Monday, December 28, 2015

Danes overpowered

Dylan Strome and Mitch Marner scored two points each when Canada beat Denmark 6-1 and despite Denmark grabbing the lead early on, the Canadians never had to worry about not beating Denmark. 
Canada outshot Denmark 56-11. 
But the beauty of hockey is that the game was tied at one after the first period. 
"It was the most fun game I've ever played, I think," Seldrup said. "Canada's a great team."
Team Canada's head coach Dave Lowry was happy with the way his team generated offense in the game against Denmark, something they had focused on before the game. 
"We wanted to get more pucks to the net, that was the problem in our first game [against Team USA]. Every goalie in this tournament is great when they see the puck," said Marner.
Goaltender Mathias Seldrup probably knew he’d be having a busy night when the coach told him he’d play Denmark’s game against Canada, but he probably couldn’t foresee just how much he’d have to work to keep the pucks out of the net. 
Canada thought they had scored their first goal just 20 seconds into the game, but a video review showed that the puck hadn’t crossed the goal line. Denmark spent most of the time in their own zone, but with 7:11 remaining in the period, they dumped the puck into Canada’s zone, Mathias From beat the Canadian defensemen to it, went around the net and passed the puck across the crease to other side, and Alexander True gave Denmark the lead in the game. 
The Danes got to enjoy the lead for only 63 seconds when Canada capitalized on Denmark’s poor line change and converted it into a 3-on-1 attack. Matt Barzal and Rourke Chartier played the puck to Anthony Beauvillier who had nothing but the net in front of him, and didn’t miss it.
"After that first goal we mnaged to get the game back into our hands and we played well the rest of the way. Of course you always want to score the first goal, but we bounced back," said John Quenneville. 
Just 1:14 into the third period, Canada grabbed the lead for the first time and never let go. Mitch Marner took a shot from the slot, the puck hit a Danish defenseman’s stick to John Quenneville who sent it into Denmark’s net. 
Four minutes later, Matt Barzal scored Canada’s third goal with a laser from the faceoff dot on powerplay. 
And then, in the next shift, Canada scored again. Travis Konecny carried the puck to Denmark’s zone, deked a defenseman, skated around the net and then passed to the far post where Lawson Crouse tapped it in.
Halfway through the period, Canada got their second powerplay opportunity. While they peppered Seldrup with shots, they couldn’t beat him. Not on powerplay. Just as the announcement of both teams playing with full strength echoed inside the Helsinki old arena, Dylan Strome sent a long pass from the corner to Marner in front of the net, and he shot Canada’s fifth goal and collected his second point of the night. 
Speldrup wasn't the only one out there having fun. 
"I think our whole team was having fun. It's nice to get the confidence back after the U.S. game," Marner said. 
Canada recorded their 50th shot of the night halfway through the third period during another powerplay. Brendan Perlini had a great chance right at the doorstep, but Seldrup made another great save. 
Unfortunately for him, the 51st shot went in. 
Strome got the puck in high slot, went around a Danish defenseman, and fired it top shelf on Seldrup’s blocker side to give Canada a five-goal lead at 9:32 into the third period. 
With nine minutes remaining, Denmark got their third delaying of the game penalty for shooting the puck over the boards, but Canada couldn’t capitalize on that chance.
Instead, Speldrup made his 52nd save of the game. 
Canada is going to take on Switzerland tomorrow. 
"We like winning, we had great depth, and it's nice to go into a new game with confidence," Marner said. 
Denmark has a day off on Tuesday. On Wednesday, they will take on their Scandinavian neighbor, Sweden. 

Russia roars back on Finns

With three power play goals and a shorthanded marker, the Russians backed up their reputation as international hockey’s most opportunistic bunch in this wild affair between the two Group B favourites.

Kirill Kaprizov had a goal and an assist, and Andrei Svetlakov, Pavel Kraskovski, Vladislav Kamenev, and Alexander Polunin also scored for Russia. Yegor Korshkov had three assists, and Maxim Lazarev and Ivan Provorov added two assists apiece.

This was the first big test for Finnish coach Jukka Jalonen’s highly touted crew after thrashing Belarus 6-0. While their offensive confidence was undeniable, the final score showed their defensive discipline still has a ways to go.

In an intriguing choice by Russian coach Valeri Bragin, goalie Alexander Georgiev, who plays for TPS Turku, earned his second straight win. Ilya Samsonov, the Metallurg Magnitogorsk netminder drafted in the first round (25th overall) by the Washington Capitals this year, still has not seen a minute of action.

Making his second straight start, Finnish goalie Veini Vehvilainen took the loss as Finland outshot Russia 32-25.

Aleksi Saarela scored twice, Patrik Laine had a goal and an assist, and Sebastian Aho also tallied for Finland. Finnish scoring leader Jesse Puljujarvi added three helpers.

The Finns opened the scoring at 4:13 on an exciting rush. Laine rushed down left wing and fed Puljujarvi in the middle. Georgiev stopped his shot, but the rebound bounced out to Aho, who lifted it into the open side.

With deadly efficiency, Russia struck back less than two minutes later on the power play. With Miro Keskitalo off for tripping, Kaprizov’s lightning one-timer from the right faceoff circle beat Vehvilainen.

Twice Finland came close to retaking the lead in goalmouth scrums, but not close enough. With about two minutes left in the opening stanza, Juho Lammikko pushed the puck past Georgiev’s skate on the left post, but the whistle had already blown. The crowd of 12,526 was irate.

At 18:53 Laine put Finland up 2-1, getting his stick on Puljujarvi’s wrister and directing it down past Georgiev on the glove side.

The Finns took a 3-1 lead on the power play just 53 seconds into the middle frame. Puljujarvi did his best Wayne Gretzky impression, centering the puck from behind the goal line to Aleksi Saarela, who evaded the checking of two Russian defenders to zip it home.

It looked like the host nation was in full command, but appearances can be deceiving. Especially against a team like Russia.

At 8:48, the Russians cut the deficit to 3-2, exploiting their quick transition game on a 2-on-1 shorthanded break. Korshkov hustled down left wing and fed it across to Svetlakov. He waited as the Finnish goalie slid over on his knees and then roofed it glove side.

At 12:29, Kraskovski made it 3-3 on a lucky power play goal, pivoting down low to bounce the puck off Keskitalo and past a surprised Vehvilainen. Kraskovski, aghast with glee at his good fortune, jumped into the glass behind the net to celebrate.

Russia jumped into a 4-3 lead with the man advantage at 15:28. Kaprizov skated behind the Finnish net with the puck and fed it deftly to Kamenev. The Russian captain scored high on the short side, similar to Svetlakov.

Just 37 seconds later, it was 5-3 when Korshkov attempted a wraparound and the puck sat free between Vehlivainen's skate and the right post. Polunin dived in to push it home. Shock and disbelief reigned among the blue-and-white faithful.

Early in the third period, the Finns fought back. For the third time this night, they battled in close to shove the puck past Georgiev. The play was reviewed at length by the officials, as the crowd clapped and banged its noisemakers. Saarela was ultimately awarded the goal to make it 5-4 at 1:18, and the arena erupted.

However, that was as close as the Finns would get. Fazleyev added some insurance, scoring on his own rebound with 6:12 left to play. Jalonen pulled his goalie for the extra attacker in the dying stages, but it was to no avail.

Finland last won this tournament in 2014, defeating host Sweden 3-2 in overtime in the gold medal game in Malmo. They failed to medal in the 2015 tournament, while the Russians settled for silver after falling 5-4 to Canada in the final in Montreal.

The Russians will face winless Belarus on Tuesday, while Finland's next game is Wednesday against Slovakia.

Sweden beats USA

Team USA outshot Sweden, and controlled big portions of the game, but they didn’t have Alexander Nylander or Linus Soderstrom. Nylander scored the game winning goal off a breakaway in the second period, and Soderstrom made 46 saves en route to a shutout.
"Guys followed our instructions, the only thing we couldn't do was find the net. We had plenty of opportunities, but give their goalie credit, he was sensational," Team USA head coach Ron Wilson said. 
“I got to make a lot of saves early on and got in the game. It was a fun game to play,” said Linus Soderstrom who got the nod from head coach Rikard Gronborg this morning.
“It was important to get three points, we obviously want to win the group.” 
One streak was bound to come to an end tonight. Last time Sweden had beaten the U.S. at the World Juniors was in 1996, 20 years ago, and had twelve straight losses to the Americans. On the other hand, they also hadn’t lost a WJC preliminary round game since the 2007 tournament when they lost 3-2 (OT) to the US on home ice in Leksand.
Swedes got a poor start to the game when William Lagesson took a cross-checking minor just 22 seconds into the game, but just as they had killed it, it was the U.S. that had to kill back-to-back penalties. And then, thanks to two Swedish penalties in the second half of the first period, the momentum shifted back to the Americans but the first period ended in a scoreless tie.
The Swedes broke the tie early in the second period when Gabriel Carlsson and Dmytro Timashov opened up the U.S. defence with two quick passes that sent Alexander Nylander on a breakaway from the offensive blueline. He came with great speed, waited for Alex Nedeljkovic to commit, and then roofed the puck with a quick backhander at 2:41 into the period, a move he says his father, the former NHLer and Tre Kronor spelare Michael Nylander, encourages him to use. 
"We got caught in the middle of the net and our defenseman didn’t realize he was open. It was a nice goal," Wilson said. 
Again, both teams ran into some penalty trouble, but the Swedes dug a deeper hole when Andreas Englund shoved Matthew Tkachuk into the boards when Timashov was already in the penalty box for high sticking.
USA got an extended two-man advantage but despite peppering the Swedish net with shots, they couldn’t get any of them in. Linus Soderstrom in Sweden’s goal was outstanding, as he turned away 39 shots in the first two periods. Sweden had 15 shots on goal.
Team USA got their sixth power-play opportunity 49 seconds into the third period, but again, Sweden killed the penalty. Not even the Americans’ seventh power play got them the result they wanted.
"Our powerplay was successful, we were handling the puck well, and should have had four or five goals tonight. Sometimes you face a goalie with a hot hand," Wilson said. 
Team USA did push Sweden to their heels in the first half of the period and with eight minutes to go, Sweden had had just one shot on goal.
"I think we were a little on our heels there, but overall, I think it was a close game, we just too many penalties. I thought we played well, and our defense made sure I could focus on the first shot," Soderstrom said. 
The Swedes' second shot of the period was Carl Grundstrom’s great wrister from the slot but it ended up in Nedeljkovic’s glove.
With 93 seconds to go, Team USA intended to pull the goalie, but due to miscommunication between Nedeljkovic and the bench, USA received a too many men on the ice penalty instead and Sweden could defend their lead all the way to the end.
Their streak is still alive.

Czechs blank Slovaks

The 19-year-old Boston Bruins sophomore forward has recovered from a fractured foot that had kept him out since 31 October. He recently completed a two-game conditioning stint with Boston’s AHL affiliate in Providence. Pastrnak, appearing in his third straight World Juniors, started on the top line with Michael Spacek and Jiri Smejkal.

About adjusting to his new surroundings in Helsinki, Pastrnak said: "It’s bigger ice at the World Juniors. It’s totally different hockey than I’ve been used to. I think as the tournament goes on, I’m going to feel better and better every day."

Dominik Lakatos had the other Czech goal.

Another star Czech attacker, Pavel Zacha, sat out with a lower-body injury. He aggravated it during the opening 2-1 shootout loss to Russia, but is expected to return to the lineup in the near future. Czech blueliner Alex Rasner did not play due to a knee issue, but should also be back soon.

It’s usually a tense battle when the two halves of the former Czechoslovakia clash, and this was no exception. For Czech goalie Vitek Vanecek and his Slovak counterpart Adam Huska, it was like a game of “chicken,” waiting to see who would blink first. Vanecek got his first career World Junior shutout as the Czechs outshot Slovakia 34-18.

"I feel good," said Vanecek. "I’m glad I have my first shutout of the tournament."

The Czechs, who suffered a 3-0 upset loss to Slovakia in last year’s quarter-finals, weren’t going to make the same mistake again. They turned the tables with a solid defensive effort. They’re seeking their first U20 medal since 2005’s bronze in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

The Slovaks shocked the hockey world by defeating Sweden in the 2015 bronze medal game. They now have a win and a loss after beating Belarus 4-2 to start this tournament.

In the scoreless first period, the Czechs dominated territorially and put the pressure on with Slovakia's Kristian Pospisil off for slashing. Shots favoured the Czechs 10-2. Slovakia didn’t get a shot on goal until well past the midpoint of the first period.

The Slovaks began shooting from every angle during a pair of second-period man advantages, but still couldn’t find the target.

"We played really good defensively," said Vanecek. "Our D-men blocked a lot of shots. It was a good effort."

The Hartwall Arena crowd amused itself by banging green noisemakers and rocking out to Ratt’s “Lay It Down” and Iron Maiden’s “Can I Play With Madness” between whistles as it awaited the first goal.

It finally came with 3:02 left in the middle frame. Pastrnak unleashed a wrister from the top of the left faceoff circle that beat Huska high to the glove side on the power play. The go-ahead goal came moments after Slovakia's Radovan Bondra was denied on a glorious shorthanded chance.

A flukey goal with 8:05 left in the third gave the Czechs some insurance. Lakatos had the puck go off his skate when he went hard to the net, and it then bounced in off Slovak defenceman Erik Cernak's skate. The goal was reviewed by the officials and deemed good.

Pastrnak said his team was motivated by memories of losing to Slovakia at the 2015 tournament: "Obviously we didn’t want to talk about it, but in the back of your mind, you still have it and you still remember it, especially the guys who were here last year."

The Czech-Slovak rivalry at the World Juniors, which dates back to 1997, has historically been lopsided in the Czechs’ favour. Overall, the Czechs have won 11 games, tied one, and lost four against their “little brothers.”

Next up on Wednesday, the Czechs take on Belarus and the Slovaks face host Finland.

"We’re pretty confident," said Vanecek. "We have to win."