It was another busy day in British Columbia at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championships with four games involving Devils prospects on the docket. Let’s get to it.
In the early game at Rogers Arena, Switzerland notched a shutout against Denmark. Akira Schmid did not play in this game as Luca Hollenstein made 21 saves on the Danes, who continue to struggle in this tournament. Philipp Kurashev had a hat trick for the Swiss and Simon le Coultre added one to give the host Swiss the 4-0 win. Switzerland will next take on the Russians on Sunday (December 30) in Group A action.
Moving over to Victoria and the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre, Finland defeated Slovakia 5-1. Aarne Talvitie had an assist on the game’s second goal by Santeri Virtanen, which made it 2-0 Finland. The Finnish captain’s stat line read an assist, two penalty minutes (a tripping penalty 15:40 into the second period that resulted in the lone Slovakian goal of the game by Milos Roman less than a minute into the penalty), a shot on goal and a plus-1 rating all in 16:30 of total ice time. Finnish goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made 22 saves on 23 Slovak shots in taking the win. Finland’s next opponent is the United States on New Year’s Eve in what will be the late game on that night. If you are planning to stay up, you could catch some World Junior action between Team USA and the Aarne Talvitie and the Finns if you so choose on the NHL Network here in the States. You could do worse, that’s for sure.
In the later game in Group A in Vancouver, Canada took on the Czech Republic and the Canadians just continued to roll in the tournament. They defeated the Czechs 5-1 to remain atop Group A. Ty Smith had an assist (on Brett Leason’s goal at 11:32 of the first period, the one that would go down as the game winner), two shots on goal and an even plus/minus rating in 9:48 of total ice time.
In addition to the Leason goal, Maxime Comtois, Alexis Lafreniere, MacKenzie Entwistle and Morgan Frost all had tallies for Team Canada. Ondrej Machala had the lone goal for the Czechs. Canada chased Czech goalie Jiri Patera in favor of Jakub Skarek in the third period. Next up, the Canadians look for a test on New Year’s Eve when they take on Russia in the conclusion of Group A preliminary round play.
The final game on the slate saw Sweden putting their prelim winning streak on the line against the Americans in Victoria. It was a clash of the top two teams in Group B. Both teams with six points, but the US leading on goal differential coming into the game plus-7 to Sweden’s plus-4.
Sweden took the lead early and often with Filip Westerlund, Rickard Hugg, Emil Bemstrom and Erik Brannstrom scoring over the first two periods and early into the third to give them the 4-0 lead. But the US would not die so easily. They scored three straight from Mikey Anderson on the power play, Ryan Poehling and another from Poehling with the goaltender pulled.
That set up a dramatic play with 22.8 seconds remaining where Poehling went to the net and finished off a natural hat trick to tie it at four. The Americans had miraculously come back to tie things up after being left for dead all evening. The Swedes’ streak was on the line as we headed to overtime.
US goalie Kyle Keyser made a huge save early in the OT session (which is five minutes of three-on-three for the prelim round) but the Swedes were opportunistic and Adam Boqvist won it off a 2-on-1 with 1:09 left in the OT to preserve the Swedish streak at 46 straight prelim wins.
Fabian Zetterlund ended the game with one shot on net and an even plus/minus rating in 12:54 of ice time. The Swedes also take over first place in Group B on points. The Swedes will now take on Kazakhstan on New Year’s Eve.
Overall it was an exciting day of action at the World Juniors. The USA-Sweden finish is one that has to be seen to be believed and it is just too bad that the Americans could not complete the comeback in overtime.
We will see you tomorrow here with more coverage of the 2019 World Junior Championships.