Category: World Junior Championships (page 2 of 14)

Serbia steps up

After last year’s silver on home ice, the Serbian U20 national team won it all in neighbouring country Croatia at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division II Group B

By Andy Potts –

Serbia’s U20 national team took gold in the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division II Group B after winning five out of five in Zagreb, Croatia. Fred Perowne’s roster confirmed top spot with a 6-2 win over the Netherlands on Monday afternoon. The Dutch, relegated from Division IIA last season, eventually finished third behind host nation Croatia.

It was a sense of ‘mission accomplished’ for Serbia. A year ago, on home ice, the team missed out on promotion due to an overtime loss against eventual group winner Spain. Twelve months later, there was no mistake. Several players from the 2018 team were available once again and their experience was a big factor in Serbia’s success here.

Those returnees included captain Andrija Spanjevic, who collected the top defenceman award after contributing six assists in five games. Marko Dragovic, the tournament’s top forward and leading goalscorer with 10 (7+3) points was also part of last season’s roster. Those two formed part of an 11-strong contingent from Crvena Zvezda Belgrade. Serbia’s 29th-place overall finish in the U20 World Championship program is the best placement since 2006.

Head coach Perowne, a Quebec-born naturalised Serb whose first engagement in the Balkans was back in 2001 as a forward with Vojvodina Novi Sad, was also back for a second year. His commitment to growing hockey in the region also inspired him to help establish Hockey Without Borders, an organisation that places volunteer coaches in a range of countries across the former Balkans and beyond to the Baltics and as far as India.

Serbia went into Monday’s play knowing that victory over the Dutch would clinch top spot, although a defeat could set up a three-way tie involving Croatia as well. For the Netherlands, it was win or bust and the Oranje struck first through Wouter Sars in the seventh minute. Serbia replied quickly through Lazar Pejcic, another returnee from 2018, and went in front late in the first frame on a power-play goal from Srdjan Subotic. Dragovic potted his seventh of the tournament in the second period as Serbia extended its lead to 4-2 before Subotic and Mirko Djumic scored their second goals of the game to complete a 6-2 scoreline.

Earlier in the tournament, Serbia overcame host Croatia 4-1 in front of a raucous crowd of over 2,000 fans in Zagreb’s Dom Sportova. The host made a slow start and might have allowed more than a fifth-minute goal from Vasilije Andjelkovic as Serbia dominated the opening session. The middle frame was tighter, but again the Serbs found the net through Petar Mirkov late in the frame. Two quick goals from Dragovic and Subotic killed the game early in the third, the latter converting a 5-on-3 power play after captain Spanjevic carefully quarterbacked the play; Patrik Dobric mustered a late consolation for Croatia.

The host nation finished with silver medals, moving ahead of the Netherlands on the final day thanks to a 2-1 win over Israel. The Israelis also had something to celebrate after securing fifth place in the pool and preserving their place for next season. Last year’s Division III champion ensured its survival with an impressive 5-1 victory over Mexico led by two goals and an assist from Yuval Halpert. Mexico failed to record a single victory and drops to the basement division for 2020. Belgium, which survived after coming out ahead in a three-way tie for the last three places 12 months ago, improved to collect two victories in Zagreb and stood clear in fourth spot.

Croatia’s Dominic Canic led the scoring chart with 11 (2+9) points, one ahead of Dragovic and Sars, who tied for second with identical 7+3 returns. Djumic also collected 10 points, with three goals and seven assists. While Serbia picked up the awards for the tournament’s best defenceman and forward, Croatia’s goalie Domagoj Troha was nominated as the best netminder.

China tops Australia to win Division III

The Chinese U20 national team celebrates after winning the Division III in the third attempt.

By Ryan Healy –

China defeated Australia Sunday night by a score of 5-1 to take home the gold at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division III. The Chinese team, coached by IIHF Hall of Famer Jakob Kolliker, was dominant throughout the tournament, outscoring their opponents 49-5 on route to a perfect record.

China will now advance to Division II Group B for 2020, an important success for the Chinese Ice Hockey Association, who is in the middle of a push to rapidly improve their hockey program ahead of the 2022 Olympic Winter Games on home ice in Beijing. 

This win comes after the team was edged out from advancement in 2017 and 2018. When asked what he thought pushed them over the edge, Kolliker pointed to their disciplined play. 

“The team worked hard. They were disciplined the whole tournament,” the former U20 national team coach of Switzerland said. “I think that was the key – working and discipline. They stayed in the range, and I’m happy about this… I’m happy we can end the week like this, with a medal.”

China’s players dominated the scoring leaderboard, claiming the top-five spots for total points, and throughout the tournament, it was clear that their skill, speed, and conditioning were all at a level unmatched by their competition. Yan Juncheng topped tournament scoring with seven goals and 13 assists in five games, and also tied for a tournament-best +19. 

In goal, the Chinese duo of Wu Siming and Zhang Yuhang were the stingiest in the tournament, allowing only a single goal in each of the team’s games. Goaltending coach Pasi Hakkinen noted that while his goalies may not have been busy, “they did their job every time we needed them to make a save, so we’re pretty happy about that.”

China opened the scoring in the gold medal game 6:21 into the first when Yan Juncheng took advantage of a turnover, broke in alone and scored blocker-side on Australian goaltender Seb Woodlands. 33 seconds later Wang Jing found a hole on the short-side from a bad angle to make it 2-0. China added a third goal in the second period, shelling Woodlands while giving up few if any real scoring chances on their own end. Halfway through the third period, China had expanded their lead to 5-0, until Australian defenceman Hayashi Kenshin blocked a point shot on a Chinese power play and raced in on the Chinese goal under pressure, tucking a deke five-hole on Wu Siming for the shorthanded goal. 

While the Australian team certainly would’ve preferred gold, their strong second-place finish marks a major improvement over 2018, when the team lost three of their five games after being relegated out of Division IIB in 2017. While they didn’t have many high-quality scoring chances throughout the game, they were the only team to hold the high-octane Chinese offence to under six goals, cheered on by a crowd of fans bested in size only by the home team. When the final buzzer sounded, Woodlands and backup goalie Ethan Splede had turned away 45 of 50 shots in a heroic, albeit doomed effort. 

Bronze medallist Turkey returned to Division III in 2019 after playing in Division IIB in 2018. They finished the tournament 3-2, including a 12-1 loss to China in the semi-finals, but were able to shake off that loss and put in a strong performance to secure the bronze in a 6-0 win against neighbouring rival Bulgaria. Sait Bingol netted four of Turkey’s six goals, and goaltender Burak Gumuslu turned away 27 shots on route to the shutout – aided in-part by the absence of Bulgaria’s top-scorer, Miroslav Vasilev, due to suspension. 

Bulgaria looked exceptionally strong in the preliminary round with a 20-7 goal record, thanks in part to notable play from Vasilev, defenceman Kaloyan Vachkov, and goaltender Ivan Stoynov. They had their eye on a run to the gold medal game but lost to Australia in the semi-finals in what was easily the most well matched and exciting game of the tournament. The final score was 7-4, but the game was extremely tight, with Australia netting their game-winning fifth goal deep in the third with only 3:01 left on the clock. 

Despite being forced out of medal contention, the Icelandic team delivered a strong showing in front of their home crowd, including an overtime win against Australia in their opener. In the end, they lost only one game – a 4-2 heartbreaker against Turkey. A win in that game would have secured Iceland first place in Group A, but with the loss, they instead fell to third in the group. Despite that disappointment, the tournament was a success not only for the team but for the host organisation, Ice Hockey Iceland. 

“I believe all teams go home satisfied with the tournament, so everything worked out,” said Ice Hockey Iceland general secretary Konrad Gylfason. “And this was a big tournament – 8 teams – so it was even tougher for us, but still, everything went very well.”

2019 saw the tournament re-expanded to eight teams from the six-team structure used in 2018, with Chinese Taipei and South Africa returning to U20 Division III play. South Africa finished the tournament with two wins, both in close contests against New Zealand, who finished the tournament winless. In their second meeting, the Kiwi team opened the game by performing an impressive haka – a traditional Maori warrior challenge widely popularised by the national rugby team, the famed All Blacks. 

Chinese Taipei dropped their first three games in the preliminary round but picked up a 7-1 win against South Africa in the placement semi-finals. Despite the lopsided record, Chinese Taipei’s goalie, Huang Sheng-Chun, was a standout. He posted an impressive 93.7 save percentage, edged out only by China’s Wu Siming at 93.9. Huang also averaged 47.8 saves per game, a tournament best, earning him the award for top goalie. 

The award for top forward went to Iceland’s Heidar Kristveigarson, who was the tournaments second top goal scorer, with eight goals in five games. Top defenceman went to China’s Zhang Dehan, who was fourth in total scoring with one goal and fourteen assists.

Estonian juniors promoted

The Estonian U20 national team listens to its national anthem after getting its fourth win in the fourth game.

By Henrik Manninen –

Estonia won the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division II Group A on home ice in Tallinn. Sweeping through the tournament undefeated, Estonia needed only four games to clinch top spot.

The Estonian U20 national team will move up to the Division I level for the first time since 2009.

The Baltic nation struck gold courtesy of a 7-2 win against Korea in front of 1,730 inside Tondiraba Icehall to win promotion to Division IB. Estonia had earlier in the tournament edged Spain (2-1) in their opener, overcome top-seeds Lithuania after penalty shots (2-1) before downing Great Britain (5-2) during day three. The 2-1 shootout win over their Baltic rival Lithuania proved to be crucial as the Lithuanians are second three point behind Estonia but cannot overtake Estonia anymore as the head-to-head game would serve as tie-breaker.

“First of all this win is a testament to the good work we’ve done over a number of years. If we look at the bigger picture, the Estonian Ice Hockey Association has done a good job, offered players opportunities to play elsewhere. Looking specifically at this team, we have a strong team mentally, always staying positive and our level of performance is high. We only conceded six goals in four games and defended really well throughout the tournament,” said Estonia’s U20 head coach Simo Luukkainen.

Seven different scorers with all four lines being on the scoresheet in their final day 7-2 win against Korea is a testament to Estonia’s team-effort. Against a battling Korean team, it was far from plain sail for the hosts, who required a final frame five-goal splurge before sealing their gold medals with one game to spare.

Despite emphatically outshooting their opponents 41-16, Estonia needed to wait almost half-way through the game to break the deadlock against Korea. Rasmus Kiik had seen his one-on-one saved by the Tae Kyung Kim before Christofer Jogi hit home the rebound for Estonia’s opener at 28:26. Estonia captain Ed Slessarevski rounded Kim’s cage and picked out Emil Svartbro, who doubled their lead before the middle frame was over.

But nerves crept back into the game with Estonia’s Slessarevski given a major and game misconduct penalty for boarding 40 seconds into the final frame. Korea needed only 24 seconds to convert with a goal by Seokhwan Kim at 41:04 after Oliver Soovik had saved Beomjun Park’s effort. 64 seconds later Korea rejoiced again as Geon Woo Kim potted home a Geonho Jin shot to silence the expectant home crowd.

“Korea got back to 2-2 but we knew that we needed to win. With so many of our players carrying injuries it was important that we got it done today and we managed to turn it back into our favour,” said head coach Luukkainen.

With plenty of time left on a man-advantage and with Korea surging ahead for more goals, they got punished by a deadly Estonian breakaway. Tommy Jansson picked out Morten Arantez Jurgens. On a two-on-one the latter fed Andre Linde, who put Estonia back in front whilst playing shorthanded at 43:15.

Following a Korea timeout, Junkyung Yang sailed through the Estonian defence but was denied by Soovik, before Estonia once again took control of the game and never relinquished it.

At 47:30 Jegor Nevzorov combined skill and speed as he picked up the puck in front of Soovik’s cage and weaved himself through the entire Korea team for Estonia’s fourth. With Korea running out of steam, and Estonia being on a two-man-advantage, towering Saveli Novikov powered a bullet past Kim.

The 5-2 marker arrived just 33 seconds later as Kirill Lodeikin added further gloss with his power-play goal before Dilan Savenkov closed the scoring 7-2 with 7:40 left of the game.

With a place for the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division I Group B now sealed, head coach Luukkainen looks ahead of what is to come with plenty of optimism.

“Our win generates belief and this path we need to continue on. We have a good generation where most of the players will be able to participate even next year.”

“Each player must now work hard every day to become a better player – physically, tactically and technically. We defended well, but we can also improve our attacking play as well as everything else in our game,” continued head coach Luukkainen.

Scoring a brace against Great Britain and converting one of Estonia’s two penalty shots against Lithuania, 18-year-old Artemi Aleksandrov praised the togetherness of the team as a contributing factor to their success.

“I didn’t think about scoring points, I just wanted to win the gold medal. Everybody on the team works hard and our coach works well with the team. We are very friendly with each other. Nobody is yelling at each other, so it is a great thing and it was so nice to play for Estonia at this tournament,” said Tallinn-born Aleksandrov, who plays his hockey in Sweden for Rogle Angelholm’s U20-team.

In just over three months’ time the Tondiraba Icehall will play host to the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B. With Estonia last year finishing a fine third, the feel-good factor is hoped to continue with more juniors also finding their way into the senior national team fold.

“From this group of U20-players there could be a spine for a future national team. At the same time, the Estonian men’s national team standard has also risen of late, but it is realistic that two to five players from the U20 will play also for the men’s senior team this spring,” said Luukkainen

One such player hoping for a call-up is 18-year-old Aleksandrov, who made his debut for the senior national team last November at the Baltic Challenge Cup played in Vilnius, Lithuania.

“It was very interesting to play at senior level. When it comes to speed I didn’t feel too much difference, but the senior players are hitting hard and shoot better. But I don’t want to say anything about the upcoming senior World Championship apart from that I hope I am going to make the team,” said Aleksandrov.

With the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division II Group A entering its final day of games on Saturday there is still plenty left to play for. Lithuania, Romania and Great Britain are all in contention for a medal, while Korea still has a glimmer of hope to climb above Spain and beat the drop.

World Juniors: Netherlands Junior Hockey News

By Kerry Jackson –

The Netherlands national team, which was relegated to Group B of Division II after a last-place finish in the 2018 International Ice Hockey Federation’s U20 World Junior Championship, has started this year’s tournament in a deep hole, losing 7-0 to host Croatia Tuesday night.

The Dutch, who struggled to score goals last year, totaling only 13 in five games, a tournament low, will have a chance stop bounce back Wednesday against Belgium, which has won its only game so far, beating Israel 6-3.

Gone from last year’s team are the top four scorers, including 1998-born defenseman Noah Muller, who is now playing Division III hockey in the U.S. at St. Michael’s College, where he has one goal and four assists in 16 games this season. The team will have to rely on returnees Dennis Sikma (1999 forward, one goal, two assists in last year’s WJC), Wouter Sars (2000 forward, one goal, one assist), and forward Jay de Ruiter, who had only one assist last year, but was playing as a 16-year-old and could be a breakout player in this year’s WJC.

A few members of the Dutch team have developed, or are developing, their games in U.S. junior leagues. Alexandar Makarin, a 2000-born forward, was playing in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights’ organization as far back as the 2015-16 season, when he skated in the Knights’ North American Prospects Hockey League and Atlantic Youth Hockey League U16 teams. Tobie Collard, a 1999 forward also known as Tobie Tjin-A-Ton, has played for both the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs’ NCDC and USPHL Premier squads this season. Eef Gerritsen is also a part of the Monarchs’ organization. The 2000 forward has dressed for a dozen games in the Tier 1 Elite Hockey League U18 division.

De Ruiter, who turned 17 on Aug. 1, has played 11 games with the Connecticut Jr. Rangers at the USPHL U18 level, where he’s scored three goals and added four assists. De Ruiter is already a veteran of international competition, having played not only in last year’s IIHF U20 World Junior Championship, but the U18 tournament, as well.

Looking ahead to the U18 WJC in Serbia at the end of March, the Dutch will lean on at least one young player to spark the offense. Jay Huisman, a 2002 forward, scored a pair of goals in the 2018 tournament. So far this season, Huisman has scored five goals and set up four in 12 games for the Zoetermeer Panters of BeNeLiga, the top league in the Netherland and Belgium.

World Juniors: Spain Junior Hockey News

By Kerry Jackson –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WJC Day 10 roundup

U.S. holds off Russia, will play Finland in final


United States 2, Russia 1

Cayden Primeau made 34 saves, and the United States advanced to the championship game with a 2-1 win against Russia in the semifinals of the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Arena on Friday.

Oliver Wahlstrom (New York Islanders) and Alexander Chmelevski (San Jose Sharks) scored for the United States, which eliminated Russia for the third straight year (semifinals in 2017, quarterfinals in 2018) and will play Finland, a 6-1 semifinal winner against Switzerland, on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN).

“It’s a pretty emotional tournament and obviously a game like that is pretty emotional, so just not trying to get too high, not trying to get too low is key,” Primeau said. “The goal is gold, so we’re not quite finished yet. The battle is still there, so it’s an honor and to do it with this group is something special.”

The United States is 8-1-0-12 against Russia in the tournament.

Grigori Denisenko (Florida Panthers) scored and Pyotr Kochetkov made 25 saves for Russia, which lost for the first time in six tournament games and will play the loser of the Finland/Switzerland game for the bronze medal.

“It’s a big disappointment, but a new day is [Saturday], a new game,” Russia forward Kirill Slepets said through a translator. “Our team is one of the best here. We were a little bit unlucky. We will fight for the (bronze) medal.”

Denisenko appeared to have given Russia a 1-0 lead at 12:13 of the first period, but a video review determined he redirected the puck into the net with his skate, which is not allowed according to IIHF rules.

Wahlstrom gave the United States a 1-0 lead at 14:29 of the first with a one-timer from the right circle off a pass from Logan Cockerill (Islanders).

Chmelevski made it 2-0 with a power-play goal off a pass from Jack Hughes (2019 NHL Draft eligible) at 4:20 of the second period.

“It was a little nerve-racking in the end, and they’re really hard to play against because they have a lot of high-end skill,” Hughes said. “It was nice to come away with the win. We’ll need to have the same effort [Saturday].”

Denisenko cut it to 2-1 at 13:36 from low in the right circle on a shot that beat Primeau (Montreal Canadiens) over his left shoulder.

Russia forward Klim Kostin (St. Louis Blues) almost tied the game 1:12 into the third period when his shot on the power play trickled behind Primeau, but United States defenseman Philip Kemp (Edmonton Oilers) cleared the puck away with his stick just before it crossed the goal line.

“I saw a guy take a shot and then it hit Primeau and I kind of lost if for a bit,” Kemp said. “Then I saw it drop down, and I knew I had to beat that guy’s stick who was in the crease, so I just tried to get a low position and dig it out.

“To be honest, I wasn’t really thinking, it was just instincts. I don’t know if it was from practice, muscle memory or what not from just digging them out on the crease, but it was a huge play for us.”

Primeau made 15 saves in the third period to preserve the lead.

“He’s provided comfort for us when we’ve needed him,” United States coach Mike Hastings said. “When you play a team as good as Russia, they’re going to get their chances and you need that last line of defense to be there for you, to allow you time to catch your breath at times.”

Russia entered the game 5-for-16 on the power play (31.3 percent) but went 0-for-2 against the United States, which has the top penalty kill in the tournament (12-for-13, 92.3 percent).

“Your best penalty killer needs to be your goaltender, and [Primeau] was [Friday],” Hastings said.

Finland 6, Switzerland 1

Aarne Talvitie (New Jersey Devils) scored twice, and Aleski Heponiemi (Florida Panthers) had one goal and three assists to help Finland defeat Switzerland 6-1 in the semifinals of the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Arena on Friday.

Finland will play the United States on Saturday for the championship.

“Of course they are the favorites, but I think we have a good chance if we battle hard and we are the guys who control the puck,” Finland coach Jussi Ahokas said. “We played better and better after every game.”

Rasmus Kupari (Los Angeles Kings) had a goal and two assists, Jesse Ylonen (Montreal Canadiens) and Henri Jokiharju (Chicago Blackhawks) scored, and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (Buffalo Sabres) made 16 saves for Finland, which outshot Switzerland 33-17.

“We got a couple of goals straight from the beginning, so it gave us confidence to play through the game,” Talvitie said. “It was good we scored some goals. It was a boost on our confidence.”

Philipp Kurashev (Chicago Blackhawks) scored his tournament-leading sixth goal for Switzerland, which plays Russia for third place Saturday.

“The team that wants it more will win and we’ll leave it all on the ice,” Switzerland defenseman Simon le Coultre said.

Switzerland made the semifinal with a 2-0 upset of Sweden and 41 saves from Luca Hollenstein, but the 2019 NHL Draft-eligible goalie was pulled after four goals on eight shots in 7:43 Friday.

Ylonen, a second-round pick (No. 35) in the 2018 NHL Draft, scored 40 seconds into the game, and Talvitie, picked in the sixth round (No. 160) of the 2017 NHL Draft, scored 2:01 apart to make it 3-0.

Jokiharju, who was picked No. 29 in the 2017 draft and played 32 games for the Blackhawks this season, scored on a power play to make it 4-0.

Akira Schmid (Devils) made 23 saves in relief for Switzerland, which won its only WJC medal in 1998 (bronze). Russia defeated Switzerland 7-4 in the preliminary round; the game was tied 3-3 after two periods.

“We played a good 40 minutes,” le Coultre said. “Now we have to play 60.”

Kazakhstan stays, Denmark relegated

Kazakhstan’s Davyd Makutski (#12) celebrates with team-mates after scoring against Denmark

By Dhiren Mahiban –

Kazakhstan avoided relegation defeating Denmark 4-0 on Friday at the IIHF World Junior Championship. The Kazakhs edged the Danes 4-3 in the first game of the best-of-three relegation round on Wednesday to keep their spot in the top group for the 2020 tournament.

Captain Sayan Daniyar and forward Davyd Makutski had first period goals for Kazakhstan while goaltender Demid Yeremeyev made 25 saves for his first shutout of the tournament.

Danish starting goaltender Mads Soegaard allowed two goals on the first two shots he faced and was replaced by William Rorth, who stopped 12 shots in relief.

Denmark pulled Rorth with 2:46 remaining in the third looking for a pair of goals to force the game into overtime, but Artur Gatiyatov added his fourth goal of the tournament into an empty net for Kazakhstan with 1:32 remaining. He then added a second empty-net goal with 54.1 seconds left to make it 4-0.

The 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic will be the seventh time Kazakhstan plays in the top group. They played in the top division from 1998-2001 and in 2008 and 2009 prior to this year’s event.

The loss relegates Denmark to the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division I Group A while Germany, who won the Division IA last month, will be promoted to the top group and take Denmark’s spot for 2020.

Sayan Daniyar opened the scoring 35 seconds into the first period. The Kazakh forward was attempting a wraparound and put the puck in off of Soegaard’s stick and into the net for his second goal of the tournament.

Makutski doubled Kazakhstan’s lead at 3:47 of the opening frame putting a loose puck over the glove of Soegaard for his first of the World Junior Championship.

Makutski’s goal chased Soegaard from the Danish goal. The 18-year-old netminder allowed two goals on the first two shots he faced and was replaced by Rorth.

Denmark’s offence continued to be an issue on Friday. Entering the second game of the relegation round the Danes had scored in just one of five games.

The Danes out-shot the Kazakhs 10-4 in the opening 20 minutes, but had nothing to show for it.

Emil Marcussen had Denmark’s best chance of the period at 11:46, but couldn’t beat Yeremeyev. Gustav Green found Marcussen alone in the slot, but Yeremeyev made a big glove save on the one-timer.

Despite out-shooting Kazakhstan 9-7 and having the only two power play chances of the second period, Denmark was unable to solve Yeremeyev.

Denmark defeated Belarus in the relegation round at the World Junior Championship in Buffalo last year. The loss demotes them to Division IA for the first time since 2014.

WJC Day 8 roundup:

Finland rallies past Canada in OT in quarterfinals


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


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


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).

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