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!

Semifinals Set at 2021 WJC

The quarterfinal round took place today in Edmonton at the 2021 World Junior Championship. Russia played Germany, Finland matched up with Sweden, Canada faced the Czech Republic and the United States tangled with Slovakia.

The first game of a packed day was the Russia-Germany game. This one was way closer than it had any business being with Russia getting a scare from the Germans and hanging on to win, 2-1.

Russia got on the board in the first period when they scored six seconds into killing a penalty. Danil Chaika was called for a trip at the 9:00 mark, at 9:06, penalty killer Vasili Ponomaryov had the shorty.

It would stay 1-0 Russia until the second period when Danil Bashkirov scored – this time at even strength – with Yegor Afanasiev getting the primary assist and Devils prospect Arseni Gritsyuk getting the secondary. The goal came at the 8:27 mark of the second period. It was now 2-0 Russia and would remain so through the second intermission.

Germany got on the board 3:24 into the third when Florian Elias scored unassisted to make it 2-1. The Germans would pull goaltender Florian Bugl to no avail. Russia moved on to the quarterfinals with a 2-1 win. A lot closer than they would have liked, and many would have predicted, but they got the win nonetheless.

Russia finished with 27 shots on Bugl with him making 25 stops. Germany threw 19 shots on Yaroslav Askarov with him only missing the Elias goal.

Shakir Mukhamadullin had two shots on Bugl and was a plus-1 in 19:54 of total ice time. Gritsyuk, in addition to the assist (one point) also had a plus-1 rating over a limited 9:37 of ice time.

We will get to Russia’s next opponent later on in the post.

Next up, a Scandinavian battle between Finland and Sweden. This was another close one with the Swedes continuing their slide, losing 3-2 on a late Finnish goal.

The Swedes got on the board early and often, with Lucas Raymond scoring 14:28 into the game and Elmer Soderblom scoring at 16:05 (on the power play with a nice between-the-legs shot) to give them a quick 2-0 lead.

But Finland would begin chipping away.

The second period did not begin on the right foot for Finland. Samuel Helenius was called for an illegal check to the head and neck area, receiving two minutes for that, plus a 10-minute misconduct penalty at 2:26 in.

Despite this, a little over three minutes later, the Finns began their comeback. Henri Nikkanen scored at 5:32 gone by in the period to make it 2-1.

The third began with Sweden’s Emil Heineman taking a tripping penalty seven seconds into the frame to set up the Finnish power play. Anton Lundell would make Sweden pay for that when he scored at 1:04 from Ville Heinola.

Exactly nothing would happen for the rest of the twenty minutes, basically. No penalties or goals.

Then, with about 25 seconds to go in regulation, Roni Hirvonen scored from Mikko Petman to miraculously give the Finns the 3-2 lead.

Sweden would frantically pull goalie Hugo Alnefelt off the faceoff, but to nothing. The 25 seconds ticked away. A final icing by Sweden putting Alnefelt back in net with four seconds left and sealing victory for the Finns, who will move on to the seminfinals.

Once time had run out, Sweden’s Noel Gunler was hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, but it was too late for the Swedes.

Finland had 31 shots on goal that Alnefelt got 28 of. Finnish goalie Kari Piiroinen had 22 stops on 24 Swedish shots.

In the loss, Alexander Holtz had five of those 24 Swedish shots and was a minus-1 over 17:38 of time on ice.

Next up, Canada versus the Czech Republic.

Jaromir Pytlik has not been playing for the Czechs due to an injury suffered earlier in the tournament. He did not play tonight either.

This one, in keeping with the theme of tonight’s games, was a lot closer than the 3-0 score inferred.

Canada took an early lead when, who else but Dylan Cozens scored 8:22 to give the hosts and defending champs a 1-0 lead.

That would go down as the game winner for Canada.

At 11:39 of the first, Bowen Byram found the back of the net to make it 2-0. There it would stand for more than a period and a half.

The second period was a clean sheet with no penalties or scoring.

The third had no penalties and the only goal came when the Czechs pulled goalie Nick Malik and Connor McMichael scored into the empty net.

The Czechs would go on the power play with a little less than two minutes to go in the game when Canada’s Quinton Byfield was called for a hook.

But Canada survived and will now move on to the semifinals.

The Czechs actually outshot the Canadians 29-25. Canada’s Devon Levi got all 29 shots sent his way while Malik made 23 saves.

As mentioned, Pytlik was sidelined for most of the tournament and did not play tonight, but Dawson Mercer did and he had two shots on net and an even plus/minus in 12:03 of ice time logged.

In the final game of the night, the United States would face Slovakia in the fourth quarterfinal of the night.

It was another squeaker, but the US moved on to the semifinals by defeating Slovakia 5-2.

Arthur Kaliyev kicked off the scoring on the power play when Matthew Boldy (primary assist) and Trevor Zegras (secondary) combined on a tic-tac-toe passing play that led to Kaliyev hammering it home. It was 1-0 United States 10:44 into the game.

At the 12:30 mark of the first, the United States’ Landon Slaggert was called for an illegal check to the head and neck and also received a 10-minute misconduct.

In the second period, the US missed two great scoring chances in succession when Cole Caufield hit the post after beating Slovak goalie Simon Latkoczy. Then a minute or so later, Alex Turcotte was stopped on a breakaway by Latkoczy.

The US finally broke through when John Farinacci scored his first of two at the 11:55 mark of the second.

The US would continue to build a lead when Caufield scored on the power play in the second. Zegras had the lone assist on a goal that only took the US 34 seconds to set up. It came at 16:53 of the second.

Slovakia would cut into the 3-0 lead, however, when Matej Kaslik sniped one by US goaltender Spencer Knight at 18:32. Things were about to get interesting.

Just 7:55 into the third period, the Americans’ Drew Helleson took a tripping penalty setting up a Slovak power play. Dominik Sojka would score with five seconds to go on the man advantage to make it 3-2.

The US would begin to pull away late in the third. At the 15:46 mark, The Americans dumped the puck into the Slovak zone. Latkoczy could not handle it, allow the US to go on the forecheck. Bobby Brink won a puck battle and it got to Farinacci behind the Slovak net. He came out from behind the goal cage and backhanded a shot by Latkoczy to make it 4-2.

The Slovaks would pull Latkoczy with about 1:30 left and, seven seconds later, Matthew Beniers potted one into the empty net to make it 5-2 and put the cap on the game.

The US outshot Slovakia 43-18 with Latkoczy making 39 saves and Knight making 16. Patrick Moynihan again did not play due to injury.

So, with that win, we will now see the United States take on Finland in one semifinal and Canada versus Russia in the other. That will go down on Monday, January 4 and we will see you then right here!

Here’s hoping everyone has a happy and (especially) safe and healthy 2021!