Quarterfinal Wednesday at 2019 World Juniors

The 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship is down to the quarterfinal round today, featuring two games with Devils prospects involved: Sweden versus Switzerland and Finland taking on Canada.

The long day of hockey in British Columbia began with the first game of the best-of-three relegation round at Rogers Arena. In this one, Kazakhstan edged Denmark, 4-3. The Danes finally scored a goal in this tournament after having been blanked in each of their preliminary games. Jonas Rondbjerg scored the first Danish goal of the tournament, tying things up at one at the 9:00 mark of the first period.

However, Kazakhstan was able to hold off the Danes late and take a 1-0 lead in the series with game two being played on Friday.

In the first medal round game, the Swiss met the Swedes in Victoria. Akira Schmid did not play, yielding the net to Luca Hollenstein who was nothing short of brilliant today.

We have talked about the Swedish domination in the preliminary rounds of these World Junior tournaments, but they have not been quite as successful when it has come to the later rounds. That trend continued today as they lost to Switzerland, 2-0. But that is not to say that the Swiss did not play well, they played fantastically in the upset, just beating the Swedes to loose pucks and pushing the pace of the game all the way.

Yannick Bruschweiler scored what would be the game winner 15:23 into the first period. Luca Wyss added a bit of a controversial goal in the second period on the power play. The play should have been called dead on a high stick (not a penalty, just the Swedish clearing attempt being played with a high stick) but it was not. Switzerland continued on in front of the Swedish net and Wyss scored to make it 2-0. And that was the final as Switzerland came away with the upset victory.

Both goalies played well, with Hollenstein notching the shutout – the first time Sweden had been shutout in this tournament since 2006. Both Hollenstein and Sweden’s Samuel Ersson were named their respective team’s players of the game. Hollenstein stopped all 41 Swedish shots while Ersson made 33 saves.

Fabian Zetterlund had four shots on goal (including being stopped on a nice chance while Sweden was on the power play early in the third period), two penalty minutes (an elbowing penalty with about ten minutes remaining in the game) and was a minus-1 in 19:36 of ice time.

Sweden is now out and Switzerland will move on in the tournament as they have finally taken the next step. Their opponent would be set in the next game.

That game was Canada versus Finland from Vancouver, the other Devils-centric game being played tonight. And this one was a doozy.

The game was tied at zero heading into the second period where Ian Mitchell scored to give the Canadians a 1-0 lead. Things were rolling along for Canada until Finland pulled Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, their goaltender, with about a minute to go in the game. With 47 ticks of the clock left to go, Aleksi Heponiemi scored to tie it up and send it to overtime.

Just 1:14 into the OT session, Eeli Tolvanen of Finland was called for hooking and a penalty shot was awarded to Canada. Max Comtois was denied by Luukkonen and play continued on. It would only take 4:03 for the Finns to claim victory from there. Toni Utunen scored from Aarne Talvitie and Heponiemi to move Finland on to the next round against the Swiss.

Ty Smith for Canada finished a minus-2 in 26:20 of ice time, which led all Canadian skaters. Talvitie had the assist, four shots on goal, was a plus-2 all in 24:12 of ice time for the Finns. In that shocker of a finish, the Canadians go home and Finland will play on against the Swiss for a medal.

Luukkonen had 24 saves on 25 shots while Canada’s Michael DiPietro stopped 32 of the 34 Finnish shots thrown at him.

In the other bracket and back at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre, Team USA defeated the Patrik Elias-assistant coached Czech Republic, 3-1. The US got goals from Noah Cates, Josh Norris and Alexander Chmelevski in the win. Martin Kaut scored the lone Czech goal. The winner of this game would get the winner of the Russia-Slovakia game.

Goaltending-wise for this game, the US fired 41 shots at Lukas Dostal, who made 38 saves. The Czechs mustered just 19 shots and Cayden Primeau got 18 of them.

And that led us to the final game of the quarterfinal knockout round from Vancouver. While Sweden-Switzerland and Canada-Finland gave us lots of drama and upsets, the Russian game went about as you would expect. They beat the Slovaks 8-3 to power through to the semifinals.

Russia got goals from Grigori Denisenko, Stepan Starkov, Alexander Alexeyev, Nikita Shashkov, Kirill Slepets, Ilya Morozov and two from Klim Kostin. Slovakia got a goal from Martin Fehervary in the third and one from Milos Roman late in the game. The Russians used their coach’s challenge to look for offsides on the Roman goal and were not successful. That set up a Slovak power play (Russia was assessed a delay of game penalty) on which Michal Ivan scored. That gave us our final of 8-3 as the Slovaks will go home and the Russians will play the Americans in the semifinal round.

In goal, Russia’s Pyotr Kochetkov made 32 saves on 35 Slovak shots. Slovakia’s Juraj Sklenar made 22 saves on just 30 Russian shots.

So that sets up our matchups for Friday. We will, of course, have coverage of that here then along with the Devils-Coyotes game, which is also on Friday. See you then!

Devils Battle, But Lose to Stars 5-4

The Devils battled back from two two-goal deficits only to give up a goal late and fall to the Stars 5-4 in Dallas. The Devils were looking for a fourth straight win for the first time since the beginning of the season, but were denied thanks to two goals each from Miro Heiskanen and Tyler Seguin.

It has been an eventful week so far in Dallas, one that began with their CEO publicaly and profanely calling out the Stars’ two best players, Seguin and Jamie Benn, and ending with the announcement that the city would host the 2020 Winter Classic at the Cotton Bowl.

In Devils news, Taylor Hall was placed on injured reserve retroactive to December 23 as per Amanda Stein on Twitter. Because it is retroactive to December 23, Hall can be brought back at any time, he did not, however, make the trip with the team to Dallas. Blake Pietila and Egor Yakovlev were recalled from Binghamton of the AHL. They were both healthy scratches joining Mirco Mueller.

Hall was also named the Devils’ representative to the 2019 NHL All-Star Game at San Jose later this month. Kyle Palmieri was also named a potential injury replacement as per Steve Cangialosi on Twitter. Congratulations to both of them on this well earned honor.

Between the pipes, the Devils went back to Mackenzie Blackwood for their first game of 2019. Blackwood was under siege most of the night from Dallas, stopping 35 of 40 shots on him. Facing him was Ben Bishop, someone who the Devils have had some trouble with of late. He stopped 30 of the 34 shots thrown his way.

Kyle Palmieri scored the Devils’ first goal of the new year just 3:41 into the first, his 20th of the season and also his 100th in a New Jersey Devils uniform. It came after Travis Zajac was able to hold the blue line for the Devils, get the puck to Andy Greene, who made a nifty pass to Palmieri. Palmieri then tipped the pass into the Dallas net to make it 1-0. Unfortunately for the Devils, they would lose Greene to injury later in the game.

At the 12:31 mark, Benn responded for the Stars as he scored off a pass from Alexander Radulov, who had gone wide around the net while shielding the puck and passing to Benn in the slot. Benn scored and ended Blackwood’s shutout streak at 135:26, tying the game at one. Benn, too, would be lost for the game for Dallas after taking a hit from Miles Wood in the second period. John Klingberg had the secondary assist on his goal.

That hit came at 2:05 of the second when Wood would draw a five minute major for interference against Benn. The teams would play 4-on-4 as Esa Lindell and Stefan Noesen were off for roughing and John Klingberg of the Stars was called for cross checking. Once those three minor penalties ended, Dallas would be on a three minute power play (the Wood call).

At the 3:21 mark of the second period, while 4-on-4, Miro Heiskanen used a head fake and a deke to skate around Blackwood to make it 2-1 Stars. He got assists from Tyler Pitlick and Roman Polak.

By 6:38, the minors had expired and the Wood power play kicked in. With Dallas up 5-on-4, Tyler Seguin sniped one by Blackwood from Radulov and Klingberg. That goal made it 3-1 Stars.

On the power play for the night, the Devils ended up 1-for-4 with nine shots. Dallas was 1-for-3 with six shots as well as two shorthanded shots.

The Devils were down by two but the comeback was on once Jesper Bratt grabbed a loose puck off the rebound of a Nico Hischier breakaway at 11:08 of the second. The puck was on end and Bratt was able to shoot it by Bishop to cut the lead to 3-2 Stars.

But the Stars would grab back the two goal lead when Seguin scored his second of the game at 12:24 from Radulov and Valeri Nichushkin. Seguin was able to roof a pass from Radulov by Blackwood to make it 4-2 Dallas.

The Devils looked down and out, but this recent three game winning streak has really energized the team and has them more confident than ever and it showed. Drew Stafford made it 4-3 when he broke in on a 2-on-1 with Brett Seney and went to a backhand-forehand move to beat Bishop. Will Butcher had the secondary assist on the goal that made it 4-3 at 17:21.

And amazingly, the Devils would tie things before the end of the second period. It came when the Devils were on the power play due to Heiskanen going off for a holding call against Bratt at 18:09. With the Devils on the man advantage, Brian Boyle redirected a Butcher shot from the point to tie the game at four. Zajac had the other assist and the game was knotted going into the second intermission.

But the game winner would come just 6:27 into the third period when Heiskanen scored his ninth of the year and second of the game from Roope Hintz to give us our final of 5-4. That goal came on just as a delayed penalty was about to be called on the Devils.

New Jersey would pull Blackwood with about 1:30 remaining in regulation but were stopped again and again by the Stars. The final horn sounded and the Stars had won, with Heiskanen being named the first star, Seguin the second and Radulov, who had three assists, the third.

Final team stats saw the Devils outshot 40 to 34 (at one point, the Devils went 22:46 without a shot on goal in this game), the Devils win 46-percent of the game’s faceoffs, the Devils out hit the Stars 31-23, and out block Dallas, 17-14. Dallas had more giveaways at 13 to the Devils’ 11.

individually, Sami Vatanen led all skaters with 23:17 of ice time (including 2:12 of PP time and 27 seconds of PK time) while Zajac led the forwards with 21:08 (4:12 of PP/1:49 of PK). Zajac and Boyle co-led in shots with five apiece, Blake Coleman, back in his old stomping grounds, led in hits with seven. Zajac led in blocked shots with five and Nico Hischier led in takeaways with two.

Next up, the Devils will travel to the desert to take on the Arizona Coyotes in the two team’s first meeting of the year. That game is at 9 PM eastern and we will have all of the coverage for you right here.