Final Day of Prelim Play at 2020 World Juniors

It was the last day to get things in order for the medal rounds of the 2020 World Junior Championship and teams were busy. Russia, Switzerland, Canada and Sweden (duh) all won today to help set up the tournament going forward.

We begin with the Swedes versus Slovakia. Sweden has now gone thirteen straight World Juniors without losing a game in the preliminary rounds. Sure, things might get dicey for them when the medal round comes along, but they are nothing but dominant in this part of the tournament. They won today, 6-2 to continue their unbelievable streak.

Nikola Pasic finished the game with two shots on goal and an even plus/minus in 15:15 of total ice time.

Sweden got on the board first ten seconds after Slovakia had killed off a too many men on the ice penalty when Alexander Holtz scored from Victor Soderstrom and Lucas Raymond.

Less than a minute later (13 seconds to be exact), Albin Eriksson scored from Karl Henriksson and Oskar Back to make it 2-0.

At the 12:10 mark of the first, Samuel Fagemo took an interference penalty to put Sweden down a man. But even being shorthanded, it’s hard to stop the Swedes. Philip Broberg scored from Linus Nassen 1:06 into the penalty kill for a shorthanded goal and a 3-0 lead.

Five minutes and eight seconds into the second, Back scored from Adam Ginning and Jonatan Berggren to make it 4-0.

Holtz scored his second of the game at 16:09 (assists to Soderstrom and Berggren) to make it 5-0.

In the third, just 4:30 in, Nils Hoglander was off for high-sticking and Kristian Kovacik finally got the Slovaks on the board to make it 5-1. Oliver Okuliar and Marko Stacha had the assists.

Robert Dzugan further cut into the Sweden lead at 18:03 when he scored from Martin Fasko-Rudas.

Just after the goal, Sweden’s Ginning and Slovakia’s Fasko-Rudas took matching roughing minors to put things at 4-on-4.

Just over a minute into the 4-on-4, Slovakia’s Maxim Cajkovic was called for hooking putting Sweden up on a 4-on-3 power play. They would score as Fagemo scored with 16 seconds remaining to make it 6-2. Hoglander and Nils Lundkvist had the asssits.

Swedish goalie Hugo Alnefelt made 16 saves on just 18 Slovak shots while Samuel Hlavaj was 36-for-42 in net for Slovakia.

The Swedes move on to the quarterfinals where they will take on the Czech Republic at the Ostravar Arena while Slovakia will face Canada in their quarterfinal matchup.

We now move from Group A to Group B as Russia and Germany met today with the Russians winning this one 6-1.

Danil MIsyul had a shot on goal and was a plus-2 plus/minus in 15:22 of ice time.

Russia scored just 6:10 in when Kirill Marchenko made it 1-0 from Nikita Alexandrov and Ivan Morozov. Marchenko notched his second at the 13:19 mark of the first to make it 2-0 getting assists from Vasili Podkolzin and Dmitri Voronkov.

Grigori Denisenko scored 14:19 into the second (from Alexander Khovanov) on the power play to make it 3-0. Immediately following the goal, Dennis Lobach was caught for slashing and Russia was right back on the power play. They converted on this one too, making it 4-0 when Pavel Dorofeyev scored from Marchenko and Alexander Romanov.

That goal came at 14:59, 40 seconds elapsed on the power play. At 17:06, Germany’s Daniel Wirt was called for a slash and the Russians were right back on the power play. Dorofeyev scored again, getting assists from Marchenko and Romanov again to make it 5-0.

Starting the third period, Germany swapped out goaltender Hendrik Hane for Tobias Ancicka. He would give up Russia’s sixth goal just 38 seconds into the frame. It came when Voronkov scored from Marchenko and Podkolzin. Marchenko had a hand in an amazing five of Russia’s six goals on the night.

With just about three minutes and 17 seconds to go in the game, Germany got on the board when Nino Kinder scored (Philipp Mass with the lone assist) to make it 6-1. They avoided the shutout, but it was too little, too late. Russia won with goalie Yaroslav Askarov making 22 saves on 23 German shots. For Germany, Hane and Ancicka combined to make 25 saves on 31 Russian shots.

Russia will now move on to play Switzerland in the quarters while Germany moves on to the relegation round against Kazakhstan.

Speaking of Switzerland, they took on Finland today and won 5-2. Akira Schmid did suit up, but was on the bench as Stephane Charlin’s backup.

Finland scored on the power play to begin the game, taking a 1-0 lead when Anttoni Honka scored from Ville Heinola and Kristian Tanus at 12:49. From there on out, it was all Switzerland.

Fabian Berri scored 19 seconds into the second with Sandro Schmid getting the lone assist. That tied the game at one.

At the 2:18 mark of the second, Gaetan Jobin scored from David Aebischer and Stephane Patry to give the Swiss their first lead of the day. And they would barely look back.

Joonas Oden scored for the Finns at 8:33 to make it 2-2 off of helpers from Lassi Thomson and Kim Nousiainen.

The Swiss took the lead again at 16:03 when Berri notched his second from Gian-Marco Wetter and Sandro Schmid to make it 3-2.

They scored their fourth at 10:03 of the third when Simon Knak (off assists from Tim Berni and Aebischer) found the back of the net.

At 18:01, Patry took a hooking penalty to put Finland on the power play. The Finns would pull goalie Justus Annunen for the 6-on-4 attack, but instead, Valentin Nussbaumer scored into the open net at 19:48 to ice the win for the Swiss at 5-2.

Annunen made 17 saves on 22 shots for Finland while Charlin stopped 36 of the Finns’ 38 shots on goal. An amazing night for him.

So now the Swiss, as mentioned, get the Russians in the quarters while Finland will face the USA. Both of those games will take place at the Werk Arena in Trinec.

The final game of the day that involved Devils prospects was Canada taking on the Czech Republic.

Canada ended up winning Group B with a big 7-2 victory over the Czechs.

Ty Smith had two assists for two points plus a shot on goal and a plus-2 plus/minus in 15:00 of total ice time. Kevin Bahl had two shots on goal and was a minus-1 in 14:31.

Canada scored early and often in this one. Just 4:41 in, Joe Veleno scored from Barrett Hayton and Calen Addison to make it 1-0.

At 7:59, the Czechs’ Matej Pekar was called for a high-stick, putting Canada on the power play. It took almost the full two minutes with Nolan Foote scoring at 9:57 from Bowen Byram and Smith for the Canadians to make it 2-0.

At 13:09, Czech Republic’s Otakar Sik got five minutes for slashing plus a game misconduct, putting Canada on the power play and having the Czechs lose him for the game. Canada scored twenty seconds later when Hayton got one from Dylan Cozens and Veleno.

They scored again at 14:30 when Connor McMichael scored from Cozens and Hayton to make it 4-0. After this goal, Czech Republic pulled starting goalie Lukas Parik in favor of Nick Malik.

The Czechs finally got one when Vojtech Strondala scored 11:10 into the second on the power play. Michal Teply and Simon Kubicek had the assists while Veleno was off for slashing.

Almost miraculously, the Czechs cut the Canadian lead in half when Libor Zabransky scored at 11:24 of the second, just 14 seconds after their first. Jan Mysak and Karel Klikorka had the assists. Unfortunately for Patrik Elias and the Czechs, that 14 second outburst was the best it got for them.

At 11:34, Canada got one back when Liam Foudy scored from Smith and Jared McIsaac. The Czech Republic took a delay of game penalty following the goal and Canada was back on the power play. They converted on this one at 12:30 when Cozens scored from Addison and Hayton. After that quick minute and a half or so of action, Canada was on top 6-2.

McIsaac got the Canadians’ last goal of the evening when he scored from Cozens and Veleno at the 10 minute mark of the third. And that was it. Joel Hofer made 17 saves on 19 Czech shots while Parik and Malik combined for 24 saves on 31 Canadian shots.

Canada, having won Group B will now take on Slovakia in the quartfinals while the Czechs will face off with Sweden in the next round.

We will have continuing coverage for you as the tournament progresses.

Devils Defeat Bruins in Shootout

It was the final game of the year, and thus, the decade, and the Devils battled back from a 2-0 deficit to beat the Boston Bruins 3-2 at home in a shootout. The Devils actually finished the decade the way they started it: with a win.

Back on January 2, 2010, the Devils picked up a 3-2 victory at the Minnesota Wild to kick off the 2010’s right. They won their last of the 2010’s as well. In between there were a lot of ups and downs, we will see how the 2020’s will fare for New Jersey.

The big news over the last few days for the Devils has been that Kyle Palmieri was named to his second NHL All-Star game. Nico Hischier is on the NHL’s Last Men In voting that starts on on January 1. Fans have the chance to vote Nico in as the final member of the Metropolitan Division team.

For the Devils, there was a roster move and a milestone. The roster move saw Will Butcher be a game-time decision and play. He missed the last game against Ottawa with an undisclosed injury. Connor Carrick was scheduled to play if Butcher could not go, but was a scratch instead. He joined Kevin Rooney as the Devils’ healthy scratches.

The milestone saw Damon Severson playing in his 400th NHL contest. Severson would go on to play a major role in the shootout win and it is well deserved for him.

The goaltending matchup in this final game in the season series between these teams saw the Devils go with Mackenzie Blackwood who made 28 saves on 30 shots plus five in the shootout. He had a .933 save percentage on the night. The B’s had backup Jaroslav Halak who made 42 saves on 44 shots in regulation and overtime plus four in the shootout. He finished with a .955 save percentage.

The Bruins got on the board first just 2:03 in on the power play. PK Subban had gone off for interference against Sean Kuraly at 1:17 and Boston made the most of their opportunity. Jake DeBrusk got the puck to Matt Grzelcyk at the point. He made a touch pass to David Pastrnak at the near faceoff circle. He one-timed a shot on Devils’ goalie Mackenzie Blackwood who made the initial save. The puck then squeaked by him and Brad Marchand tapped it behind him to make it 1-0 Boston.

The power play numbers saw the Bruins go 1-for-3 with three shots, plus a single shorthanded shot. The Devils were 0-for-4 with seven shots.

In the second period, the Devils began to play much better, but fell behind by two when Joakim Nordstrom scored at 4:27. The Bruins got the puck down low and there was a scramble in front of the Devils’ net. Blackwood could not get control of the puck and it went in off of Nordstrom’s skate to make 2-0 Boston. Kuraly and Brandon Carlo had the assists.

The Devils, as mentioned, were playing better, but things seemed bleak down two goals to one of the best teams in the league.

But they finally broke through to cut the lead in half at the 8:58 mark of the second when Blake Coleman scored his 12th of the season. Coleman sped over the Boston line, catching the Bruins in a line change, and dropped to a trailing Nikita Gusev. Gusev gave it right back to him and he fired it in to make it 2-1. Sami Vatanen had the secondary assist.

The Devils had some great chances in the second but could not break through.

They finally got things going in the third when Jesper Bratt scored to tie the game up at two. Nico Hischier got the puck in to the Boston zone and set things up. He gave to Subban at the point and Subban faked a slap shot, waited for the Bruins’ player to go down, stepped around him and quickly got the puck on net. Bratt tipped the shot by Halak to knot the game up at two.

When time expired, the Devils were going to their third straight overtime game and Boston had earned at least a point in their eighth straight game.

OT was a fast and furious affair that ended with Bratt having to take a hooking penalty against Kuraly. Boston would finish with an 11 second power play to end the game.

But the Devils endured and we were headed to a shootout.

In the first round, Gusev was stopped by Halak trying to go five-hole and Boston’s Charlie Coyle losing the puck on his attempt.

In the second round, Jesper Boqvist’s shot was stopped by Halak and Pastrnak was stopped on a pretty glove save by Blackwood.

In round three, Palmieri was turned aside by Halak and Marchand hit the post.

The fourth round saw Halak made a left pad save on Wayne Simmonds and DeBrusk stopped by Blackwood.

Finally, the teams broke through in the fifth and sixth round. In round five, Jack Hughes skated up the ice, bobbled the puck a few times, but still was able to beat Halak to put the Devils up in front. Chris Wagner was Boston’s last hope and he scored, beating Blackwood upstairs.

With things back even, Damon Severson was up and he scored, going up top, backhand, over Halak. Blackwood finished up making another nice glove save on Patrice Bergeron to put it away for New Jersey.

Statistically, faceoffs were even at 50-percent won for both teams, the Devils outhit the Bruins by six, 19-13 and had 14 blocks to the Bruins’ 16. The Devils also had 14 giveaways to the tidy Bruins’ mere five.

Sami Vatanen led the Devils in ice time with 26:47 (4:14 on the power play and 12 seconds on the penalty kill) while Nico Hischier led all forwards with 20:03 (3:14 on the PP and 37 seconds shorthanded).

Shots on goal were led by Coleman, Vatanen and Subban with five, hits were led by Miles Wood with four, blocked shots by Mirco Mueller with three and takeaways by Palmieri and Hischier with two apiece.

So now the Devils will begin the new year and decade on Thursday, January 2 at the Islanders. This game is on NBCSN and we will have coverage for you right here. We will also have today’s recap of World Junior Championship action for you later on today.

Have a happy, healthy and safe new year everyone! And here’s to a great fifth decade of Devils hockey.