Happy new year friends!
Now that the group stage is done in the World Junior Championship, let us have a daily recap of the group stage;
Day 1: A big can was opened, US nearly stunned, and 3-on-3 overtime is on
The day started with a very entertaining back-and-forth affair between the Czech Republic and Switzerland, who nearly pulled off the upset against the Czechs. An amazing game which saw each side find the back of the net in the second period, and each goalie face 27 shots. This game was close, entertaining, and set the tone for the rest of the day.
The day continued with Slovakia facing the United States. The Slovaks nearly upset the Americans by taking the lead late in the second period. The Americans roared back in the beginning of the third with two goals four minutes apart, but faced a nervous moment when they surrendered a penalty shot off an Oliver Wahlstrom hooking call, but Kyle Keyser came up big for the US to save the day.
The centerpiece of the night came when the hosting Canadians faced lowly Denmark, resulting in a total obliteration score of 14-0 with 6 goals being scored in the third period. Seven different Canadians found the back of the net, and Philadelphia Flyers prospect Morgan Frost and Anaheim Ducks prospect and team captain Maxime Comtois each left the game with at least a hat-trick.
The night was capped off with yet another thrilling game between Sweden and Finland, in which Sweden placed their 44-game world junior group stage winning streak on the line. Spoiler alert, Sweden has gone into the knockout round with an even longer winning streak.
Day 2: Four more games, business as usual
Day two consisted of a few games that ended in predictable fashion. Russia beat Denmark 4-0, Sweden beat Slovakia 5-2 with Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Emil Bemstrom finding the back of the net twice for the Swedes. Canada beat Switzerland 3-2 in a close game, with Swiss player to watch Philippe Kurashev scoring both of their goals. Finland defeated Kazakhstan 5-0 with their backup goalie… all in all a fairly predictable day.
Day 3: Fewer games, no shortage of thrills
Only two games took place on Day 3 of the World Juniors tournament. A thrilling, close game between Russia and the Czech Republic won by Russia on the strength of their special teams performance, who scored two shorthanded goals to edge the Czech 2-1 (who themselves found the back of the net on a powerplay).
Also featuring on this day was an expected US thumping of Kazakhstan, with Philadelphia Flyers prospect Joel Farabee netting a natural hat trick in the first period of the game en route to a 8-2 victory for the Americans. I will also note that player to watch Valeri Orekhov figured into the game by assisting on both of the Kazakh goals…
Day 4: Hockey powers flex their muscle, clash of the titans
The day began with Chicago Blackhawks prospect Philippe Kurashev continuing to star for the Swiss as they beat Denmark 4-0. Finland continued their quest for a medal for the first time since winning in 2014 by beating Slovakia 5-1 with five different Finnish players found the back of the net. Canada defeated the Czech Republic by a score of 5-1, with highly touted youngster Alexis Lafreniere finding the back of the net for the first time in this tournament.
The night was capped off with a thrilling clash between Sweden and the United States, which saw a furious third-period comeback from the Americans be thwarted by a strong Swedish overtime performance; down 4-0 after an Erik Brannstrom goal early in the third, the Americans would push back with Montreal Canadiens prospect Ryan Poehling leading the charge with a natural hat trick, which included two quick goals with the goalie pulled near the end of regulation; Swedish and London Knights (also player to watch) defenseman Adam Boqvist would stop the bleeding for the Swedes as he would find the overtime difference-maker.
Day 5: Two games, 24 goals
Another reduced schedule game day which saw a plethora of goals being scored. The first game of the day was a back-and-forth affair between the Swiss and the Russians, ultimately won by the Russians by a score of 7-4. The game was a penalty filled one with Dinamo Moskva winger, Ivan Muranov, being assessed a game misconduct in the 2nd period for butt-ending a Swiss player. Another anomaly of this game was a player being assessed two penalties resulting in consecutive penalty shots. Weird indeed.
The last game of the night was a romp of Kazakhstan at the hands of Slovakia, who defeated them by a score of 11-2, powered by a 6-goal first period. Seven different Slovakian players found the back of the net, with Nitra native Andrej Kollar scoring a hat-trick.
Day 6: Ringing in the new year, ending the group stage
The last day of the group stage began with confirmation that Denmark would face the relegation test, by being defeated 4-0. The Danes enter the best-of-three relegation round against Kazakhstan having scored 0 goals and given up 26, while the Czechs confirmed their third seed for the knockout round and will face the United States.
Sweden would also confirm Kazakhstan’s entry into the relegation round by defeating them 4-1, powered by a 3-goal first period. Kazakh goalie Denis Karatayev was kept quite busy during the game, facing 56 shots. He was awarded Kazakhstan’s best player award for his troubles, though he must now lead his country against Denmark to be back in the tournament next year. Sweden also secured the top seed of Group B and will face Switzerland.
In yet another edition of a new year’s eve classic showdown, Canada and Russia faced off to determine top seed in Group A.
The Canadians took the early lead by scoring within the first three minutes of the game; however, a costly game misconduct to Alexis Lafreniere and some undisciplined play would allow the Russians to score on the ensuring powerplay. Boston Bruins prospect Pavel Shen would put the Russians ahead halfway through the third and the Russians would hang on to win top seed in Group A, securing a knockout game against Slovakia.
The last game of the night featured the Americans facing off against the Finns. The US would take the game by a score of 4-1 to cap off the group stage and confirm the knockout stage matchups for both teams. As previously mentioned, the US will be facing the Czechs, while the Finns will face the Canadians.
Canadiens prospect Ryan Poehling leads the way with 8 points, while sharing the co-lead in goals with Canadian captain Max Comtois, and Swiss forward Philipp Kurashev.
Stay tuned for knockout round predictors!