Gold Medal Game Set at World Juniors

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.

WJC Quarterfinals Wrap Up

The World Junior Championship got into the medal rounds today with some expected results and some disappointing ones.

We’ll start with the most disappointing.

The US lost to Finland 1-0 on a power play goal by Joonas Oden. In a bit of irony, Oden was born in Washington state in the American Northwest before his family moved back to Finland when he was young. So he knocks out the US, and Finland moves on to the semifinals.

Now on to games involving Devils prospects. First, Russia-Switzerland.

The Russians won this one 3-1 to advance to the semis. Akira Schmid did not dress for the Swiss, with coach Thierry Paterlini electing to go with the tandem of Luca Hollenstein and Stephane Charlin again.

But while Schmid did not dress, Russian defenseman Danil Misyul did. He had three shots and an even plus/minus rating in 16:40 of total ice time.

Following a scoreless first period, the Swiss took a too many men on the ice bench minor 37 seconds into the second. The Russians capitalized on this one with Dmitri Voronkov scoring at 1:12 from Grigori Denisenko and Nikita Alexandrov.

Switzerland would respond with the equalizing goal at 7:08 off the stick of Gaetan Jobin (assist to Joel Salzgeber).

Alexander Khovanov scored what would go down as the game-winner at 14:07 from Denisenko. That broke the tie to make it 2-1 Russia.

From there, the Swiss got into some penalty trouble. Sandro Schmid took a hooking call at 15:34 and, just as that penalty was expiring at 17:36 (with the Swiss killing it), Matthew Verboon was called for a high-stick. This put Switzerland right back on the penalty kill and they could not overcome this one. Voronkov scored at 18:13 – from Alexander Khovanov and Yegor Zamula – to notch an insurance goal and make it 3-1.

The Swiss tried to tie things by pulling Hollenstein a few times late during the third period, but could not get the two to level it. The final was 3-1 as Russia moves on to the semifinals.

Hollenstein made 33 saves on 36 shots against while Russian goalie Yaroslav Askarov made 14 saves on just 15 Swiss shots.

Next up, Canada defeated Slovakia 6-1 to move on to the semis as well. Ty Smith had two shots on goal and was a plus-1 plus/minus in 16:40 of ice time. Kevin Bahl was a plus-2 in 14:42 of total ice. Alexis Lefreniere returned from injury for the Canadians and had a goal, an assist, four penalty minutes to go with four shots on goal and a plus-2 rating over 16:40 of ice time.

The Canadians began the game with Nolan Foote taking a check to the head five-minute major plus a game misconduct to go with it. It came 53 seconds into the game on the big forward’s first shift.

But that would not deter Canada. Barrett Hayton scored at 6:47 of the first (just after the five-minute major was up) to make it 1-0. Lafreniere and Dylan Cozens had the assists.

And the train kept a rolling when Connor McMichael scored 1:21 into the second (from Joe Veleno) to make it 2-0.

Two minutes and twenty-one seconds later, Jacob Bernard-Docker made it 3-0 when he scored from Jamie Drysdale and Cozens.

Liam Foudy made it 4-0 when he scored at 9:02 from Ty Dellandrea and Drysdale.

At the 9:44 mark of the second, Slovakia’s Maxim Cajkovic was called for a hook putting Canada on the power play. Lafreniere would score about a minute later at 10:50 from Calen Addison and Hayton to make it 5-0 on the power play.

The Canadian barrage ended on the power play when Slovakia’s Marek Minarik received two minutes for hooking with seven seconds to go in the second period. That would carry over to the third and Hayton converted exactly a minute in to the new frame when he made it 6-0 from Addison.

Following this goal, the Slovaks pulled goalie Samuel Hlavaj in favor of Samuel Vyletelka.

The new goalie would help the Slovaks a little as they got on the board, breaking the shutout when Oliver Okuliar beat Joel Hofer at 6:10 of the third to make it 6-1. Kristian Kovacik had the lone assist on the goal.

Things started to get a bit chippy from there on out. Slovakia’s Martin Vitalos was given two minutes for checking from behind plus a ten-minute misconduct at 12:17.

Then, at the 15:28 mark of the third, things got crazier as both Lafreniere (Canada) and Boris Cesanek (Slovakia) were each assessed double minors for roughing.

Things settled down and the game ended with Canada taking a 6-1 victory.

Hofer was barely tested, making 17 saves on just 18 Slovak shots against. The Slovakian goalies combined to make 38 saves on 44 Canadian shots.,

In the final quarterfinal game of the evening, the Swedes took on the host Czechs. Sweden prevailed 5-0 at the Ostravar Arena to advance to the semis.

Sweden’s Devils prospect Nikola Pasic had three shots on net in 16:28 of total ice time.

The Czechs, with Devils legend Patrik Elias behind the bench as an assistant coach, got into some penalty troubles early. Martin Has was called for holding at 8:23 and, before that could expire, at 9:53, Otakar Sik cleared the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty. The Czechs killed those off, but at 11:55, Jan Sir took a slashing call and the Czechs were back on the penalty kill.

They could not escape this one as Nils Hoglander scored at 13:08 from Samuel Fagemo and Rasmus Sandin to make it 1-0 Sweden. And they never looked back.

At 15:09 of the first, Hugo Gustafsson scored shorthanded when Czech goalie Lukas Dostal coughed up the puck to him behind the Czech net. He put it into the empty net to make it 2-0 Sweden.

The only event of the second period was a Swedish goal off the stick of Hoglander to make it 3-0. Sandin and Fagemo had the assists on the goal that came just 45 seconds into the period.

The third period kicked off with Sweden being awarded a penalty shot 4:04 in. Victor Soderstrom took the shot (in IIHF rules, any player no matter if he was on the ice or not at the time the penalty shot was called, can take the penalty shot) and scored to make it 4-0.

Gustafsson rounded out the scoring when he scored on the power play at 10:44 into the third. Hoglander and Nils Lundkvist had the assists. The Czech Republic’s Has was called for tripping 13 seconds prior to the goal.

At the 14:59 mark, the Czech Republic’s Karel Klikorka received five minutes for slashing plus a game misconduct and that was that. The Swedes move on and the hosts were eliminated.

Hugo Alnefelt stopped all 23 shots he faced while Dostal stopped 32 of 37 Swedish shots.

So the semifinals will see Sweden taking on Russia and Canada versus Finland. That takes place on Saturday, January 4 and we will have coverage for you right here.

In other WJC-related news, Germany bested Kazakhstan 4-0 to take the first game of their best-of-three relegation series. They play game two on Saturday as well.