago Blackhawks) and Morgan Frost (Philadelphia Flyers) also scored, and Michael DiPietro (Vancouver Canucks) made 23 saves for Canada (3-0-0-0), which leads the group.

Canada got one goal from its top line and two from the fourth line.

“To win games you have to get scoring through the lineup because your number one line and your number two line aren’t going to score every night,” Canada coach Tim Hunter said. “It’s like a playoff series: if you expect your top line to score every night in a playoff series, good luck.”

Ondrej Machala, who is eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft, scored for the Czech Republic (0-1-0-2), which is fourth in Group A. Jiri Patera (Vegas Golden Knights) stopped 16 of 20 shots before being pulled after two periods. Jakub Skarek (New York Islanders) made nine saves in relief.

Canada scored 14 goals in a win against Denmark on Wednesday and defeated Switzerland 3-2 on Thursday. The victory against the Czech Republic had a bit of both games.

“We’re not putting up 14 goals but being stronger in little areas, being stronger on the boards, our breakouts are better, our forecheck’s better, having high support, being consistent at that too,” DiPietro said. “Just the way we’re playing, the makeup of our team. We’re playing to our identity and the offense is going to come.”

Comtois, Canada’s only returning player from the 2018 gold-medal-winning team, made it 1-0 at 6:03 of the first period after a blind back pass from Owen Tippett (Florida Panthers).

Machala, 19, tied it 1-1 on a 2-on-1 at 6:40, but Leason gave Canada a 2-1 lead on a power play at 11:32. Leason, 19, was passed over the past two drafts but is a B-rated skater for the 2019 draft by NHL Central Scouting in its November players to watch list.

Lafreniere, the first 17-year-old since Connor McDavid in 2015 to play for Canada, made it 3-1 with a one-timer from the left face-off dot at 16:39.

Entwistle scored for a third straight game to make it 4-1 at 14:41 of the second period, and Frost scored his fourth goal on a power play for a 5-1 lead at 9:01 of the third. Frost also had an assist and leads the tournament with seven points.

Switzerland 4, Denmark 0

Philipp Kurashev (Chicago Blackhawks) had a hat trick, and Luca Hollenstein made 21 saves to help Switzerland advance to the quarterfinals with a 4-0 win against Denmark in Group A at Rogers Arena.

Simon Le Coultre, an undrafted defenseman, also scored for Switzerland (1-0-1-1).

Kurashev, selected in the fourth round (No. 120) of the 2018 NHL Draft, scored twice in the first period and completed his hat trick with a solo effort 1:38 into the third period.

Mads Sogaard, a 6-foot-7, B-rated goalie on NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch list for the 2019 NHL Draft, made 22 saves. Denmark (0-0-0-3) hasn’t scored a goal and will play a three-game relegation series to stay in the top group for the 2020 WJC.

Finland 5, Slovakia 1

Defensemen Henri Jokiharju (Chicago Blackhawks) and Ville Heinola, a B-rated skater in NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch list for the 2019 NHL Draft, each had a goal and an assist to help Finland to a 5-1 win against Slovakia in Group B at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre.

Santeri Virtanen (Winnipeg Jets), Anton Lundell (2020 NHL Draft eligible), and Oskari Laaksonen (Buffalo Sabres) scored, Eeli Tolvanen (Nashville Predators) had two assists, and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (Sabres) made 22 saves for Finland (2-0-0-1).

Milos Roman (Calgary Flames) scored, and Samuel Hlavaj, a B-rated goalie in NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch list, made 31 saves for Slovakia (0-0-0-3).

Jokiharju gave Finland a 1-0 lead with a one-timer from the left circle on a 5-on-3 power play 12:24 into the first period. Virtanen made it 2-0 on a backhand at 16:43.

Heinola scored on a snap shot from the left circle to increase the lead to 3-0 2:02 into the second period before Lundell made it 4-0 at 13:53.

Roman scored a 5-on-3 power-play goal at 16:26 to bring Slovakia within 4-1.

Laaksonen gave Sweden a 5-1 lead 13:01 into the third period.

WJC Day 3 roundup:

Farabee hat trick leads United States past Kazakhstan

By NHL.com

United States 8, Kazakhstan 2

Joel Farabee (Philadelphia Flyers) scored a natural hat trick in the first period to help the United States defeat Kazakhstan 8-2 in Group B at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre on Friday.

United States center Jack Hughes, the consensus No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, was a surprise scratch because of an undisclosed injury and is day to day. The U.S. didn’t need him, outshooting Kazakhstan 66-13. 

Ryan Poehling (Montreal Canadiens) stepped into Hughes spot on the top line and scored a shorthanded goal and had two assists. Oliver Wahlstrom (New York Islanders), Alexander Chmelevski (San Jose Sharks), Tyler Madden (Vancouver Canucks) and Josh Norris (Ottawa Senators) each scored, and Jason Robertson (Dallas Stars) had four assists for the United States (2-0-0-0). Cayden Primeau (Canadiens) made 11 saves.

“I thought Joel Farabee was very good tonight,” said United States coach Mike Hastings. “To have Poehling go back to the middle and play the game that he played tonight shows a lot about his versatility. And it was a good night for us.”

Forwards Dmitriy Mitenkov and Andrei Buyalskiy, who are each eligible for the 2019 draft, scored for Kazakhstan (0-0-0-2). Goalie Vladislav Nurek started, but was replaced after two goals by Demid Yeremeyev, who stopped 19 of 24 shots before being replaced by Nurek, who finished with 41 saves. 

Wahlstrom gave the U.S. a 1-0 lead 1:37 into the first period, but Buyalskiy tied it 18 seconds later before Farabee, who was selected by the Flyers with the No. 14 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, took over. The 18-year-old left wing scored his first goal on a power play at 5:15, got his second off the rush at 8:53, and finished off the hat trick after being left alone in front at 12:05.

Robertson assisted on all three Farabee goals.

“Scoring a hat trick is definitely nice, but I’ve got to give it to my linemates and the D getting the puck up,” said Farabee. “We created a lot of turnovers, which gave me those chances.”

The United States plays Sweden (2-0-0-0) on Saturday. Sweden has won 46 consecutive preliminary-round games at the WJC.

“It’s definitely going to be a bit more skill, a tougher game,” said Farabee. “We definitely want to end their streak in the prelims, so I think we’ll be throwing the kitchen sink at them.”

Russia scores twice shorthanded, holds off Czech Republic

Russia 2, Czech Republic 1 

Artyom Galimov and Nikolai Kovalenko (Colorado Avalanche) each scored shorthanded, and Russia defeated the Czech Republic 2-1 in Group A at Rogers Arena. 

Pyotr Kochetkov, an undrafted 19-year-old goalie eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft, made 24 saves for Russia, which opened with a 4-0 win against Denmark on Thursday.

Jachym Kondelik (Nashville Predators) scored a power-play goal, and Lukas Dostal (Anaheim Ducks) made 26 saves for the Czech Republic, which opened with a 2-1 overtime win against Switzerland on Wednesday. 

Galimov, a 19-year-old still eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft, made it 1-0 at 17:05 of the first period with a solo rush, cutting left across the slot and beating Dostal with a wrist shot the other way.   

Kovalenko, selected in the sixth round (No. 171) in the 2018 NHL Draft, finished off a shorthanded 2-on-1 pass from Pavel Shen (Boston Bruins) to make it 2-0 at 14:57 of the second period.

Kondelik, selected in the fourth round (No. 111) in the 2018 draft, scored 53 seconds later on the same power play to bring the Czech Republic within 2-1 when a point shot bounced off his face, up and over Kochetkov, and into the net.

WJC Day 2 roundup

Canada survives strong effort from Switzerland

By NHL.com

Canada 3, Switzerland 2

Cody Glass (Vegas Golden Knights), MacKenzie Entwhistle (Chicago Blackhawks) and Noah Dobson (New York Islanders) each scored, and Ian Scott (Toronto Maple Leafs) made 15 saves to help Canada to a 3-2 win against Switzerland in Group A at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Arena on Thursday.

Canada is 2-0-0-0 and has outscored its opposition 17-2.

Philipp Kurashev (Blackhawks) scored twice and Akira Schmid (New Jersey Devils) made 29 saves for Switzerland (0-0-1-1), which opened with a 2-1 overtime loss to the Czech Republic on Wednesday.

Canada, which opened with a 14-0 win against Denmark, went up 1-0 on Switzerland on the first shift when Glass, picked No. 6 in the 2017 NHL Draft, scored 36 seconds into the first period.

Switzerland settled in, and Kurashev, a fourth-round pick (No. 120) in the 2018 NHL Draft, tied it 1-1 with a power play one-timer 46 seconds into the second period.

Scott made a great glove save off Swiss forward Yannick Bruschweiler alone in the slot at 4:52. Entwhistle, a third-round pick (No. 69) in 2017, put Canada ahead for good at 5:55, converting a pass from Shane Bowers (Colorado Avalanche) to make it 2-1.

Dobson, a defenseman picked No. 12 in the 2018 draft, made it 3-1 at 12:08 of the second period.

“We weren’t playing with urgency, that is probably the biggest thing,” Glass said. “We were trying to make plays that weren’t really there. We were trying to force it.”

Kurashev scored his second power-play goal of the tournament with 1:49 left, and Schmid pulled for an extra attacker, to make it 3-2.

“They’ve only been together a short while, so chemistry and learning how to win these tight games, and living through the goalie-out situations, it’s all new to them and we try to guide them through it and they are navigating pretty well,” said Canada coach Tim Hunter. Overall we’re really happy with where we’re at, just keep building, learn from whatever mistakes we made tonight and get better from it.”

Canada plays the Czech Republic on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN). Switzerland plays Denmark on Saturday (4 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN).


Finland 5, Kazakhstan 0

Kaapo Kakko, an A-rated skater in NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch list for the 2019 NHL Draft, scored his first goal of the tournament to help Finland to a 5-0 win against Kazakhstan in Group B at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre.

Otto Latvala (2019 NHL Draft), Aarne Talvitie (New Jersey Devils), Samuli Vainionpaa, and Aleksi Heponiemi (Florida Panthers) also scored and Filip Lindberg made 18 saves for Finland (1-0-1-0).

Latvala gave Finland a 1-0 lead off a wrist shot from the left circle 12:52 into the first period before Talvitie extended the lead 2:16 later with an unassisted goal off a turnover. Vainionpaa scored 12:49 into the second to give Finland a 3-0 lead.

Kakko, a projected top-5 pick in the 2019 draft, gave Finland a 4-0 lead 7:17 into the third period and Heponiemi made it 5-0 at 9:13.

Demid Yeremeyev made 51 saves for Kazakhstan (0-0-1-0).

Finland plays Slovakia on Saturday (6:30 p.m. ET); Kazakhstan will play the United States on Friday (10:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN).

Russia 4, Denmark 0

Alexander Romanov (Montreal Canadiens) had a goal and two assists, Danil Tarasov (Columbus Blue Jackets) made 21 saves, and Russia opened its tournament with a 4-0 win against Denmark in Group A at Rogers Arena on Thursday.

Vitali Kravtsov (New York Rangers), Pavel Shen (Boston Bruins) and Ivan Morozov (Vegas Golden Knights) scored for Russia, which was outshot 21-20.

Goalie William Rorth started for Denmark after replacing Mads Sogaard in the third period of a 14-0 loss to Canada on Wednesday. Rorth, who gave up three goals on four shots against Canada, made 16 saves.

Kravtsov, the No. 9 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, made it 1-0 at 6:28 of the first period after a three-way passing play on the power play. 

Romanov, a defenseman picked in the second round (No. 38) of the 2018 draft, made it 2-0 with 2:10 left in the second period with a screened shot from the top of the left face-off circle. The 18-year-old, who does not have a point in 28 Kontinental Hockey League games with CSKA, assisted two goals in the third period.  

Shen, a seventh-round pick (No. 212) pick in the 2018 draft, scored at 13:56 to make it 3-0, and Morozov, picked in the second round (No. 61) in the 2018 draft, scored into an empty net with 1:25 left to make it 4-0.

Sweden 5, Slovakia 2

Emil Bemstrom scored two goals to help lead Sweden to a 5-2 victory against Slovakia at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Group B on Thursday.

The win gives Sweden 46 straight victories in preliminary-round play at the World Junior Championship. Sweden’s last loss was 3-2, in overtime, against the United States on Dec. 31, 2006.

Lucas Elvenes (Vegas Golden Knights) and Isac Lundestrom (Anaheim Ducks) each had a goal and an assist, and Erik Brannstrom (Golden Knights) scored for Sweden (2-0-0-0).

Elvenes opened the scoring at 11:42 of the first period. Bemstrom (Columbus Blue Jackets) scored his first goal at 16:12 of the first period to give Sweden a 2-1 lead. He scored a power-play goal 6:40 into the second period for a 3-1 lead.

Brannstrom scored his third power-play goal in two tournament games to give Sweden a 4-1 lead 5:09 into the third period. Sweden’s final goal at 12:37 of the third.  

Adam Liska, who tied the game at 1-1 at 13:43 of the first and Milos Fafrak scored for Slovakia (0-0-2-0). Farfak’s goal at 8:42 of the third made it 4-2.

Sweden plays the United States at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre on Saturday (10:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN). Slovakia plays Finland on Saturday (6:30 p.m. ET).

WJC Day 1 roundup

United States rallies for victory against Slovakia

By NHL.com

United States 2, Slovakia 1

Michael Anderson and Evan Barratt scored in a span of 4:32 of the third period to help give the United States a 2-1 victory against Slovakia in Group B competition at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre on Wednesday.

Goalie Kyle Keyser (Boston Bruins) made 13 saves, including a penalty-shot attempt by Adam Liska 13:15 into the third to help U.S. maintain the lead.

Anderson (Los Angeles Kings), a defenseman, scored a power-play goal 1:10 into the third for a 1-1 tie. Barratt (Chicago Blackhawks) scored off his backhand at 5:42 for a 2-1 lead.

“I thought our line was playing well all night,” Barratt said. “Tyler Madden and Noah Cates are really good players down low and we were cycling all night and we finally got a break and saw an opening to the net and kind of just shot … I don’t know how it went in but it looked pretty good I guess.”

Defenseman Marek Korencik gave Slovakia a 1-0 lead in the second period when he scored off a snap shot from the left circle at 17:17. Slovakia goalie Samuel Hlavaj, a B- rated goalie in NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch for the 2019 NHL Draft list, made 32 saves.

Forward Jason Robertson (Dallas Stars) was denied on a penalty shot by Hlavaj 12:29 into the second to keep the game 0-0. The victory by the United States against Slovakia was its 13th in 18 tries, including one tie, in WJC competition.

“We knew it was going to be hard going into it and we just wanted to work every shift in five-minute increments of the game,” Barratt said. “We knew it wouldn’t be easy but at the end of the day we knew we would run them down and come out on top.”

The United States will next play against Kazakhstan in preliminary-round action Friday.

Canada 14, Denmark 0

Max Comtois (Anaheim Ducks) scored four goals and Morgan Frost (Philadelphia Flyers) had three goals and two assists to help Canada open the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship with a 14-0 win against Denmark in Group A play at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on Wednesday.

Owen Tippett (Florida Panthers) and undrafted 19-year-old Brett Leason each scored twice, and Jack Studnicka (Boston Bruins), Jaret Anderson-Dolan (Los Angeles Kings) and MacKenzie Entwhistle (Chicago Blackhawks) had a goal each and Cody Glass (Vegas Golden Knights) had four assists.

“The message to us was stick to our game plan and don’t; sway away from that, don’t get any bad habits,” Frost said. “We are trying to build with every game and that was the message, keep playing and keep playing the right way and we did a good job of that.”

Comtois, Canada’s captain, had seven points (two goals, five assists) in 10 games with Anaheim to start the 2018-19 season. He is the fifth player for Canada to score four goals in one World Junior Championship game, joining Taylor Raddysh (2017), Brayden Schenn (2011), Simon Gagne (1999) & Mario Lemieux (1983).

“It’s always fun to score goals and it doesn’t happen often,’ said Comtois, who has not had a hat trick since his first season of junior hockey with Victoriaville of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 2016-17. “I got a couple lucky bounces and good passes from my teammates. I just put the puck in the net.”

Frost was named player of the game for Canada and his name was chanted by the crowd as he received the award.

“That was coolest moment I have ever been a part of and I had chills running right through my body,” Frost said.

Michael DiPietro (Vancouver Canucks) made 14 saves, had an assist and stopped Danish forward Phillip Schultz, who is eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft, on a penalty shot in the third period.

Mads Sogaard, a 6-foot-7, B-rated goaltender on NHL Central Scouting’s players to watch list for the 2019 draft, stopped 30 of 41 shots before leaving with a left leg injury with 7:27 left in the third period. Undrafted 19-year-old William Rorth made one save in relief.

Canada pays Switzerland on Thursday.

Sweden 2, Finland 1

Defenseman Erik Brannstrom, a first-round pick (No. 15) in the 2017 NHL Draft by the Vegas Golden Knights, scored two power-play goals to help lead Sweden to a 2-1 win against Finland in Group B action at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria on Wednesday.

The win gives Sweden 45 straight victories in preliminary-round action at the World Junior Championship. The last defeat was Dec. 31, 2006, 3-2 in overtime against the United States.

Defenseman Adam Boqvist (Chicago Blackhawks) had two assists for Sweden. Aarne Talvitie (New Jersey Devils) scored for Finland, which took seven penalties in the game.

Brannstrom scored his first power-play goal off a shot from the point at 13:14 of the first period to give Sweden a 1-0 lead. His second came off a one-timer from the left circle on a 5-on-3 advantage 3:55 into the second for a 2-0 lead.

Talvitie scored a power-play goal 16:26 into the third off a pass from Kaapo Kakko, an A-rated skater in NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch list for the 2019 NHL Draft, to make it 2-1.

Sweden plays Slovakia on Thursday  & Finland will play Kazakhstan on Thursday Also.

Czech Republic 2, Switzerland 1 (OT)

Defenseman David Kvasnicka scored 52 seconds into overtime and Lukas Dostal (Anaheim Ducks) made 26 saves to help the Czech Republic to a 2-1 win against Switzerland to open Group A play at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.

Martin Kaut (Colorado Avalanche) had a goal and an assist for the Czech Republic, outshot Switzerland 9-1 to start the game. Kvasnicka, undrafted, beat Swiss goalie Luca Hollenstein with a high screened shot from above the right face-off circle shortly after Kaut hit the post.

Nando Eggenberger, a 19-year-old C-rated skater on NHL Central Scouting’s November players to watch list for the 2019 NHL Draft, put Switzerland ahead 1-0 with a power-play goal at 7:45 of the second period.

Kaut tied it 1-1 at 9:02 with a one-timer of a pass from below the net by Martin Necas (Carolina Hurricanes). Kaut, 19, has 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in 26 games with Colorado in the American Hockey League.

Hollenstein, who is eligible for the 2019 draft, made 25 saves for Switzerland.

2019 World Junior Championship Group A & B preview

By Adam Kimelma & Mike G. Morreale NHL.com

Canada coach Tim Hunter is looking for one attribute more than any other as his team prepares for the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Speed.

“We’re going to try to be the fastest World Junior team yet,” Hunter told TSN. “And we have a lot of work cut out for us, but that’s the goal and that’s the identity we’re going to have.”

And it’s not just skating speed. Hunter wants his team to play fast and think fast.

“It’s being fast in every aspect of the game, with and without the puck,” he said. “Off face-offs, on your forecheck, tracking back. I’ve studied that really hard over the last two years and talked to some great hockey minds and got some great opinions on it so we’ll implement a lot of the stuff. I’ve used it with my own team in Moose Jaw (Western Hockey League) this year. We’ve had a lot of success with some of the things.”

he 2019 WJC begins Wednesday and runs through Jan. 5, with games at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, British Columbia, and Rogers Centre in Vancouver. Canada, the defending champion, is in Group A along with Czech Republic, Denmark, Russia and Switzerland, and will play its preliminary-round games in Vancouver.

Here’s a look at each Group A team, in predicted order of finish:

Canada

Coach: Tim Hunter

2019 NHL Draft watch: Brett Leason, F, Prince Albert (WHL)

Schedule: Dec. 26, Denmark (8 p.m. ET; TSN, NHLN [joined in progress]); Dec. 27, Switzerland (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 29, Czech Republic (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 31, Russia (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)

Outlook: The defending champions will have one player returning from last year’s team, Anaheim Ducks forward prospect Max Comtois, but remain one of the tournament favorites. Canada’s size and skill at forward could be its strength, led by a projected first line of Comtois (6-foot-2, 207 pounds), Vegas Golden Knights prospect Cody Glass (6-2, 178) and Florida Panthers prospect Owen Tippett (6-1, 216). One player to watch is high-scoring forward Alexis Lafreniere, who will become the seventh 17-year-old to play for Canada at the WJC (Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, Jason Spezza, Jay Bouwmeester, Eric Lindros). He’s projected as the No. 1 pick of the 2020 NHL Draft. Canada’s chances of success could hinge on the play of Michael DiPietro (Vancouver Canucks), the favorite to start in goal after Carter Hart (Philadelphia Flyers) backstopped runs to the championship game the previous two tournaments. 

Russia

Coach: Valeri Bragin

2019 NHL Draft watch: Vasili Podkolzin, F, SKA St. Petersburg 2 (RUS-JR)

Schedule: Dec. 27, Denmark (4 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 28, Czech Republic (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 30, Switzerland (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 31, Canada (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)

Outlook: Russia will have two players back from the team that finished fifth at the 2018 WJC, ending its run of seven straight tournaments with a medal. Forward Klim Kostin (St. Louis Blues) and defenseman Dmitri Samorukov (Edmonton Oilers) are back and each has North American experience. Samorukov is in his third season with Guelph of the Ontario Hockey League, and also played five games with Bakersfield, the Oilers’ American Hockey League affiliate, last season. Kostin has 11 points (five goals, six assists) in 28 games in his second season with San Antonio of the AHL. Russia’s most intriguing player could be Podkolzin (6-1, 190), an A-rated player for the 2019 draft. He helped Russia finish second at the 2018 World Junior A Challenge, which ended Dec. 16, and tied for the tournament scoring lead with eight points (three goals, five assists) in six games. Russia always is well-coached and aiming to return to the medal stand.

Czech Republic

Coach: Vaclav Varada

2019 NHL Draft watch: Martin Has, D, Tappara Jr. (FIN-JR)

Schedule: Dec. 26, Switzerland (4 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 28, Russia (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 29, Canada (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 31, Denmark (4 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)

Outlook: Martin Necas (Carolina Hurricanes), who tied for the tournament scoring lead with 11 points (three goals, eight assists) and led Czech Republic to a surprising fourth-place finish at the 2018 WJC, will be back to help the Czechs try to win a medal for the first time since finishing third in 2005. Necas has two points (one goal, one assist) in seven games with the Hurricanes this season, and has 22 points (seven goals, 15 assists) in 26 games with Charlotte of the AHL. Also returning from last year is forward Filip Zadina (Detroit Red Wings) who tied for second at the tournament with seven goals. Goalie Jakub Skarek (New York Islanders) had an .848 save percentage in five games at the 2018 WJC and could start the tournament as the No. 1, but Lukas Dostal (Anaheim Ducks) could push him for time.

Switzerland

Coach: Christian Wohlwend

2019 NHL Draft watch: Valentin Nussbaumer, F, Shawinigan (QMJHL); Nando Eggenberger, F, Oshawa (OHL)

Schedule: Dec. 26, Czech Republic (4 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 27, Canada (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 29, Denmark (4 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 30, Russia (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)

Outlook: Switzerland is hoping experience makes up for a lack of top-end talent, with 13 players from the 2018 WJC returning. Among them is goalie Akira Schmid (New Jersey Devils), who was the third goalie at the 2018 WJC and has a 2.73 GAA and .905 save percentage in 11 games with Omaha of the United States Hockey League this season. Defenseman Tobias Geisser (6-4, 201), a Washington Capitals prospect playing with Hershey in the AHL, will anchor the defense. Forwards Phillip Kurashev (Chicago Blackhawks) and Valentin Nussbaumer, a B-rated prospect for the 2019 draft playing with Shawinigan in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, could be the leaders up front. It’s been more than 20 years since Switzerland won its only WJC medal, a bronze in 1998; the goal for this year is to beat Denmark and avoid the relegation round.

Denmark

Coach: Olaf Eller

2019 NHL Draft watch: Mads Sogaard, G, Medicine Hat (WHL)

Schedule: Dec. 26, Canada (8 p.m. ET; TSN, NHLN [joined in progress]); Dec. 27, Russia (4 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 29, Switzerland (4 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 31, Czech Republic (4 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)

Outlook: Denmark remained in the top division of the WJC after defeating Belarus in two games in the best-of-3 relegation round in 2018, and will be hard-pressed to avoid going through that again. Much of the responsibility for avoiding relegation could fall on Sogaard, the third goalie on the 2018 team who is a B-rated prospect for the 2019 draft. He has a 2.39 GAA and .931 save percentage in 19 WHL games with Medicine Hat. Also returning is forward Jonas Rondbjerg (Golden Knights), who led Denmark with seven points (two goals, five assists) in six games. Denmark reached the quarterfinals at the 2017 WJC, but with Canada, Russia and Czech Republic looking strong, their best bet for tournament success will be a win in the preliminary round against Switzerland.

Group B

Many anticipate Jack Hughes of the United States being the most-watched player at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship.

“Jack is a special player wherever he plays, on any team,” U.S. general manager John Vanbiesbrouck said about the 17-year-old center who is projected to be the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. “The uniqueness is he’s a young player and now a potential first-overall pick and we don’t want to be bashful about it or shrug the story off, but we have to manage it, and manage him.

“It’s not that hard to do when a guy like that has the puck on his stick a lot and controls the play. He’ll receive a lot of the attention and that gets tough for one player, so we have to help him absorb some of that, but he’s got a bit of a runway here, and it’s a good tournament for him to launch.”

The 2019 WJC begins Wednesday and runs through Jan. 5 at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, British Columbia, and Rogers Centre in Vancouver. The Group B bracket includes Finland, Kazakhstan, Slovakia, Sweden and the United States.

The last time the WJC was held in Canada was 2017 and the United States defeated the host country 5-4 in a shootout to win the gold medal at Bell Centre in Montreal. Only three countries have won the WJC on home ice: Canada (1991, 1995, 2006, 2009, 2015), Finland (1998, 2016) and the Soviet Union (1983).

Here’s a look at each Group B team, in predicted order of finish:

United States

Coach:  Mike Hastings

2019 NHL Draft watch: Jack Hughes, C, USA U-18 (USHL); Spencer Knight, G, USA U-18 (USHL); Sean Dhooghe, C, Wisconsin (Big Ten) 

Schedule: Dec. 26, Slovakia (6:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 28, Kazakhstan (10:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 29, Sweden (10:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 31, Finland (10:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)

Outlook: The United States is looking to win a fourth straight medal after winning gold in 2017 and bronze in 2016 and 2018. In addition to being fast and creative on offense, and strong on defense, the United States also has depth at the goalie position with Cayden Primeau (Montreal Canadiens), Kyle Keyser (Boston Bruins) and Knight (2019 NHL Draft-eligible), who received an A rating in NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch list in November. There are five returning players: defensemen Quinn Hughes (Vancouver Canucks), Dylan Samberg (Winnipeg Jets) and Michael Anderson (Los Angeles Kings); and forwards Josh Norris (Ottawa Senators) and Ryan Poehling (Montreal Canadiens). 

Sweden

Coach: Tomas Monten

2019 NHL Draft watch: Philip Broberg, D, AIK (SWE); Nils Hoglander, LW, Rogle (SWE)

Schedule: Dec. 26, Finland (10:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 27, Slovakia (6:30 p.m. ET; TSN); Dec. 29, United States (10:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 31, Kazakhstan (6:30 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Sweden ended a three-year medal drought when it earned silver last year, falling to Canada 3-1 in the gold-medal game. Sweden will have a different look this year but will still be a hard-working, fast-skating team with quick transitions that plays to the inside. It has a solid nucleus, particularly with defensemen Rasmus Sandin (Toronto Maple Leafs), Nils Lundkvist (New York Rangers), Erik Brannstrom (Vegas Golden Knights) and Adam Boqvist (Chicago Blackhawks). Defenseman Timothy Liljegren (Toronto Maple Leafs) is out because of an injury so Broberg, an A rated skater in NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch list, may play a significant role. 

Finland

Coach: Jussi Ahokas

2019 NHL Draft watch: Kaapo Kakko, RW, TPS (FIN); Lassi Thomson, D, Kelowna (WHL); Mikko Kokkonen, D, Jukurit (FIN); Ville Heinola, D, Lukko (FIN); Anttoni Honka, JYP (FIN)

Schedule: Dec. 26, Sweden (10:30 p.m.ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 27, Kazakhstan (10:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 29, Slovakia (6:30 p.m. ET); Dec. 31, United States (10:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)

Outlook: Since winning a gold medal in 2016, Finland has finished ninth (2017) and sixth (2018). One area that has proven troublesome is goal scoring, as Finland placed last in the 10-team field with a 5.31 shooting percentage (12 goals on 226 shots) in 2017, and ninth in shooting percentage (8.57) in five games in 2018. Finland hopes to resolve that issue with some high-energy performers on this year’s roster, including forwards Rasmus Kupari (Los Angeles Kings), Aleksi Heponiemi (Florida Panthers), Sampo Ranta (Colorado Avalanche), Aarne Talvitie (New Jersey Devils) and Kakko, who is projected to go among the top five picks in the 2019 draft. Buffalo Sabres goalie prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen could receive most of the starts. Defenseman Urho Vaakanainen (Boston Bruins), who has two assists for Providence of the American Hockey League in six games, will represent his country for a third straight time at the WJC. 

Slovakia

Coach: Ernest Bokros

2019 NHL Draft watch: Samuel Hlavaj, G, Slovakia U20 (SVK)

Schedule: Dec. 26, United States (6:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 27, Sweden (6:30 p.m. ET; TSN); Dec. 29, Finland (6:30 p.m. ET); Dec. 30, Kazakhstan (10:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)

Outlook: One player to keep an eye on for Slovakia is defenseman Martin Fehervary (Washington Capitals). The 6-foot-2, 194-pound left-hand shot, who will represent the Slovakia National Junior Team a third straight year, has one goal and two assists in 23 games for HV71 in the Swedish Hockey League. Hlavaj (6-3, 187) of the Slovak Under-20 team is a B rated goalie on NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch list.

Kazakhstan

Coach: Sergei Starygin

2019 NHL Draft watch — None

Schedule: Dec. 27, Finland (10:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 28, United States (10:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 30, Slovakia (10:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN); Dec. 31, Sweden (6:30 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Kazakhstan is back in the top level at the WJC for the first time since 2009 after winning the Division I Group A tournament in December 2017. Kazakhstan returns many players from that championship group, including left wing Artur Gatiyatov, who was named the best forward of the tournament with seven points (four goals, three assists) in five games. Kazakhstan is the fifth nation in six years to get promoted from Division I, joining Norway (2013), Denmark (2014), Latvia (2016), and Belarus (2015, 2017).

New wave leads Germany to World Juniors

Germany’s U20 national team celebrates promotion to the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic

By Chapin Landvogt – IIHF.com

Nothing is sweeter than convincingly winning a World Championship tournament on home ice. Just ask the kids playing on this winter’s edition of the German U20 national team.

Better yet, you probably wouldn’t need to if you had seen how the German team stormed the ice when the final buzzer sounded to end Germany’s last game of the tournament, a 6-1 outcome against geographical neighbour France. The team celebrated with an elation that had been building for days and the excitement will only continue to grow, as many of this year’s squad’s key players will still be eligible to play at next winter’s World Juniors. Of the 22 players, 10 were born in 2000 or later.

Finishing first was no easy task, but to do so knowing you’ll be able to take your key players with you to next year’s tournament a level higher is about the best possible outcome for any national program looking to cement itself among the world’s elite once and for all.

“This achievement is of incredible importance for German ice hockey,” explained Franz Reindl, President of the German Ice Hockey Association. “I am so happy and proud of this team and our program. First our men’s team was able to win the silver medal in PyeongChang, now our U20 team has won this tournament and gained promotion. This has been a very special year for ice hockey in Germany.”

The Germans entered Saturday’s game against France in the driver’s seat, as all they needed for advancement was to at least get the game to overtime. Things got off to a good start, but despite a 2-0 lead after one period of play, Germany swallowed a power-play goal against by Antonin Plagnat in the second period, cutting the lead to 2-1 and making things look a lot closer than they’d end up being. 

A goal by Taro Jentzsch in the 34th minute once again gave Germany the momentum, getting a team that had shown some dents in the armour back on track. It would be the first of a natural hat trick by Jentzsch, as Germany added three more goals in the third period to overwhelmingly seal their promotion to the top division. 

“This team truly, truly earned its place in next year’s WJC,” explained an ecstatic Christian Kunast, head coach of the German entry. “Five games, five victories; all done on the back of incredible team spirit. The team is completely deserving of this promotion to the next level. I am so happy for the players for this achievement.”

Germany finished the tournament with five victories in five games and 14 of 15 possible points. With that, the young team is heading to neighbouring Czech Republic for the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship.

The decisive game

This promotion was largely made possible by Thursday’s tilt against Belarus, both teams having entered the game knowing that a regulation loss to the other team would all but end its chances of moving up to the world’s elite group. Eventual silver medallist Belarus had won its first three games in regulation while Germany had done the same, albeit the first one was a 3-2 shootout victory over arch rival Austria to kick off the tournament. 

In light of the dominance Belarus had shown to date, it was all that much more surprising that Germany was able to take a commanding 3-0 lead within the first 12 minutes of the game thanks to goals by Justin Schutz, Marco Bassler, and Tim Wohlgemuth. They almost ended the period with another goal on top of that, but Tim Brunnhuber failed to capitalize on a shorthanded breakaway in which he beat goaltender Nikita Tolopilo, who had just replaced starting goaltender Andrei Grishenko, but then missed the wide-open net with his shot.

As expected, Belarus came out hard and controlled the first 10 minutes of the 2nd period, eventually getting on the scoreboard with a power play goal by Ivan Drozdov, but Germany managed to catch itself and then pop in a goal just four minutes later by Yannik Valenti to regain the three-goal lead. The teams both headed into the locker room well aware that the game was anything but over, as Belarus had already come back from a 3-0 deficit to beat Norway and a 2-1 deficit to beat France 6-2 – all on the strength of dominant and goal-filled third periods.

But this was a trend Germany was determined to end, and the team did so convincingly. Belarus was never really permitted to get into a productive flow and Germany often spent considerable periods of time with puck possession, managing the game with aplomb. Finally, as Belarus did all it could to get back into the game, having even pulled their goalie for a power play with a good nine minutes to go in the game, Dominik Bokk scored one of the tournament’s most beautiful goals on a solo effort in the 57th minute, letting there be no doubt who was taking these three points.

“Today we took the next step in our team’s development and the realization of our goals. The boys delivered an absolutely incredible performance against one of the tournament’s top favourites and with that, clearly earned this victory”, explained coach Kunast.

The team was celebrated after the game by roughly 1,700 spectators in Fussen and awards were handed out by Konrad Abelthauser, a Red Bull Munich defenceman who has won the DEL championship three years in row and who himself had also been an integral member of the 2013 U20 team, which like this year’s edition managed to gain promotion at a U20 World Championship Division I held in Bavaria (Garmisch-Partenkirchen). And with that, Germany has swept away three straight years of disappointment at this tournament, namely in Vienna, Bremerhaven, and Meribel and Courchevel, to finally gain promotion back into the age group’s top circuit.

“We wanted to show the hockey world that it was a mistake that we were relegated last year, that we belong in the top group”, explained disappointed Belarusian captain Maxim Sushko. “We wanted to use this tournament to give the next generation the opportunity to play at the highest level.”

“We were ready and rested. We watched videos and even had plan B, which we had used the third period of the previous game to practice. We knew what was coming and we went into the game confident that we could win, knowing it’d be a hard and fun game that, was, well, an end game.”

For Belarus, which came into to the tournament as the top-seeded team to gain promotion, things had started out with three straight regulation victories, beating Norway 5-3, France 6-2, and Austria 5-0. This left little doubt that there’d be no promotion for any other team without the Belarusians having a say in the matter. The loss to Germany then sucked the life out of them. Getting down 3-0 early was only enhanced by a plethora of poor passes and a bevy of missed opportunities. That trend continued throughout the game, and into the next one. Belarus ended the tournament with a 3-1 loss to Latvia. Nonetheless, Belarus did finish second overall in the final standings.

The rest

The tournament kicked off with Belarus, Latvia, and Germany being the odds favourites. In fact, it was hard to tell which of these teams would have the upper hand and it was looking like quite the battle royale coming in. But that all changed in the very first game, when Latvia was stunned by France, losing 3-1 to “les bleus”. They appeared to have recovered from that upset when they took down Austria 4-1, but then host Germany came along and ended hopes of promotion with a 4-1 win of its own against the Latvians, who wound up finishing 4th overall.

Ultimately, third place was locked up by Norway, which was the “newcomer” in the group after gaining promotion at last year’s Division I Group B on the strength of an overtime victory over Poland. The traditional Scandinavian mainstay in Group A had ups and downs throughout the tournament, kicking things off with a 5-3 loss to Belarus and a 4-0 shellacking against Germany. The team looked a lot better on the ice than those scores indicated, and proved what it could do by beating France 5-0 and then knocking off Latvia 4-2, before settling things with a 3-2 overtime victory over Austria. 

This turnaround surely had much to do with the arrival of the team’s star Mathias Emelio Pettersen, who missed the first game while flying halfway across the world from Denver, Colorado, where he had played several college games with the Denver Pioneers just last weekend before hopping on the plane. He did play against Germany, pretty much heading into the game straight from the airport after roughly a day of travel, but proceeded to put up three goals and six points in the final three games of the tournament. That begs to question what might have been, if the team’s already drafted star had been fresh and ready to go right from the beginning?

In addition to France, Austria can be anything but happy about this tournament. Unlike France, it did manage to avoid relegation with a hard-fought and concentrated 3-2 OT loss to Norway on the final day of play. Things began well for the Austrians as the came back to force Germany to overtime on the first day of the tournament. It then lost its next two games convincingly in regulation, before beating France 4-2 in a game that had the look of a do-or-die relegation event. With a win and two overtime losses, the Austrians live to fight again at next year’s event, one in which several strong 2002-born players should be on the team and leading the way.

After doing the top teams a favour by beating Latvia on the first day of the tournament, France wasn’t able to gain even one more point the rest of the week, struggling mightily to create any offence whatsoever. When all was said and done, the team only managing to score eight goals in five games and has been relegated in what is an unfortunate step back for a program that had looked to be very much at home in this class in recent years. 

Special talents of note

For the scouting community – and indeed various NHL, European, and junior club scouts were in attendance – this tournament featured a number of players in just the type of pressure situation they wanted to see them in. Particularly Germany’s captain Moritz Seider was under the microscope right from the get-go and he didn’t disappoint. He not only ate up gobs of ice time in all possible situations and scenarios, he also chipped in a goal and six assists while going +8 throughout the tournament. Almost more impressive was his astounding ability to calm down and control hectic situations with the poise of a player much older and experienced than he is while setting the physical tone with every opportunity. Moritz won’t even turn 18 until next April and already gets somewhat regular ice time playing for the DEL’s first-place team, Adler Mannheim.

He’s expected to be a top-50 pick in this summer’s NHL draft.

Also of great interest were the performances at this level of a number of players who have already been drafted, including Germany’s Dominik Bokk, Leon Gawanke, and Justin Schutz, Belarus’ Maxim Sushko and Vladislav Yeryomenko, and Norway’s Mathias Pettersen and Kristian Marthinsen. As a first rounder for the St. Louis Blues in last summer’s draft and a forward who has already been getting somewhat regular power play time this season for SHL powerhouse Vaxjo Lakers, much was expected of Dominik Bokk at this tournament and it was clear to him that no player had higher expectations to live up to. 

Although there were plenty of instances where he held onto the puck too long or tried to do too much on his own, he nonetheless led the tournament in scoring and flashed the kind of innate skill that nary a player at this tournament, much less whatsoever in his age group, possesses. Cool, calm, collective, and confident, he often put on a show and one could argue that if he were playing with a few more guys with a similar skill level, he might have had upwards of 15 assists at this tournament.

Of players who were looking to use this tournament to make a bigger name for themselves internationally, Belarus’s Ivan Drozdov did just that in leading the team’s attack to the tune of four goals and six points and earned the Best Forward award. Already a regular for Dynamo Minsk in the KHL at age 19, many in the scouting community have looked to see more out of him on a bigger stage and this tournament apparently was just the right tonic for a kid who has wanted to show what he’s capable of.

Likewise, Norwegian right winger Samuel Solem led his team in scoring and was one of the tournament’s top goal scorers with four tallies and six points. He has played for SHL team Brynas’ junior club in recent years and has even suited up for six SHL games this season. His performance was crucial for his team and exactly what experts had expected to see out of him. 

Things were unfortunate for several youngsters who were expected to play a huge role in helping their team gain promotion. German 16-year old winger Tim Stutzle came into the event looking to make sure that his name was finally engraved in the notebook of any and every scout out there. Already committed to the University of New Hampshire as of the 2020/21 season, the multifaceted forward is felt to be the most dynamic German prospect since Leon Draisaitl, Bokk included. Unfortunately, he was injured in the warm-ups to the game against Norway and missed the rest of the tournament. He could only support his team from the sidelines, but rest assured that he’ll play a huge role for Team Germany in next year’s World Juniors.

More unfortunate however were the hopes of Austria’s top youngster, Marco Rossi, who was looked at to lead the way for Austria if there’d be any hopes of gaining promotion. Playing for the OHL’s Oshawa Generals, for whom he’s already collected 27 points in 23 games this season, the 17-year-old who is first eligible for the 2020 NHL draft sustained an injury shortly before the tournament began and, as was then seen over the course of the week, could not be compensated for as Austria spent more time battling against relegation than finding a way to move up the totem pole. Sadly, this also means that local hockey fans missed out on seeing one of the finest young phenomena Austria has ever produced. 

Of course, no team felt the absence of its best possible player more than France, who showed up without Alexandre Texier, its best prospect in decades. Despite looking outstanding for the first 127 minutes of the tournament, the roof crashed in on the French once the Belarusians popped in four third-period goals against them in game 2. The team failed to gain a point after that. 

Texier surely could have been an immense help in swaying the French’s fate in another direction, as this would have been his third U20 World Championship event. In addition, the all-round forward has been a mainstay for Liiga team KaiPa Kuopio in Finland, for whom he currently has 15 points after putting up 13 goals and 22 points last season. There’s absolutely no telling what he could have meant to this French side, as he’s clearly this generation’s leader and would have been the most experienced professional player at this tournament. Alas, KaiPa wasn’t willing to release him to attend.

As a side note, although all six participating nations hail from Europe, roughly 20 of the players who participated in the tournament had to cross the Atlantic from North America to get here. Alone 10 of them hailed from Belarus’ roster.

Happy hosts

The German Ice Hockey Association (DEB) showed itself to be quite happy with not only the outcome of the tournament, but also the numbers in attendance. With the exception of the weekday games against Norway and Latvia, to which roughly 1,100 people pilgrimed into the arena, all of Germany’s games were attended by over 1,600 spectators, with the final game against France seeing a good 2,000 in attendance. 

Robert Schutt of the DEB summed up the organization’s overall feeling about hosting this event: “We are very satisfied with the tournament, with how many people came to see the games, with the atmosphere they created in cheering on no less than the home team, and of course with the fact that Germany gained promotion by finishing first overall. The National Center for Performance and Competition, which hosted the games in Fussen, proved to be a great host site for the event and all of the teams have expressed how happy they were with the overall organization and accommodations.”

Tops in the tournament

  • The top goaltender of the tournament was Germany’s Hendrik Hane, who had four victories, a 94.9 save percentage, and an outstanding 0.98 goals against average.
  • The top defenceman of the tournament was Germany’s captain Moritz Seider, who finished third overall in scoring with one goal and seven points while going +8.
  • The top forward of the tournament was Belarus’ Ivan Drozdov, who led his team in scoring with four goals and six points.
  • The tournament’s top scorer was Dominik Bokk with one goal and eight points, accompanied by a +5 rating.

Slovenia steps up

The Slovenian players celebrate after getting their fifth win in the fifth game at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division I Group B against Ukraine to earn promotion.

By Andy Potts – IIHF.com

Slovenia’s juniors are celebrating gold in 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division I Group B, two years after the same group of players won the U18 Division IB.

A 4-1 victory over Ukraine on Friday afternoon secured top spot for Ales Burnik’s team. Despite going behind midway through the second period, Slovenia rallied to claim a comfortable win thanks to goals from Aljaz Predan, Jaka Sturm, captain Jaka Sodja and Martin Bohinc. Defenceman Nejc Stojan collected three assists to finish with 2+5 for the tournament; Jan Drozg’s helper on Predan’s marker took him to 12 (4+8) points, finishing as the competition’s top scorer, five points clear of a clutch of players.

Slovenia wrapped up top spot after the first game of the final day in Tychy, Poland, but the tournament was far from one-sided. Going into Friday’s play, there was a three-way battle for top spot and five of the six nations were in with at least a theoretical chance of a medal. In the event, the host’s 4-2 win over Hungary secured silver for Poland and left Hungary with bronze. Italy defeated winless Japan in overtime to take fourth place ahead of Ukraine. The Japanese drop to Division IIA for next season.

Slovenian head coach Burnik said: “It was a very interesting tournament. The competition was high quality because all the teams were fairly evenly-matched. Even going into the last day we had three teams going for promotion and five hoping for a medal.

“In the end we proved to be the best team but we faced tough games against good opponents. We managed to reach our goal thanks to our preparations, our excellent staff and some great energy among the players.”

The toughest battle for Slovenia came against Hungary. Down 1-4 after 40 minutes, a big fightback in the third period set up a shootout win that gave the Slovenes a crucial advantage going into the final day’s play. Captain Sodja had an assist as Rok Kapel made it 2-3 then scored the tying goal himself. Slovenia won all five games at the tournament but only three of them came in regulation time.

“Every game was tough but I think Hungary was the hardest,” Sodja said. “We came from a 1-4 deficit, got through overtime and won in a shoot-out. I think we deserved our first place here.

“We’re especially happy because we’ve repeated our success at the U18s in Bled two seasons ago.”

Promotion brings new challenges, not least because many key players will be unavailable to tackle Division IA next year. Absentees will include Sodja and the two North American-based forwards, Drozg (Shawinigan Cataractes) and Mark Strazisar (Hampton Roads Whalers).

“It will be difficult since about half the current team was born in 1999 and won’t be able to play next year,” Sodja admitted. “That won’t be easy, especially against even stronger teams at that level. But the team spirit we showed here means we can stay in a higher group even after next year’s tournament.”

Slovenia’s success has a strong Jesenice accent, reflecting the status of Anze Kopitar’s hometown as the hockey hot spot of the country. Ten of the roster play their hockey there, including Stojan, Sodja and goalie Ziga Kogovsek, and many of them have been getting extensive experience of the adult game in the cross-border Alps Hockey League. Head coach Burnik is also part of the staff at Jesenice and recently had a spell as interim head coach following the departure of Gaber Glavic last month.

Burnik is hopeful that this season’s international success can serve as an inspiration for the next generation. “Next year will see even better hockey played in Division IA. The 1999 year group is an above average group of players for us, but some key players will stay with the team. We cannot aim for the top spots but we will put in the maximum preparation. And let’s hope that this can motivate our younger players to starting practising hard tomorrow.”

While most of the plaudits went to Slovenia, there were honorable mentions for two Hungarian forwards. Kristoff Papp’s six goals made him the leading goalscorer of the tournament, one ahead of Hunor Csaszar. Slovenia’s Drozg earned the prize for top forward, Poland’s Olaf Bizacki was named top D-man and Italy’s Davide Fadani was the leading goalie.

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