Swedish Streak Comes to an End at Hands of Russian OT Goal

December 31, 2006. That was the last time Sweden had lost a game in the World Junior Championship preliminary round. That night, the United States’ Jack Johnson scored in overtime to down the Swedes.

Fast forward a decade and a half later, to December 30, 2020. The Swedes finally lose in the prelim round to the Russians and a Marat Khusnutdinov overtime goal.

Fifty-four consecutive preliminary wins over the course of three decades, and just like that it was over.

Russia had seemed to get on the board early when they had a goal waved off on the ice. Review showed goalie interference and the call on the ice stood: no goal.

But the Russians would not be denied. At the 7:28 mark of the first period, Yegor Afanasiev would score from Mikhail Abramov and Devils prospect Arseni Gritsyuk.

But the Swedes – who never had a lead all night – would get even when Noel Gunler threw a pass between Devils prospect Shakir Mukhamadullin’s legs to Arvid Costmar in front of the net. He scored to tie things at one apiece. Simon Holmstrom had the secondary assist.

Russia would get the lead back before the end of the first period when Rodion Amirov scored on the power play to make it 2-1.

The second period saw Sweden again playing catch-up.

This time it was Devils prospect Alexander Holtz to the rescue. After hitting the post midway through the frame, Holtz finally got on the board when he scored from Albin Sundsvik and Emil Andrae.

That would make things tied up at two going into the third.

Russia took the lead back when Kirill Kirsanov sniped a goal glove side on the power play. Holtz had taken a hooking penalty setting up the man advantage and Russia capitalized. Nine minutes and forty-six seconds into the final period, the Swedish streak seemed in danger for real.

Russia caught a break when a turnover allowed Costmar a clear shot at the net. He hit the crossbar.

But, inevitably, as they have done so many times, Sweden salvaged it. With goaltender Jesper Wallstedt pulled for the extra attacker, Holtz took a shot with a minute to go and it deflected into the net off Noel Gunler’s shinpad.

When regulation expired, it was off to overtime for the seventh time during the streak.

Sweden looked good throughout most of the extra session until, with less than thirty seconds to go, Costmar was called for holding a Russian attacker cutting in on net with speed.

It only took the Russians 19 seconds on the 4-on-3 advantage. Marat Khusnutdinov scored when Wallstedt could not control the rebound on a Amirov shot. It was over, with just 5.6 seconds to go, the Swedes had lost in the preliminary round at a World Juniors for the first time since George W. Bush was President of the US.

It was an evenly fought contest with the Russians hitting Wallstedt with 25 shots, him making 31 saves and Sweden peppering Yaroslav Askarov with 36 shots, 33 of which he was equal to.

Mukhamadullin had two shots on goal and was a minus-1 in 20:44 of TOI while Gritsyuk had the assist for a point and was an even plus/minus in 16:19 of ice time.

For Sweden, Holtz had a goal and a helper for two points, took two minor penalties for four PIMs and had seven shots and a plus-1 rating in 21:40 of ice time.

Tomorrow, in the final day of prelims at the 2021 World Juniors, the Czechs will face Austria, Canada will battle Finland and the Swedes will try to start a new streak against the United States. Tomorrow should wrap up both Groups A and B and we will see you here.

Also, the American Hockey League has announced a return to play that I would like to get to on here, so hopefully I can get that written tomorrow as well.

Have a Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone!

Canadians, Americans, Russians All Win Big at WJC

It was a big day at the 2021 World Junior Championship in Edmonton. Most literally with big margins of victories for the winners.

We will begin with the first game on the slate: a 7-0 United States win over the Czech Republic.

Following a scoreless first period, Bobby Brink scored just 5:33 into the second period with Brett Berard picking up the lone assist.

Following matching minors to the Americans’ John Farinacci and the Czechs’ Adam Najman for roughing, we had some four-on-four hockey with more room on the ice. The US would take advantage when the tournament’s leading scorer, Trevor Zegras notched another goal, assisted by Henry Thrun to make it 2-0 US. That goal came 13:30 into the second period.

A little over two minutes later, at the 15:56 mark of the third, Brink scored his second of the night – off assists from Matthew Beniers and Ryan Johnson. It was now 3-0 heading into the second intermission.

In the third, the floodgates opened for the Americans. Zegras scored his second of the game 6:03 into the frame to make it 4-0. Arthur Kaliyev scored on the power play 8:18 into the period from Cam York and Zegras, who picked up his third point of the night. At 10:22. Cole Caufield scored, again on the power play, this time only needing about 12 seconds to do so. Zegras got another point – this time the primary assist on the goal – and York picked up the secondary.

At the 11:22 mark, Matthew Boldy scored, again on the power play, from Zegras, who is just a point producing machine right now, and Caufield. That gave us our final of 7-0. Following that goal, the Czechs pulled Lukas Parik in favor of Nick Malik and Malik ended up shutting out the US the rest of the way.

Things got a little chippy when Stanislav Svozil was called for boarding with five minutes to go in the game and also received a 10-minute misconduct to go with it.

Statistically, the US peppered Czech goaltending with 32 shots and it was close with the Czechs firing 22 Spencer Knight’s way. The difference was that Parik and Malik made 25 saves combined on those 32 shots. Knight was equal to all 22 he saw.

Patrick Moynihan had no points or shots on goal and was an even plus/minus in just 8:17 of ice time. Jaromir Pytlik did not play for the Czechs.

The Americans close out the preliminary round on New Year’s Eve against Sweden next, trying to win Group B. Czech Republic will face Austria in their prelim finale on the 31st as well.

But next on the docket was Canada taking on Switzerland and totally blitzing them, 10-0.

The Canadians scored early and (sort of) often. Philip Tomasino scored just 1:30 into the game, but that was all the scoring for the first period.

Things began to pick up in the second when Dylan Cozens scored on the power play. Then Jakob Pelletier scored. Then Ryan Suzuki scored on the power play. Then Connor McMichael scored. By the end of the second frame, it was 6-0 Canada. The Canadians had scored six unanswered, five of those in the second period.

The third just confirmed the Canadian onslaught. Quinton Byfield scored on the power play to kick off the final stanza. Then Byfield scored again. Then Cole Perfetti scored to break up Byfield’s natural hat trick bid. Then Kaiden Guhle scored. Pelletier finally put a capper on things when he scored with about 5:30 to go in the game to make the final 10-0 Canada.

The Canadians outshot the Swiss 52-15. Switzerland’s Noah Patenaude saved 42 of that blitzing while Devon Levi had a relatively easy night, stopping all 15 shots.

Dawson Mercer had a shot on goal and was an even plus/minus (no idea how that happens when you play 15:11 in a 10-0 drubbing, but he must have been busy killing penalties).

Canada

Finally, the nightcap saw Russia defeat Austria by a score of 7-1.

Russia got things started off in style when Rodion Amirov scored on a penalty shot after Jacob Pfeffer tripped him up on a clear break on goal. That gave the Russians the 1-0 lead 4:04 into the game. Vasil Podkolzin scored a little over two minutes later to make it 2-0. Podkolzin would scored one more time before the period was out when he connected on a nice passing play from Aremi Knyazev and Amirov. Marat Khusnutdinov gave Russia a 4-0 lead heading into the first intermission. A shot by Podkolzin dribbled by Austrian goalie Jakob Brandner and was pushed over the goal line by Khusnutdinov.

Austria got on the board 7:38 into the second when Senna Peeters scored from Kasper Marco. That made it 4-1 and things seemed to be pulling even. The Austrians played Russia well in the second, keeping them off the scoreboard. At the 8:30 mark of the period, just after Peeters’ goal, Ilya Safonov was called for boarding and received a 10-minute misconduct. He would not return until late in the second.

But the Red Machine rolled on. In the third. Artemi Knyazev scored on the power play to make it 5-1. Arseni Gritsyuk, the Devils prospect, picked up a point with the secondary assist on Yegor Afanasiev’s goal 17:44 into the third to make it 6-1 Russia.

Gritsyuk would pick up his second point of the game – this time a goal – 45 seconds later. He clanged one in off of the post to make it 7-1. Afanasiev and Roman Bychkov had the assists on his tally.

Again, the shot totals in this game were very one-sided. Russia outshot Austria 50-18. Brandner made 43 saves while Artur Akhtyamov had a light night with 17 saves.

Shakir Mukhamadullin had one shot on goal and was an even plus/minus with 19:23 of total ice. Gritsyuk had the goal and assist for two points and five total shots. He was a plus-2 in 14:02 of ice time.

Russia will close out prelim play trying to wrap up Group B when they face Sweden on December 30.

 As usual, we will see you tomorrow with coverage of that game.