The 2018 World Junior Championship has moved to the single-elimination rounds. From here on out, it is win or go home for teams still in contention.
The two teams not in contention, Belarus and Denmark started their best-of-three series at Harborcenter to determine who stays in the tournament for next year and who gets relegated. The Danes took a big step by winning the game 5-4. For the Danes, who only scored two goals throughout the entire prelim round, these five goals were their biggest outburst of the tournament. Now, with their backs to the wall, Belarus will try to rebound in game two on Thursday.
In the quarterfinal round, the Czech Republic was the first team to advance, defeating Finland in a shootout 4-3 at Key Bank Center. That game, of course, featured no Devils prospects. Czech Republic had struggled in recent years to get out of the quarterfinals, they had not advanced out of that round since 2005 (a year when they won bronze), but this year they did just that. The Czechs will face the winner of the next game played, Canada and Switzerland.
That game was played four hours after the Czech-Finland game and was all Canada to the tune of 8-2. Canada will now face the Czechs in the semifinals. Maxime Comtois led Canadian scorers with three points (a goal and two assists) while goaltender Carter Hart made 13 saves on 15 shots. Canada peppered the two Swiss goalies, Philip Wuthrich and Matteo Ritz (who came on in relief in the second period) with 60 shots. The two Swiss goalies combined for 52 saves.
Michael McLeod had three shots and was a plus-1 in 15:26 of ice time.
With that side of the bracket set, the other side of the quarterfinals got underway at 6 PM with Sweden versus Slovakia. The winner of this would take on the winner of the USA-Russia game that was played later on at 8 PM.
The Swedes would just edge the Slovaks 3-2 as they punched their ticket to the semifinals. They got two goals from Isac Lundestrom and one from Devils prospect Fabian Zetterlund in the win. Zetterlund ended the game with the goal, two penalty minutes (a tripping call early in the game), six shots on goal, an even rating all in 15:03 of ice time. Jesper Boqvist had a shot on net and an even rating in just 8:14 of ice time. For the Slovaks, Marian Studenic had two shots on goal and an even rating in 18:12 of ice time.
Sweden’s next opponent was set up in the late game between the US and Russia. They will be facing the United States as the US skated to a 4-2 win over their rivals. Joey Anderson notched an empty net goal (off assists from Ryan Poehling and Ryan Lindgren) to cap off a US victory.
On the Devils front, Mikhail Maltsev had three shots on goal and an even plus/minus rating in 17:05 of ice time while Yegor Zaitsev had one shot, an even rating in 20:55 of time on ice. Joey Anderson finished with the goal, six shots on goal (second only to Adam Fox’s eight on the team) and an even plus/minus in 25:10 of ice time (second on the team only to Brady Tkachuk’s 25:24).
So the semifinals are set as on Thursday Sweden will take on the USA and Canada will take on the Czech Republic. Also, game two of the relegation series between Denmark and Belarus will take place.
One other piece of business on the international front to get to: congratulations to former Devil Brian Gionta, who was named the captain of the 2018 US Olympic team that will play in South Korea this February. As you know, the NHL is not sending players so the Olympic teams from each nation will be kind of a hodge-podge of college players, junior players, AHL players, KHL players and other professionals not currently signed to an NHL contract. Gionta had has not retired and will be representing his country next month at the Winter Games. Good luck to him!