Merry Christmas to all celebrating! I hope you had a good one in these challenging times.
Today marked the opening of the 2021 World Junior Championship in Edmonton, Alberta at Rogers Place, and it was an exciting slate of games featuring Devils prospects.
The opener featured Slovakia and Switzerland in a duel. The Slovaks won a close 1-0 contest to kick off the festivities.
In the second game of the day, Germany faced off with Finland and the Finns came away with a 5-3 victory.
Following those two Group A games, the spotlight changed to Group B and the first game to feature Devils prospects: the United States versus Russia.
This game actually featured three prospects, in Shakir Mukhammadullin and Arseni Gritsyuk of the Russians and Patrick Moynihan of the USA.
The Americans fell in their opener, 5-3 after nearly forcing a late comeback.
Vasili Ponomaryov opened the scoring when he beat US goaltender Spencer Knight off assist from Artemi Knyazev and Kirill Kirsanov. That goal came just 8:07 into the game.
The Americans would tie things with about six minutes to go in the first period when Cam York (the scoring was changed later and York did not ultimately get credit for the goal) scored to tie things. Cole Caufield and Matthew Boldy had the helpers on that goal. The game would head into the first intermission tied at one apiece.
Russia would retake the lead just 3:12 into the second frame when Zakhar Bardakov scored from Maxim Groshev. It was now 2-1 Russia and things would begin to fall apart for the United States at that point.
At the 11:08 mark, as Russia was just coming off of killing a penalty, Ponomaryov connected for his second of the game, unassisted, to make it 3-1 Russia. A little over a minute later, at the 12:15 mark of the second, Ilya Safonov scored unassisted to make it 4-1. The goal came when Knight misplayed a dump-in by the Russians, turning it over while trying to clear it up ice and giving it right to Safonov, who scored.
Safonov’s goal would chase US goalie Knight in favor of Dustin Wolf. Wolf would end up pitching a shutout as the Americans would begin a comeback in the third. At the 9:57 mark, John Farinacci got the US within two when he scored from Drew Helleson and Bobby Brink. This goal came off of a mad scramble in front of the Russian net with Farinacci eventually beating goalie Yaroslav Askarov.
Trevor Zegras made things close, when he cut the Russian lead to one with less than three minutes left while the US was on the power play and had Wolf pulled for a sixth attacker. York had the lone assist on the goal that made it 4-3.
The Americans would again pull Wolf following that goal, but Yegor Chinakhov polished things off for the Russians when he scored into the empty net from Rodion Amirov and Marat Khusnutdinov. That gave us our final of 5-3.
Russia had not beaten the US at the World Juniors in five consecutive meetings, dating back to 2016, but took the duke tonight.
Askarov stopped 23 of the Americans’ 26 shots while Knight and Wolf stopped 19 of 24 Russian shots.
Mukhamadullin was a plus-2 over 21:09 of total ice time while Gritsyuk had three shots on goal and was a plus-1 in 11:11 of ice time.
For the Americans, Moynihan had a shot on goal and was a minus-2 in just 8:48 of ice time.
Next up, tomorrow, Alexander Holtz and Sweden will take on Jaromir Pytlik and the Czech Republic and the USA will face Austria in Group B action while Canada will begin their gold medal defense against Germany in Group A. Dawson Mercer will suit up for the Canadians.
We will see you tomorrow with that recap and, once again, happy holidays to all!