Semifinals Get Going at WJC; Gold Medal Game To Be Set

By the end of tonight’s play, the gold and bronze medal games at the 2018 World Junior Championship would be set. We would find out if the USA would be on their way to defending their 2017 gold medal championship or if another challenger would step forward.

The day began with some bad news for fans of Belarus. Denmark won game two of their best-of-three relegation series, sweeping for the chance to stay in the WJC in 2019. The Danes will stay in the top pool while the Belarusians drop down one pool and battle to next year to try to get back into the top level. Belarus will be replaced by Kazakhstan next year in Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia, according to the IIHF website. They won the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division I Group A which took place “in France a few weeks ago.”

So with that bit of business out of the way, the semifinals got underway at 4 PM with the United States taking on Sweden. The last time the Swedes had beaten the US in the semifinal round was 1996 according to the NHL Network’s broadcast. But that streak was to come to an end as the US fell to Sweden 4-2. The Swedes will play for the gold against the winner of the Czechs and Canada while the US will play for the bronze against the loser of that game.

There was no score through to the 13:30 mark of the second period when Elias Pettersson scored for Sweden. Sweden then opened the floodgates for the third period. Sweden scored three goals in a matter of two minutes and nine eight seconds to build up a 4-0 lead. The Americans notched one on the power play at 12:24 when Kieffer Bellows scored and got another one with goaltender Joseph Woll pulled when Brady Tkachuk scored off an assist from Devils’ prospect Joey Anderson at 16:59. But it was too little too late and the USA will not be able to defend their gold medal championship this year.

Anderson’s stat line read the assist, three shots on goal and an even plus/minus rating in a team-leading 25:02 of ice time. In other Devils-related news, former Devil and captain of the 2018 US Olympic hockey team, Brian Gionta, handed out the player of the game awards and the awards for each team’s “three stars of the tournament” on behalf of USA Hockey. Gionta is also a native of nearby Rochester, New York as well as a former Buffalo Sabre.

As for the Swedish Devils prospects, Jesper Boqvist had three shots on goal and an even rating in 12:10 of ice time. Fabian Zetterlund was an even plus/minus in just 4:34 of ice time.

The next game, and the one that will determine the opponents for the US and Sweden in their medal round games, was Canada against the Czech Republic. And the that one was won by the Canadians pretty convincingly 7-2. Canada will now take on Sweden in the gold medal game while Czech Republic will take on the United States for the bronze medal.

Michael McLeod had an assist on a Drake Batherson goal at 16:58 of the second period. That was the Canadians’ sixth goal of the evening. His stat line finished with the assist for a point, five shots on goal (which tied for the team lead along with Maxime Comtois and Dillon Dube) and an even rating in 12:58 of ice time.

So the medal round is now set and both games will be played tomorrow. Good luck to all four teams as they look to bring home a medal in the 2018 World Juniors.

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