Some quick AHL news to get to before moving on to today’s semifinal results at the 2021 World Junior Championship in Edmonton.
The American Hockey League announced today some provisional relocations for this season only, as well as some teams that have opted out of the 2020-21 season. The AHL season is set to begin on February 5, about a month from today.
The league will operate with 28 teams and five divisions this season. Not much has to be changed for the schedule since the NHL’s 2020-21 schedule revisions closely resemble what the AHL already does.
The provisional relocations include the Ontario Reign (LA Kings affiliate) playing in El Segundo, California; the Providence Bruins (Boston affiliate) taking up shop in Marlborough, Massachusetts; and the San Diego Gulls (Anaheim Ducks affiliate) moving to Irvine, California for the season. One other team that will temporarily relocate for this season only is the Binghamton Devils, who will play out of Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
Although not much revenue will come from it and fans will not be allowed in to see them play, the Prudential Center will actually host two teams this year, which is kind of cool.
In addition, the Charlotte Checkers (Carolina’s affiliate), Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators) and Springfield Thunderbirds (St. Louis Blues) will not be participating in the 2020-21 AHL season due to concerns over COVID-19. They will (presumably if the pandemic is under control) return to play for the 2021-22 season.
Now on to our regularly scheduled program: the World Junior semifinals.
Canada became the first team to advance to the gold medal game when they defeated Russia, 5-0.
Alex Newhook showed the Canadians were out for blood when he scored just 59 seconds into the game. Assisted by Braden Schneider and Jack Quinn, the goal gave Canada the very early 1-0 edge.
Connor McMichael doubled up the Canadian lead at 10:33 of the first when he scored from Jakob Pelletier and Dylan Cozens. That made it 2-0.
But the Canadians did not stop there. At the 12:50 mark, Russia’s Vasili Podkolzin took a double minor for high sticking. Canada would take the four-minute power play and capitalize when Cole Perfetti scored from Bowen Byram and Cozens to make it 3-0 heading into the first intermission.
Schneider would make it 4-0 when he scored just 4:09 into the second frame. Ryan Suzuki and Dawson Mercer had the assists.
The Russians nearly got on the board with 3:03 left in the second period when a goal was ruled a goal on the ice and then overturned after review due to Russia being offside entering the Canadian zone when the goal was scored.
With less than 30 seconds to go in the second period, Cozens would be awarded a penalty shot but was stopped by Yaroslav Askarov, the Russian goalie.
In the third, Russia would pull goaltender Askarov with just under three minutes to go being down 4-0. They would play with the extra attacker for about 1:30 when Cozens notched his third point of the night (one goal, two assists), an empty net goal to give us the final of 5-0 Canada.
Canada had 35 shots on net with Askarov stopping all but four. Canada’s Devon Levi got all 28 Russian shots against.
Mercer had the assist on Schneider’s goal for a point, a shot on goal and a plus/minus of plus-1 all in 12:39 of ice time.
So, Canada will now go on to face the winner of the United States-Finland game later tonight, in the Gold Medal Game tomorrow. Russia will face the loser of the USA-Finland game in the Bronze Medal Game, also being played tomorrow.
So, who won the second semifinal, setting up the last day of play in the 2021 World Junior Championship?
That answer came a few hours later when the United States faced Finland. The US hung on in this thriller, winning on a late goal, 4-3.
Alex Turcotte got the US on the board 12:39 into the game when he took a shotpass from Arthur Kaliyev that bounced off of a Finnish player’s skate to him. He scored from in front of the net to give the Americans the 1-0 lead. Brock Faber had the secondary assist.
But, in a theme that would recur most of the night, the US took a penalty to put Finland on the power play and the Finns took advantage. This time, Sam Colangelo went off 13:31 into the first to set up a Finnish power play. Here, Kasper SImontaival finished off a nice tic-tac-toe passing play by scoring in front of the net to tie the game at one apiece.
That set us up for the second period. Here, at the 15:53 mark, Jackson Lacombe sprung John Farinacci, who got behind the Finnish defense for a partial breakaway. He beat goaltender Kari Piironinen stick side to give the US the 2-1 lead.
But the US was not done. At the 16:21 mark, Finland’s Aku Raty was assessed a double minor for high sticking and the USA had four minutes to work the power play.
At the 17:00 mark, Cole Caufield dug the puck out of the corner, swung it to the slot where Trevor Zegras was waiting. He shot and Matthew Boldy, camped out in front of the net, redirected it by Piironinen. That added to the American lead, making it 3-1 heading in to the final regulation period.
It was here when the Finns began their comeback in earnest. It started when Simontaival scored at 15:38. The Finns got the puck around the perimeter, as Samuel Helenius passed to Kasper Puutio down low. He found Simontaival cutting backdoor and passed with Simontaival finishing. It was now 3-2 United States.
Things were seemingly unraveling when Henry Thurn shot the puck out of the rink over the glass. The officials conference, as it seemed that it went out off of a Finnish stick redirecting it. The officials deemed that Thurn had cleared it over the glass and the US was back on the penalty kill.
Finland would make them pay for the mistake when they passed the puck from the point down low to Anton Lundell. He shot and the rebound came right to Roni Hirvonen, who potted it to tie the game at three.
The US seemed to be in a bad way, with the momentum shifted to the Finns.
But, with less than three minutes to go, at the 18:44 mark, Turcotte won a puck battle in the corner and centered it to Kaliyev in the slot. He shot and scored to give the US the late 4-3 lead.
And it would stay that way, thanks to a small thing that you do not see in the scoresheets. With seconds left, Boldy went down and blocked a shot as a Finnish shooter had a clear look from the point. The Finnish player wound up to shoot and Boldy went down at the correct time to block the shot and help the US gain victory.
The US was outshot by Finland 36 to 26, but Spencer Knight made 33 saves to help the US cause. Piironinen had 22 saves.
Patrick Moynihan was again out with injury.
So the finals are now set: Canada and the United States for the gold with the loser of the game receiving silver and the bronze medal being awarded to the winner of Finland-Russia. Both games will take place tomorrow and we will have coverage for you right here!