Last Day of Prelims at 2019 World Juniors

The final day of the round-robin preliminary round of the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship got underway on New Year’s Eve 2018 and ended on New Year’s Day 2019.

In the earliest game involving a Devils prospect, Fabian Zetterlund and Sweden took on Kazakhstan. Sweden won 4-1 with Kazakhstan only mustering 11 shots on goal all night.

Emil Bemstrom got the scoring started in what was a three-goal first period for the Swedes. Rasmus Sandin and Nils Lundkvist rounded out the Swedish scoring in the first.

After a scoreless second period, Kazakhstan finally got on the board when Batrylan Muratov scored with about ten minutes left in the game. Kazakhstan had a chance to cut the lead in half possibly when they were up 5-on-3 when Sweden’s Lucas Elvenes went off for tripping at 12:55 and then Sandin was called for delay of game at 13:29. They could not convert and the Swedes added another one from Sandin with less than a minute to go in the game to give us the 4-1 final.

Zetterlund’s stat line read: five shots on goal and a plus-1 rating in 22:24 of ice time.

In goal, Sweden’s Olle Eriksson Ek stopped ten of the 11 Kazakhstan shots. Kazakhstan’s Denis Karatayev was a little more busy, making 52 saves on a whopping 56 Swedish shots on goal. He was solid considering the amount of work he had.

Sweden finishes the tournament in Group B with 11 points (three wins, one overtime win and no losses) and a 16-8 or plus-8 goal differential. Kazakhstan finishes Group B play winless with four losses and a 5-28 or minus-23 goal differential.

In the primetime game being played in Vancouver, the Canadians and the Russians squared off in a New Year’s Eve Group A showdown. Canada would be without the services of Jared McIsaac, who was suspended for one game for a high hit to the head of a Czech player in their game on December 29. The IIHF has a zero-tolerance policy against checks to the head saying that there is no such thing as a good hit to the head, and the hammer came down on this one.

This game was an exciting one (provided you were not rooting for Canada). Following a first period where Cody Glass scored just 2:20 into the game to give the Canadians a 1-0 lead and Grigori Denisenko scored 3:31 later to tie it for the Russians, things settled in. The two teams played a defensive struggle with occasional offensive outbursts such as the end of the second period that saw time expire as Canada was scrambling to get the puck past Russian goalie Pyotr Kochetkov. They did not and we played on tied into the third.

And in the third period, Pavel Shen scored with nine minutes remaining in the game to put Canada behind the eight-ball for the first time in the tourney. Russia led 2-1 and, following a desperate attempt by the Canadians to tie things, won the game by that score. The loss stunned the 17,556 in attendance at Rogers Arena, most of whom were obviously Canadian partisans.

Russia peppered Canadian goalie Michael DiPietro with 31 shots and he made 29 saves. Russia’s Kochetkov also faced 31 shots and stopped 30 of them.

Devils prospect Ty Smith had one shot and was an even plus/minus in a team-leading 23:15 of ice time.

Canada finishes prelim play with nine points (3-0-0-1 record) and a 23-5 or plus-18 goal differential. Russia wins Group A with 12 points (a 4-0-0-0 record) and a 15-6 or plus-9 goal differential.

The game that would take us into the new year was being played over in Victoria in the prelim finale. It was Finland versus the USA with the winner guaranteed to avoid both Canada and Russia in the crossover medal round.

This game was a little more free-wheeling than the Canada-Russia game in comparison. The US was able to come away with the win, 4-1.

USA’s Jason Robertson got the scoring kicked off with nine seconds remaining in the first period. John Madden’s son, Tyler, scored midway through the second to put the US up 2-0, handcuffing Finnish goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. Ryan Poehling, the hero from the other night, scored 5:02 later through the five hole to make it 3-0.

The Finns actually had a goal waved off early in the second period, that would have tied it up at one. But the US persisted on and Madden scored a second goal early in the third period that was also reviewed. There was question as to whether or not the puck was kicked into the net. After review, the call on the ice of a good goal stood. It was 4-0 USA.

Finland got one back late in the third when Jesse Ylonen tipped a Urho Vaakanainen shot past US goaltender Cayden Primeau. Devils prospect Aarne Talvitie had the secondary assist on that goal.

So with that win, the US will now remain in Victoria, their “home rink” where they have played all of their games thus far, and be the second seed in Group B.

Talvitie’s stat line read: the assist, two shots on goal, a plus-1 plus/minus and 12 minutes of penalties (a two minute boarding call and a ten minute misconduct early in the game) all in 11:40 of ice time.

US goalie Primeau stopped 27 of the Finns’ 28 shots while Luukkonen stopped 35 of 39 American shots on goal.

The US finishes in second in Group B with seven points behind only Sweden’s eleven. The US went 3-0-1-0 and had a goal differential of 18-9 or plus-9. Finland finishes third in Group B with six points (2-0-0-2) and a goal differential of 11-7 (plus-4).

I believe as it stands now, Denmark and Kazakhstan will face each other in the best-two-out-of-three relegation series, Russia will play Slovakia, Sweden will play Switzerland, Canada will play Finland and the USA will play the Czech Republic in the medal round quarterfinals.

We will have coverage of the Sweden-Switzerland and Canada-Finland games here as those are the games most relevant to the Devils. In the meantime, happy new year and have a safe and healthy 2019!