The 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship is down to the quarterfinal round today, featuring two games with Devils prospects involved: Sweden versus Switzerland and Finland taking on Canada.
The long day of hockey in British Columbia began with the first game of the best-of-three relegation round at Rogers Arena. In this one, Kazakhstan edged Denmark, 4-3. The Danes finally scored a goal in this tournament after having been blanked in each of their preliminary games. Jonas Rondbjerg scored the first Danish goal of the tournament, tying things up at one at the 9:00 mark of the first period.
However, Kazakhstan was able to hold off the Danes late and take a 1-0 lead in the series with game two being played on Friday.
In the first medal round game, the Swiss met the Swedes in Victoria. Akira Schmid did not play, yielding the net to Luca Hollenstein who was nothing short of brilliant today.
We have talked about the Swedish domination in the preliminary rounds of these World Junior tournaments, but they have not been quite as successful when it has come to the later rounds. That trend continued today as they lost to Switzerland, 2-0. But that is not to say that the Swiss did not play well, they played fantastically in the upset, just beating the Swedes to loose pucks and pushing the pace of the game all the way.
Yannick Bruschweiler scored what would be the game winner 15:23 into the first period. Luca Wyss added a bit of a controversial goal in the second period on the power play. The play should have been called dead on a high stick (not a penalty, just the Swedish clearing attempt being played with a high stick) but it was not. Switzerland continued on in front of the Swedish net and Wyss scored to make it 2-0. And that was the final as Switzerland came away with the upset victory.
Both goalies played well, with Hollenstein notching the shutout – the first time Sweden had been shutout in this tournament since 2006. Both Hollenstein and Sweden’s Samuel Ersson were named their respective team’s players of the game. Hollenstein stopped all 41 Swedish shots while Ersson made 33 saves.
Fabian Zetterlund had four shots on goal (including being stopped on a nice chance while Sweden was on the power play early in the third period), two penalty minutes (an elbowing penalty with about ten minutes remaining in the game) and was a minus-1 in 19:36 of ice time.
Sweden is now out and Switzerland will move on in the tournament as they have finally taken the next step. Their opponent would be set in the next game.
That game was Canada versus Finland from Vancouver, the other Devils-centric game being played tonight. And this one was a doozy.
The game was tied at zero heading into the second period where Ian Mitchell scored to give the Canadians a 1-0 lead. Things were rolling along for Canada until Finland pulled Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, their goaltender, with about a minute to go in the game. With 47 ticks of the clock left to go, Aleksi Heponiemi scored to tie it up and send it to overtime.
Just 1:14 into the OT session, Eeli Tolvanen of Finland was called for hooking and a penalty shot was awarded to Canada. Max Comtois was denied by Luukkonen and play continued on. It would only take 4:03 for the Finns to claim victory from there. Toni Utunen scored from Aarne Talvitie and Heponiemi to move Finland on to the next round against the Swiss.
Ty Smith for Canada finished a minus-2 in 26:20 of ice time, which led all Canadian skaters. Talvitie had the assist, four shots on goal, was a plus-2 all in 24:12 of ice time for the Finns. In that shocker of a finish, the Canadians go home and Finland will play on against the Swiss for a medal.
Luukkonen had 24 saves on 25 shots while Canada’s Michael DiPietro stopped 32 of the 34 Finnish shots thrown at him.
In the other bracket and back at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre, Team USA defeated the Patrik Elias-assistant coached Czech Republic, 3-1. The US got goals from Noah Cates, Josh Norris and Alexander Chmelevski in the win. Martin Kaut scored the lone Czech goal. The winner of this game would get the winner of the Russia-Slovakia game.
Goaltending-wise for this game, the US fired 41 shots at Lukas Dostal, who made 38 saves. The Czechs mustered just 19 shots and Cayden Primeau got 18 of them.
And that led us to the final game of the quarterfinal knockout round from Vancouver. While Sweden-Switzerland and Canada-Finland gave us lots of drama and upsets, the Russian game went about as you would expect. They beat the Slovaks 8-3 to power through to the semifinals.
Russia got goals from Grigori Denisenko, Stepan Starkov, Alexander Alexeyev, Nikita Shashkov, Kirill Slepets, Ilya Morozov and two from Klim Kostin. Slovakia got a goal from Martin Fehervary in the third and one from Milos Roman late in the game. The Russians used their coach’s challenge to look for offsides on the Roman goal and were not successful. That set up a Slovak power play (Russia was assessed a delay of game penalty) on which Michal Ivan scored. That gave us our final of 8-3 as the Slovaks will go home and the Russians will play the Americans in the semifinal round.
In goal, Russia’s Pyotr Kochetkov made 32 saves on 35 Slovak shots. Slovakia’s Juraj Sklenar made 22 saves on just 30 Russian shots.
So that sets up our matchups for Friday. We will, of course, have coverage of that here then along with the Devils-Coyotes game, which is also on Friday. See you then!