Today was the second to final day of the preliminary round of the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship and featured three games with Devils prospects playing in them. All three of them ending in what can be regarded as blowouts. Sweden defeated Switzerland 7-2, Finland took out Slovakia 5-2 and Canada knocked off Denmark 8-0.
First the early game, Sweden and Switzerland. Fabian Zetterlund had the Swedes’ sixth goal of the afternoon, unassisted at 11:43 into the third period. His stat line read the goal on two shots and a plus-1 all in 13:59 of ice time. Jesper Boqvist had four shots, was a plus-1 rating in 12:18 of time on ice. The Swedes close out the prelim round tomorrow when they take on Russia in what will be a big game to decide the final standings for Group B. Sweden currently stands on top with nine points while the Czechs and Russia have six apiece.
The next game to be played also featured a Devils prospect, but on the losing side this time. Marian Studenic and Slovakia fell to Finland 5-2 with Studenic’s stat line reading two penalty minutes (a charging penalty in the third), three shots on goal and an even plus/minus in 17:13 of ice time for the forward. Slovakia plays Denmark next and a win could get them into the thick of the medal round in Group A. The upset win over the United States did wonders for them and could have them in medal contention should the US not register a point against Finland tomorrow.
Speaking of the Danes, they were in action against Canada. On Thursday, they were outshot by the Finns an amazing 62 to 7 in a 4-1 loss. Their goaltender, Kasper Krog deserved a ton of credit for keeping the score that close in the face of that onslaught. He did not play in this one, as Emil Gransoe got the nod. While the shot counter was a little more even (36-18 in favor of Canada), the score was more lopsided, 8-0.
Devils prospect Michael McLeod notched the Canadians’ seventh goal, unassisted at 9:03 of the third and got credit for an assist on Drake Batherson’s power play goal at 12:26 of the third period. His stat line was the most impressive of the day amongst Devils prospects: a goal and an assist for two points, four shots on net, a plus-1 rating in 14:15 of time on ice.
Canada ends the preliminary round with 10 points, securing first place in Group A. They went 3-0-1-0 and had a goal differential of plus-15 mainly in thanks to the blowout over Denmark. The closest the US or Finland can come is second place in Group A, as three points for a win in their game against each other will net one of those teams a total of nine points.
We will see you here tomorrow for more WJC Devils-related action. In addition, I had a commitment last night that kept me from watching the Devils and Capitals live. I will have that recap post up as soon as possible after I watch the game tomorrow.