Four teams remained playing for medals in the 2020 World Junior Championship and today the gold medal round was set. It will be Russia versus Canada as both teams took vastly different paths to get there today.
We begin with the early game: Sweden against Russia. The Russians took this one in overtime, defeating the Swedes 5-4.
There were two Devils prospects in this game. For Sweden, Nikola Pasic had a shot on goal and an even plus/minus rating in 12:44 of ice time. For Russia, Danil Misyul had similar numbers: a shot on goal and a plus-1 rating in 16:35 of ice.
The game was kind of all over the place, with Rasmus Sandin giving Sweden the early 1-0 lead just 16 seconds into the game. David Gustafsson had the lone assist.
From there, Russia took control. It began at 1:47 when Alexander Holtz took a slashing minor, putting the Russians on the power play. At 3:04, Ivan Morozov connected from Vasili Podkolzin and Pavel Dorofeyev to tie it.
Things went further south for the Swedes when Nils Hoglander was assessed a check to the head penalty and a game misconduct at 4:22, Sweden would be without Hoglander, one of their best players, for the rest of the game and Russia would be on the power play for the next two minutes.
It only took about 1:18 for Alexander Khovanov to score and give the Russians the 2-1 lead. Nikita Alexandrov and Grigori Denisenko had the assists.
The Russians put Sweden even further in a hole at 12:05 of the first when Yegor Sokolov scored unassisted to give Russia the 3-1 lead.
But the Swedes would put up a fight and they began their comeback at 13:36 of the first. That is when Alexander Romanov took a cross-check penalty to put the Swedes on the power for the first time all game.
And, at 14:54, Samuel Fagemo capitalized when he scored from Nils Lundkvist and Sandin. This made it 3-2 going into the first intermission and got Sweden back into things.
It is almost cliché to say that this game was back-and-forth, but it really was.
Sandin tied things with the Swedes on the power play. An illegal check to the head reared itself again, with Khovanov getting two minutes for that plus a 10-minute misconduct. The Russians were without Khovanov for the rest of the period (the penalty came just 9:31 in) pretty much and the Swedes were on the man advantage.
Sandin found the back of the net from Fagemo and Linus Nassen to knot the game at three.
And that was how it was headed into the final frame. But Sweden would jump back in front, taking their first lead since the early first period, when Lundkvist scored 4:25 in. He got assists from Sandin (who ended the game with four points) and Nassen. It was 4-3 Sweden with about a full period to play. This goal came on the power play while Maxim Sorkin was off for tripping at 4:04.
It seemed that Russia had shot themselves in the foot, losing the lead and having to pull starting goalie Yaroslav Askarov following the Lundkvist goal. But Amir Miftakhov was now in and Russia would never look back.
About four minutes and ten seconds following the Swedish go-ahead goal, at 8:35, Sokolov scored from Khovanov to tie the game again, this time at four.
When time ran out on regulation, we were off to overtime. The history of this game would lead us to believe that it would not last very long. And that was correct.
Just 3:24 in, Morozov scored his second of the night to put the Russians in the gold medal game and end Sweden’s undefeated streak in this tournament. The Swedes will now play for bronze.
Swedish goalie Hugo Alnefelt made a total of 39 saves on 44 shots against. Russian goaltending combined for 21 saves on 25 Swedish shots.
To decide their opponents, Canada and Finland would faceoff later in the day.
And this one was all Canada as the Canadians returned to the gold medal game at the World Juniors by defeating the Finns 5-0.
Ty Smith finished the game with two shots on goal and an even plus/minus in 17:37 of ice time while Kevin Bahl had three shots and was a plus-3 in 20:16 of time on ice – good for third in ice time amongst Canadian defensemen.
Connor McMichael broke the seal on the game when he scored from Aidan Dudas 1:48 into the game. Alexis Lafreniere scored from Nolan Foote and Barrett Hayton at 3:05 and 50 seconds after that, Jamie Drysdale scored from Raphael Lavoie and Quinton Byfield to make it three up. Ty Dellandrea added one at 14:49 from Dudas and McMichael to give Canada a 4-0 lead heading into the second.
Lafreniere, scoring on the power play while Anttoni Honka was off for holding, added his second of the night from Calen Addison and Hayton at 17:53 of the second to give Canada a 5-0 lead going into the third.
And that was it. Canada needed no more as they held off the Finns to head to the gold medal game.
The goaltending saw Joel Hofer stop all 32 shots he saw for the shutout while Justus Annuen made 34 saves on 39 Canadian shots.
So now the Swedes and the Finns will matchup in an all-Scandinavian bronze medal game as the defending champ Finns try to medal again this year. The gold medal game will feature a matchup of Canada against Russia.
Also, the relegation series will go the distance as Kazakhstan defeated Germany today 4-1 to force a third and final game. The winner will remain in the tournament next year while the loser moves down a division.
Champions will be crowned tomorrow and we will have coverage of that for you right here.