First off, the update on the AHL, as promised. It’s a short update, so I can get it in here, I figure.
The league put out a statement form President and Chief Executive Officer Scott Howson that read: “The American Hockey League Board of Governors has approved the structural framework for an AHL season that will begin on February 5, 2021. Details are still being worked out, but this step allows our teams and their National Hockey League partners to better determine their plans for the coming season. We look forward to dropping the puck on Feb. 5.”
In other AHL-related news, Binghamton announced that they have re-signed forward Ryan Schmelzer. The contract is for one year at the AHL level.
The 26-year-old, according the press release put out by the Devils, said that he had 24 points last season, seven goals and 17 assists, to go with a plus-9 plus/minus over 52 games.
He finished the season on a five-game point streak that gave him a pair of goals and six assists. Because of this, he was named the CCM AHL Player of the Week for the week ending March 8.
The Buffalo, New York native played college hockey locally in the area, at Canisius College, where he had 106 points, including 40 goals in four seasons. He was named the Atlantic Hockey Association’s Best Defensive Forward as well as a member of the Second All-Conference Team in 2016-17. Canisius also won the regular season Atlantic Hockey Association championship. The following season, he was a member of the Third All-Conference Team and was named the team’s captain.
Schmelzer has been in the Devils system since finishing his college career. He played for the Adirondack Thunder of the ECHL immediately after, where he notched two goals and five assists for seven points in seven regular season games. He played 17 playoff games for the Thunder in 2017-18 when Adirondack made it to the ECHL Eastern Conference Final. Schmelzer had nine goals and eight assists, totaling 17 points that playoff.
Also, a few notes on the NHL Devils before we begin the World Junior Championship results.
According to NHL.com, the Devils paid tribute to health care workers by having the players autograph the RWJBarnabas Health logo that appears on the ice at Prudential Center.
The players all signed the bottom of the logo, which is placed between layers of ice on the rink. The message along with the signatures said: “Thanks to all the healthcare heroes on the frontlines for all that you do. We are in this together.”
In other news, Nico Hischier will be missing part of training camp (which opened today) with a leg injury suffered while training at home in Switzerland.
And now on to the World Junior Championship results.
The opening game featured the Czech Republic and Austria. The Czechs came away with the win here, 7-0.
After a scoreless first period, the Czechs came on in the second. It started when Simon Kubicek scored 6:21 in.
Martin Lang then added a pair – both of which were reviewed for goalie interference. The calls on the ice of good goal were upheld and Lang, who potted the puck at the 12:05 and 18:11 mark of the second, had given the Czechs a 3-0 lead.
Filip Prikryl added one more before the second intermission, making it 4-0 at 19:27.
In the final period, Pavel Novak scored at 1:39. David Jiricek scored at 16:45 and Jan Mysak scored at 19:34 to give us a 7-0 final.
Shots-wise, the Czechs fired 61 shots at Sebastian Wraneschitz, of which he fought off 54. Czech goalie Nick Malik had an easy afternoon, getting all 15 shots Austria shooters sent his way.
Jaromir Pytlik did not suit up for the Czechs.
Austria is now finished, finishing last overall in the tournament. They finished with an 0-0-0-4 4 record and 29 goals against to only one for. They finished last in Group B. The Czech Republic, on the other hand, finished fourth in the Group. This means that the game between the United States and Sweden will also affect them tonight. They will face the winner of the Canada-Finland game from Group A. The medal rounds, are, of course, crossover games between the Groups.
Speaking of Group B, there are some crazy scenarios for deciding the winner of the Group tonight. If Sweden wins in any way, they win Group B. The Americans win the Group if they win in regulation. Russia – who are on the sidelines watching tonight, can win the Group should the USA win in overtime or a shootout. I think I got that right. We will clarify more as the night goes on.
As for that Group A game, Canada came out on top 4-1 and will face the Czechs in the quarterfinal.
Canada got a goal from Dylan Cozens unassisted 3:49 into the game to make it 1-0.
It stayed that way until the second period when Dylan Holloway scored just as Canada was coming off of the power play at 6:54. At 12:58, Peyton Krebs made it 3-0.
At the 4:17 mark of the third, Cozens took a tripping penalty for Canada putting the Finns on the power play. Brad Lambert scored for them to make it 3-1.
Finland would pull goaltender Kari Piiroinen with just under 3:30 to go in the game and Cozens would strike again into the empty net to give us our final of 4-1, Canada.
Canada had 40 shots, of which Piiroinen got 36 while Finnish shooters got through to Canadian goalie Devon Levi 19 times. He made 18 saves.
Dawson Mercer had four shots on goal for Canada and was an even plus/minus in 14:13 of ice time.
As mentioned, Canada now wraps up the Group A first seed and will face the Czech Republic, fourth seed from Group B, on January 2.
Now back to Group B where the Americans held their fate in their own hands and could win the pool with a regulation victory over Sweden.
They would prevail, 4-0, extending their shutout streak and wrapping up the Group B number one seed. Tonight’s win also marks the first time Team USA has had three shutouts in a World Junior Championship.
Drew Helleson scored first just 1:09 into the game when Swedish goalie Hugo Alnefelt could not catch a lobbed puck thrown in by John Farinacci. The puck went into the corner and Helleson threw it on net, scoring from the odd angle. That made it 1-0 US.
At 3:58 of the first period, Trevor Zegras continued his hot streak by scoring from a similar angle as the first goal, giving the US a 2-0 lead.
Sweden nearly had another disaster on their hands when, midway through the first, Alnefelt mishandled the puck outside of his crease and the US nearly scored. The puck was corralled by a Swedish defender and ushered to safety, however.
The second period saw eventual USA Player of the Game, Alex Turcotte win an offensive zone faceoff. Zegras picked the puck up and quickly moved it to Ryan Johnson, who scored to make it 3-0. That goal came two minutes into the new frame.
Sweden had their finest chance to get in the game come at the 3:34 mark. Jackson Lacombe hauled a Swedish player down on a breakaway and Victor Soderstrom took the penalty shot that was awarded. A comedy of errors ensued when US goaltender Spencer Knight lost his balance and fell when Soderstrom beat him with a move. However, Soderstrom lost control of the puck while doing so and did not score. As NHL Network analyst Dave Starman said, this is one that both players would like to see the highlight tape lost.
Turcotte would add the fourth goal for the US when he scored 21 seconds after the penalty shot. He camped out in front of the net, grabbed a loose puck and spun around, beating Alnefelt to make it 4-0.
Following that goal, Alnefelt’s night was done. He was replaced by Jesper Wallstedt, who actually ended up pitching a shutout for Sweden.
The USA outshot Sweden by ten, 37-27. Spencer Knight stopped all 27 Swedish shots while Alnefelt and Wallstedt combined to make 33 saves on US shots, although all four goals were, as mentioned, credited to Alnefelt.
Alexander Holtz had one shot on net and was a minus-1 in 18:38 of ice time. Patrick Moynihan, still feeling effects from the hit he took in the Austria game, did not play for the US.
So, the Americans wrap up Group B and will face Slovakia, who finished fourth in Group A in the quarterfinals.
We will have those games for you right here on January 2. Have a happy and healthy new year, everyone!