Red, White, Blue and Golden

I admit right now, I stole that title from Stephen Nelson, the play-by-play man calling the USA game for the NHL Network.

Today was medal day at the 2021 World Junior Championship. Russia and Finland would tangle for bronze while the Americans and Canadians would do battle for gold.

First, to the bronze medal game. Finland defeated Russia, 4-1 to claim bronze for the first time since 2006. Russia went medal-less for only the second time in the last 11 tournaments.

The Russians got on the board first when Ilya Safonov scored 6:03 into the contest. Maxim Groshev had the lone assist on what would turn out to be the only Russian goal of the evening.

In the second period, Anton Lundell tied things 5:05 into the new frame. He got assists from Matias Mantykivi and Topi Niemela.

The third period featured Mikko Petman scoring 1:13 in to give the Finns their first lead of the afternoon. Samuel Helenius and Eemil Viro had the assists.

The Russians would then pull goaltender Yaroslav Askarov with just over a minute to go in the game. Lundell would score into the empty net for his second of the game unassisted to make it 3-1 at 18:32.

Off the faceoff, Russia would pull Askarov again and this time, Juuso Parssinen scored into the vacated cage to make it 4-1 Finland. Mikael Pyyhtia had the assist. The Finns had notched two empty netters in the course of almost a minute, as this goal came at the 19:47 mark.

And that was it. The Finns ended up with 32 shots to Russia’s 29. Both Askarov and Finnish goalie Kari Piiroinen had 28 saves.

So, Finland are the 2021 World Junior Championship Bronze Medalists and Russia finishes just out of contention – a hard place to be no doubt.

Shakir Mukhamadullin had two shots on goal and was a minus-2 in 19:27 of total ice time. Arseni Gritsyuk did not play for Russia.

But now on to the game that would decide the World Junior champions for the year, as North American rivals Canada and the United States got set to go.

This seemed like a daunting task for the Americans as the Canadians had outscored their opponents by a whopping margin of 41-4 and had never even trailed in the tournament.

Canada was on home ice and looked to be the overwhelming favorites. But the US had had some trials of their own, losing to Russia in the opener and then coming back to win their group and the challenges of Slovakia and Finland in the medal rounds were enough, it seemed, to steel them for battle.

And it only took two, well actually one. Alex Turcotte, after the US came out flying and really applying pressure to the Canadians in their own end, scored from Trevor Zegras and Drew Helleson to make it 1-0 USA just 13:25 into the game.

And that one would hold up as the game-winner.

Zegras scored 32 seconds into the second period from Arthur Kaliyev to make it 2-0, this was just (an important) insurance goal.

American goaltender Spencer Knight stood on his head all night long. Late in the third, he stopped Canada’s Connor McMichael on a breakaway, giving him no space to shoot at and stoning him, preserving the shutout.

The Canadians pulled goalie Devon Levi late, but to no avail. The Americans were the gold medal winners while Canada – the 2020 defending champs – took home silver.

Canada outshot the US 34 to 21, which just shows how locked in Knight was and how great the Americans played defensively. Levi made 19 saves while Knight turned aside all 34 he saw.

Dawson Mercer had a shot on net with an even plus/minus rating in 9:13 of ice time. Patrick Moynihan, who did return in the last game against Finland (I was wrong), was an even plus/minus and did not register a shot in 11:55 of time on ice.

So, that wraps up the 2021 World Junior Championship from Edmonton. Congratulations to the medalists and all of the participants in the tournament, you really put on a great show in the last two weeks.

Next week, Devils hockey returns!

2021 World Junior Semifinals

Some quick AHL news to get to before moving on to today’s semifinal results at the 2021 World Junior Championship in Edmonton.

The American Hockey League announced today some provisional relocations for this season only, as well as some teams that have opted out of the 2020-21 season. The AHL season is set to begin on February 5, about a month from today.

The league will operate with 28 teams and five divisions this season. Not much has to be changed for the schedule since the NHL’s 2020-21 schedule revisions closely resemble what the AHL already does.

The provisional relocations include the Ontario Reign (LA Kings affiliate) playing in El Segundo, California; the Providence Bruins (Boston affiliate) taking up shop in Marlborough, Massachusetts; and the San Diego Gulls (Anaheim Ducks affiliate) moving to Irvine, California for the season. One other team that will temporarily relocate for this season only is the Binghamton Devils, who will play out of Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.

Although not much revenue will come from it and fans will not be allowed in to see them play, the Prudential Center will actually host two teams this year, which is kind of cool.

In addition, the Charlotte Checkers (Carolina’s affiliate), Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators) and Springfield Thunderbirds (St. Louis Blues) will not be participating in the 2020-21 AHL season due to concerns over COVID-19. They will (presumably if the pandemic is under control) return to play for the 2021-22 season.

Now on to our regularly scheduled program: the World Junior semifinals.

Canada became the first team to advance to the gold medal game when they defeated Russia, 5-0.

Alex Newhook showed the Canadians were out for blood when he scored just 59 seconds into the game. Assisted by Braden Schneider and Jack Quinn, the goal gave Canada the very early 1-0 edge.

Connor McMichael doubled up the Canadian lead at 10:33 of the first when he scored from Jakob Pelletier and Dylan Cozens. That made it 2-0.

But the Canadians did not stop there. At the 12:50 mark, Russia’s Vasili Podkolzin took a double minor for high sticking. Canada would take the four-minute power play and capitalize when Cole Perfetti scored from Bowen Byram and Cozens to make it 3-0 heading into the first intermission.

Schneider would make it 4-0 when he scored just 4:09 into the second frame. Ryan Suzuki and Dawson Mercer had the assists.

The Russians nearly got on the board with 3:03 left in the second period when a goal was ruled a goal on the ice and then overturned after review due to Russia being offside entering the Canadian zone when the goal was scored.

With less than 30 seconds to go in the second period, Cozens would be awarded a penalty shot but was stopped by Yaroslav Askarov, the Russian goalie.

In the third, Russia would pull goaltender Askarov with just under three minutes to go being down 4-0. They would play with the extra attacker for about 1:30 when Cozens notched his third point of the night (one goal, two assists), an empty net goal to give us the final of 5-0 Canada.

Canada had 35 shots on net with Askarov stopping all but four. Canada’s Devon Levi got all 28 Russian shots against.

Mercer had the assist on Schneider’s goal for a point, a shot on goal and a plus/minus of plus-1 all in 12:39 of ice time.

So, Canada will now go on to face the winner of the United States-Finland game later tonight, in the Gold Medal Game tomorrow. Russia will face the loser of the USA-Finland game in the Bronze Medal Game, also being played tomorrow.

So, who won the second semifinal, setting up the last day of play in the 2021 World Junior Championship?

That answer came a few hours later when the United States faced Finland. The US hung on in this thriller, winning on a late goal, 4-3.

Alex Turcotte got the US on the board 12:39 into the game when he took a shotpass from Arthur Kaliyev that bounced off of a Finnish player’s skate to him. He scored from in front of the net to give the Americans the 1-0 lead. Brock Faber had the secondary assist.

But, in a theme that would recur most of the night, the US took a penalty to put Finland on the power play and the Finns took advantage. This time, Sam Colangelo went off 13:31 into the first to set up a Finnish power play. Here, Kasper SImontaival finished off a nice tic-tac-toe passing play by scoring in front of the net to tie the game at one apiece.

That set us up for the second period. Here, at the 15:53 mark, Jackson Lacombe sprung John Farinacci, who got behind the Finnish defense for a partial breakaway. He beat goaltender Kari Piironinen stick side to give the US the 2-1 lead.

But the US was not done. At the 16:21 mark, Finland’s Aku Raty was assessed a double minor for high sticking and the USA had four minutes to work the power play.

At the 17:00 mark, Cole Caufield dug the puck out of the corner, swung it to the slot where Trevor Zegras was waiting. He shot and Matthew Boldy, camped out in front of the net, redirected it by Piironinen. That added to the American lead, making it 3-1 heading in to the final regulation period.

It was here when the Finns began their comeback in earnest. It started when Simontaival scored at 15:38. The Finns got the puck around the perimeter, as Samuel Helenius passed to Kasper Puutio down low. He found Simontaival cutting backdoor and passed with Simontaival finishing. It was now 3-2 United States.

Things were seemingly unraveling when Henry Thurn shot the puck out of the rink over the glass. The officials conference, as it seemed that it went out off of a Finnish stick redirecting it. The officials deemed that Thurn had cleared it over the glass and the US was back on the penalty kill.

Finland would make them pay for the mistake when they passed the puck from the point down low to Anton Lundell. He shot and the rebound came right to Roni Hirvonen, who potted it to tie the game at three.

The US seemed to be in a bad way, with the momentum shifted to the Finns.

But, with less than three minutes to go, at the 18:44 mark, Turcotte won a puck battle in the corner and centered it to Kaliyev in the slot. He shot and scored to give the US the late 4-3 lead.

And it would stay that way, thanks to a small thing that you do not see in the scoresheets. With seconds left, Boldy went down and blocked a shot as a Finnish shooter had a clear look from the point. The Finnish player wound up to shoot and Boldy went down at the correct time to block the shot and help the US gain victory.

The US was outshot by Finland 36 to 26, but Spencer Knight made 33 saves to help the US cause. Piironinen had 22 saves.

Patrick Moynihan was again out with injury.

So the finals are now set: Canada and the United States for the gold with the loser of the game receiving silver and the bronze medal being awarded to the winner of Finland-Russia. Both games will take place tomorrow and we will have coverage for you right here!