Monday, January 4, 2016

Russia heads to final

Russia has had its share of scares at these World Juniors, including a hair-raising 4-3 overtime win over lowly Denmark in the quarter-final. But that doesn't matter now.

Yegor Korshkov got the winner on a brilliant unassisted effort with 2:04 left in the second period. He faked a shot at the right point, performed a spinnerama, looped through the faceoff circle and cut in front to tuck the puck inside U.S. goalie Alex Nedeljkovic’s left post. It gave Korshkov his team-leading seventh point.

Against Finland, the swift-skating Russians will vie for their first gold medal since 2011 (Buffalo) and 14th of all-time, including the Soviet Union era. They took silver last year versus Canada.

The Americans will seek consolation in the bronze medal game versus Sweden. They have won bronze four times before (1986, 1992, 2007, 2011). It's a disappointing outcome for a squad loaded with NHL-drafted talent.

The U.S. has now lost five straight World Junior games to Russia, including its last two quarter-finals in 2014 and 2015. More shockingly, it has never won a medal round game against Russia since the IIHF began using the playoff system in 1996.

Pavel Kraskovski had the other goal for Russia.

Christian Dvorak scored for the Americans, who are out of the running for their first gold medal since the 2013 World Juniors in Ufa, Russia.

Hungry and determined at Helsinki's Hartwall Arena, Russia outshot the U.S. 33-27, making life hard on Nedeljkovic. Russian netminder Ilya Samsonov, a 2015 first-round pick of the Washington Capitals, shone in just his second start of the tournament after defeating Belarus 4-1 in round-robin play.

Valeri Bragin has now coached Russia at five World Juniors, and has made the final in every case, winning gold in 2011 against Canada. His other previous gold medal games were in 2005 (loss to Canada), 2012 (loss to Sweden), and 2015 (loss to Canada).

Looking much more focused than against Denmark, the Russians came out buzzing.

However, the U.S. struck first at 9:03. Sonny Milano zoomed down left wing and fed a perfect centering pass from the corner to an onrushing Dvorak, who tapped it in.

There were chances for the U.S. to pad its lead. Brock Boeser and Ryan Hitchcock narrowly missed making it a two-goal lead on an odd-man rush. Matthew Tkachuk rang one off the post from right in front.

Russia got a huge opportunity to get on the board with a two-man advantage with under five minutes left in the first period. But Nedeljkovic made a great paddle save on Alexander Polunin at the side of the net.

With Milano off for hooking midway through the second period, Nedeljkovic blocked Yegor Korshkov’s zinger from the right faceoff circle. Moments later, from the same spot, Kamenev rang one off the goalie’s left post.

Undeterred, the Russians kept pressing. Finally at 15:08, in a wild scrum, Kraskovski was able to bang in a rebound past the goalie’s right skate. The Russians jumped for joy as they embraced one another.

The Americans picked up their tempo in the third period, outshooting Russia 13-6, but couldn't find the equalizer despite receiving two man advantages. With two minutes left, they pulled Nedeljkovic for a sixth attacker. But it was to no avail.

The result also ends U.S. head coach Ron Wilson's quest for a World Junior crown. The former long-time NHL bench boss won the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, the 2010 Olympic silver medal, and the 1996 IIHF World Championship bronze medal.

Finland going for gold

It was Finnish young guns versus Sweden’s solid defence, and it didn’t turned out to be similar fireworks of scoring as Finland’s game against Canada. But it was a thriller all the same, and in the end, Finns came out on top thanks to two second-period goal, 2-1.
Kasperi Kapanen and team captain Mikko Rantanen collected two assists each for Finland. Antti Kalapudas scored the game-winner. Kaapo Kahkonen made 21 saves for Finland.
"It was a close game, but I think we deserved to win," Kapanen said.
"This was our best game in the tournament," added Rantanen who had two points in the first five games of the tournament.
"Mikko [Rantanen] has been a big part of our team in the tournament, he's a great leader, and it was nice to see him get rewarded for his work on the ice," said Sebastian Aho.
Rasmus Asplund scored Sweden’s lone goal, Linus Soderstrom made 26 saves.
"It's my other family in there [in the dressing room], and to let in two goals in this game is a failure," Soderstrom said.
"We knew we needed a goal at the end, and everybody battled like dogs, but we couldn't tie it. Power play was the key, they scored their first one right after their power play, and the other one was a power-play goal," said Dmytro Timashov.
Any way you slice it, the Finland versus Sweden games always come down to one word: rivalry. The rivalry cuts through all aspects all life, not just hockey, but hockey is a great way to measure its intensity level. Even if the players on these teams didn’t feel the weight of a nation on their shoulders, they also knew each other well, having played against each other several times over the years.
Most people, including the players, expected the crowd to be even louder than in the previous games in the tournament, but with full sections filled with disappointed Canadians, the arena was quieter than one might have predicted, but as the Finns scored their goals, the atmosphere got more livid.
"It's unbelievable that the arena is sold out on a Monday, when the puck drops at 4pm," Kapanen said.
"I guess people figured out ways to get out of work," he added with a chuckle.
Maybe the lack of wild Finland support helped the Swedes take control of the game early on in the game. Especially the line with Alex Nylander and Dmytro Timashov and Rasmus Asplund was a threat every time they stepped on the ice.
Halfway through the first period, Timashov picked up the puck in the Swedish zone, carried it full 60 metres deep into the Finnish zone. Finnish defenceman Joni Tuulola missed a footing and fell which opened an opportunity to Timashov to take a few strides towards the Finnish net, and find Asplund at the backdoor where he had an easy job to beat Kaapo Kahkonen in Finland’s goal and give Sweden the lead in the game at 10:17.
"I was trying to drive to the net, but when I then saw [Asplund] in front of the net, it was an easy decision to get him the puck," Timashov said.
Early in the second period, Sweden got into some penalty trouble taking two minor penalties in the first nine minutes of the period. While the Finns feared top line with Patrik Laine, Sebastian Aho, and Jesse Puljujarvi couldn’t convert their chances, just as Adrian Kempe got back onto the ice, Mikko Rantanen found Roope Hintz in front of Soderstrom, and he tied the game at 11:08 into the second period.
"Once again, we were down by a goal in the game, but rallied back and won it. I think that says everything about the character of this team," said Finnish forward Sebastian Aho.
Two minutes later, Finland got another power-play opportunity. Again, the Swedish penalty kill could shut down Finland’s top unit, but tonight, the Finns got secondary scoring from other lines. Rantanen grabbed the puck behind Sweden’s goal, found Antti Kalapudas at the faceoff dot and he fired a low wrist shot that beat Soderstrom at the far post and the Swedes found themselves in an unfamiliar situation. It was the first time they were trailing in the tournament.
And they never recovered. Sweden couldn't create a big push even late in the game. Also, Andreas Englund's holding minor with three minutes remaining spoiled any plans that coach Rikard Gronborg may have had.
"The penalty kill drained our energy," said Timashov.
Sweden will play for bronze medals, like last year, while Finnish fans can look forward to a World Junior Championship final tomorrow.

Djokovic Makes Flying Start In Doha

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic required just 51 minutes for his first match win of 2016.
Djokovic, who has finished year-end No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings for four of the past five years, cruised past qualifier Dustin Brown 6-2, 6-2 on Monday at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open. 
"It's been six weeks since I played the last match, so I was very excited to go back to the court and compete and see how I go," said Djokovic. "Obviously you never know how you're going to start from the blocks. You can do your best to prepare yourself well, which I did. I think I used the off season very well to train to get my body in the right shape, and I think it was a very good start."
The Serbian is looking to capture his 60th tour-level title this week at the ATP World Tour 250 tournament. Since a loss to Ivo Karlovic last year in the Doha quarter-finals, he has reached 15 straight finals (11-4).
"I think the biggest challenge is, as it is in any of the previous years for me, is to really be consistent with my success throughout the year, try to stay healthy and try to maintain the high level of performance," he said. "That's what I try to focus my mind on.
"If I start thinking too much about certain tournaments, it can present a kind of a distraction to me so you try not to do that. I try to actually be as much as I can in the present and work my way through and effect whatever I can effect. That's really working on my game, training myself to be strong and to play confident tennis. And I know as a consequence to that, the results will be positive, I'm hoping, obviously."
Fifth seed Feliciano Lopez bowed out in his first-round match, falling to fellow Spaniard Daniel Munoz de la Nava 3-6, 7-6(4), 7-5 in two hours and 25 minutes. Lopez, who fired 24 aces, managed to convert just one of his nine break point chances. 
World No. 75 Munoz de la Nava was playing his first tour-level match since March 2014. He next meets qualifier Kyle Edmund, currently No. 102, who struck seven aces in a 6-2, 6-3 victory over No. 43-ranked Martin Klizan.
Earlier in the day, seventh seed Jeremy Chardy lost just seven of his service points for a 6-1, 6-1 rout ofMubarak Shannan Zayid in 46 minutes. 

Coric, Pavic Prevail In Chennai Openers

Eighth seed Borna Coric, working under the guidance of coach Miles Maclagan for the past month, opened his second appearance at the Aircel Chennai Open with a 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-4 win over 2009 and 2014 semi-finalist Marcel Granollers in just over two-and-a-half hours on Monday.
Despite hitting 17 aces, 2012 semi-finalist Nicolas Almagro could not overcome Croatian qualifier Ante Pavic in a 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(1) loss. John Millman battled past Evgeny Donskoy 6-7(5), 6-4, 7-6(6).

Chung fells Groth in opening round

Big-serving Sam Groth has bowed out in the first round of the Brisbane International on Monday night, beaten 7-6(8), 6-4 by South Korean teenager Hyeon Chung on Pat Rafter Arena.
World No.51 Chung booked a second-round clash with third seed Marin Cilic after seeing off the reigning Newcombe Medallist.
Earlier Aussie wildcards Ben Mitchell and John-Patrick Smith also fell at the first hurdle.
The remaining Aussie men – Bernard Tomic, wildcard James Duckworth and qualifier Oliver Anderson – feature in first-round action on Tuesday.
Davis Cup regular Groth appeared in complete control against the bespectacled 19-year-old when he led the first set 5-2. But Chung showed why he was voted last year’s ATP World Tour most improved player by finding a way to blunt Groth’s serve, which pushed 230km/h.
World No.60 Groth made 26 unforced errors as his first set unravelled. He came back from 4-1 down in the second but Chung closed out the match against the shellshocked local.
Groth had hoped to at least match his 2015 Brisbane performance when he downed defending champion Lleyton Hewitt on the way to the quarterfinals.
The 28-year-old – holder of the world record for the fastest serve at 263km/h – went on to have a breakthrough 2015.
He received the Newcombe Medal after helping Australia reach the Davis Cup semi-finals and reached the third round of a major for the first time at the Australian Open and then again at Wimbledon.
Earlier, German qualifier Tobias Kamke booked a second-round clash with defending champion Roger Federer by downing Queenslander Mitchell 6-2, 6-4. Smith fell 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 to American Denis Kudla.
Earlier, Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov upset fifth-seeded Frenchman Gilles Simon in the first round. The 2014 Australian Open quarter-finalist, whose pop star girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger watched from the stands, will next meet the winner between American Steve Johnson and Serbia’s Viktor Troicki.
- See more at: http://www.brisbaneinternational.com.au/2016/01/chung-fells-groth-in-opening-round#sthash.3R4VxB8o.dpuf

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Suter’s shots bury Belarus

Suter's two quick first-period goals on Sunday tied Canadian forward Dave Gagner’s 1983 World Junior record for the fastest two goals by an individual (28 Dec. 1983 in a 12-0 win over Switzerland).
"I didn’t know that – I just realized that now," said Suter. "It’s pretty cool!"
The Swiss also won the first game in this best-of-three relegation series 5-1 on Saturday at the Helsinki Ice Hall. They will participate in the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship where they will play in the group in Montreal, which seems appropriate since they’ve had a French-language goal song at this tournament (Black M’s “Sur Ma Route”).
Finishing ninth under coach John Fust for the second consecutive year isn’t a dream scenario for the Swiss. However, it’s better than being relegated. The last time Switzerland played in Division I was 2009.
"We were so close to making the quarter-finals, but in the end we didn’t make it," said Swiss defenceman Jonas Siegenthaler. "We were a little bit disappointed. But we knew we wanted to win this relegation round in two games, and we did it."
Switzerland's chances of success in this tournament were hurt when three of their players were suspended for incidents in the 8-3 opening loss to Sweden. This will serve as a learning experience.
Noah Rod and Calvin Thurkauf added a goal and an assist apiece, and Dario Meyer also scored for Switzerland. Denis Malgin racked up three assists, and Tino Kessler had two assists.
Reflecting on the tournament, Meyer said: "We had a tough group with Canada and America, but we had also Denmark. We were able to play against Sweden. We could have beaten Canada. So we had a good team, but it’s still disappointing to be in these relegation games."
Dmitri Buinitski and Dmitri Filippovich replied for Belarus.
Swiss starting goalie Joren van Pottelberghe earned his second win of the tournament. Switzerland outshot Belarus 44-23.
In Helsinki, Belarus made its first U20 top division appearance since 2007. The only period during which the Belarusians have managed to stay up for more than one year was between 2001 and 2003.
Belarus played well at times in this tournament, hanging tough into the third period in both a 4-2 loss to Slovakia and a 5-3 loss to the Czech Republic. But it wasn’t enough. Latvia will take its place at the 2017 World Juniors.
"Actually, I don’t know what happened today," said Belarus forward Vadim Malinovski. "We started the period and we were not bad. Then we just lost a couple of goals. Then we came back in the game, but still we lost the game."
Here, it took the Swiss just 20 seconds to capitalize on their first power play. With Belarus goalie Ivan Kulbakov sprawling, Suter buried a rebound from the slot at 3:41.
Suter zipped back down and beat Kulbakov with a low-glove side shot to make it 2-0 at 3:50. Belarus coach Alexander Beliavksi had seen enough and substituted backup goalie Vladislav Verbitski.
At 12:43, Suter completed his hat trick with an easy goal for a 3-0 lead.
Suter, 19, is among the Swiss NLA's top rookies. He is currently third in goal-scoring (10) for the ZSC Zurich Lions. That club is also home to Auston Matthews, currently third in tournament scoring for the U.S. (11 points) and the prospective #1 overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, and several other Swiss U20 players. Suter took an unusual path to success for a Swiss player, spending two seasons with the OHL's Guelph Storm before coming home.
The Belarusians called a time-out to regroup. It paid off at 15:20 as Buinitski struck back to cut the deficit to 3-1 with his second goal in as many relegation games. The goal was video-reviewed at length and deemed good.
Temporarily reenergized, Belarus made it 3-2 just 1:24 later. Filippovich zipped a high shot from the hash marks over the Swiss goalie’s glove.
Midway through the second period, Verbitski initially appeared to have made a great glove save on Rod. But after a review, it was ruled a power play goal at 8:18, and Switzerland took a 4-2 lead.
Thurkauf put the game out of reach with his 5-2 goal at 11:52. Meyer banged in a rebound to make it 6-2 at 15:21.
"I think there are no positive things in this tournament for us," said Malinovski. "We lost."
The third period was literally rough for the Swiss. Near the five-minute mark, Rod was shaken up on a hit in the Belarusian end. The stretcher was initially brought out for the Swiss assistant captain, but he managed to get up and skate to the bench.
However, Rod was injured again, blocking a shot with under seven minutes to play and Belarus on a 4-on-3 man advantage. This time, he left the game. Bizarrely, on the sequence, he also got a tripping minor, which was served by Nico Hischier.
Asked to identify a tournament highlight, Suter pointed to the 3-2 shootout loss to Canada: "The Swiss team never got a point against Canada [before]. I think that was our best game."
The three best players of the tournament for each team were honoured. For Switzerland, it was Noah Rod, Simon Kindschi, and Pius Suter. For Belarus, it was Ivan Kulbakov, Vladislav Goncharov, and Artemi Chernikov.
Belarus has never defeated Switzerland in World Junior action. This was its seventh straight loss dating back to 26 December 1998.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Unstoppable Matthews

Auston Matthews scored a hat trick for the U.S. and Alex Nedeljkovic made 28 saves en route to a shutout, his first in the tournament.
"The guys played really well tonight. It was a little bit of a question how we were going to come out, but we established our forecheck early on, and we got pucks on the net. Couldn't ask for a better game," Nedeljkovic said.
"Everybody on the ice helped me today, my linemates played unbelievably today," Matthews said of his hat-trick.
Team USA had lost only one game in the preliminary round, the one against Sweden, but even in that one they only let in one goal. All in all, they were only scored against five times in the preliminary round’s four games – tied for lead in Group A, with Sweden – while the Czechs’ goal difference was 12-10 in their four games in Group B.
Team USA's goal difference after five games, including the quarter-final, is an impressive 25-5.
"It's not just me, or just the defence, it's the forwards, too. Everybody has bought into the system, and that's where we get our offense from: we play well in our own end, and create chances building on that," Nedeljkovic explained.
The Czechs knew they would need to keep the Americans off the scoreboard to win as the U.S. defence probably wouldn’t give more than a couple of goals at best.
Unfortunately for the Czechs, the Americans scored first. They forechecked hard and about five minutes into the game, they clawed the puck to themselves in the Czech corner, Brock Boeser carried it around the net and dropped it to Nick Schmaltz who lifted it to the back of the net with a quick backhander to give Team USA the lead at 5:17.
"The quarter-final is the most important game of the tournament and we didn't play well. They were really strong around the net and we didn't protect our house. They scored their goal around our net," said Czech forward David Pastrnak.
With 4:46 remaining, the Americans extended their lead to two goals when two Czech defencemen couldn’t clear the rebound that Vitek Vanacek left when he made the save on Brandon Carlo’s shot from the point. Instead, Christian Dvorak stepped in and backhanded the puck to the back of the net.
The Czech coach Jakub Petr made a goalie change during the first intermission, and Ales Stezka, wearing a classic number 2, took his place between the pipes.
Just 4:15 later, he had succumbed to the Americans for the first tie. The Czechs were breaking out from their end, but Will Borgen intercepted a pass on the Czech blueline, Auston Matthews took a few strides in and fired a wrist shot that beat Stezka on his glove side to give Team USA a 3-0 lead in the game.
Matthews scored his second just 4:53 later on a power play. Zach Werenski and Schmaltz played the puck to Matthews who had half the net to shoot for, and he didn’t miss it. Team USA had a 4-0 before the game was halfway through.
With 1:53 remaining in the period, the U.S. made it 5-0 while shorthanded. Scott Eansor simply snatched the puck from a Czech defenceman on the U.S. blueline, and got on a breakaway. He deked Stezka and shot the puck through his five-hole.
Matthews completed his hat-trick 24 seconds into the third period when he simply danced inside the Czech box and fired a wrister to the back of the net. That was his seventh goal in the tournament, most of all players.
"It's awesome to play with him. We played together last year and this year, coming into the tournament they put us together," said Matthew Tkachuk.
But the Americans weren't done yet and 11:53 into the third period, Ryan McInnis and Ryan Donato played the puck into the Czech zone and with two drop passes created a chance to Alex DeBrincat, who fired a wrist shot from the slot to make it 7-0.
"We haven't watched too much of Russia's game. I know they had a close game against Denmark today, but you can't look at that. We know it's a big and skilled team," Tkachuk said.

Finns dethrone Canada

Patrik Laine led the way with two goals, including the winner with 5:50 left, and an assist for Finland. Sebastian Aho potted a goal and two assists, and Aleksi Saarela had a goal and an assist. Antti Kalapudas and Julius Nattinen got the other goals. Tournament scoring leader Jesse Puljujarvi and Olli Juolevi had three assists apiece.

Laine's 6-5 goal came on a one-timer during a Finnish two-man advantage with Jake Virtanen serving a double minor and Joe Hicketts off for delay of game.

"This was the most amazing game of my life so far," said Laine. "I hope that we will keep going and hope that we can win more."

Mitch Marner scored twice for Canada, and Travis Konecny, Dylan Strome and Lawson Crouse added singles. Captain Brayden Point had two assists.

"We wanted to come out and show them what we had," said Crouse. "We did that. Our goal was to try to score the first goal and we did that. Things went from there. Obviously it didn’t end the way we wanted."

In a bold move by coach Jukka Jalonen, Finnish starting goalie Veini Vehvilainen was replaced by Kaapo Kakhonen halfway through the game after surrendering three goals on 10 shots. Mackenzie Blackwood, though also not in prime form, went the distance for Canada. Shots favoured Canada 34-29.

"It was actually a pretty weird game," said Finnish captain Mikko Rantanen. "First we were losing 2-0 and then we were scoring, they were scoring all the time. We scored one more than them, so we’ll take the win and we have to be happy with that."

It was always going to be tough for this year’s Canadian squad to live up to the accomplishments of the 2015 champions with Connor McDavid, Max Domi, and Sam Reinhart, who helped the team to a perfect record in Montreal and Toronto.

It is a monumental disappointment for the former champions. The Canadians never quite found their game in the preliminary round, losing twice for the first time since 1998.

"It was tough," said Hicketts, the only returning defenceman from 2015. "We had a younger group. We didn’t start the way we needed to. Last year, we came out of the gate and we were firing on all cylinders. This year, we kind of stumbled through the first couple of games. You know what? We found our game tonight, and the sad thing is we probably deserved better. I thought we played our hearts out.'

The Finns last won gold in 2014 with a dramatic 3-2 victory over host Sweden on Rasmus Ristolainen’s overtime goal. They will improve on last year's seventh-place finish, but have to get through archrival Sweden to make the final.

"I think it will be a pleasure to beat those guys," said Laine. "I hope that we will play as well as now."

The Canadians have now failed to medal at three of the last four World Juniors. Canada’s worst stretch ever was going medalless from 1979 to 1981. Canada won its first gold in six years on home ice last year, defeating Russia 5-4 in a thriller in Toronto.

The passionate Hartwall Arena crowd of 13,016 ranged from Finnish fans waving huge cardboard cut-outs of Puljujarvi’s head to Canadian supporters dressed in beaver costumes.

The game got off to a high-tempo, physical start. Canada grabbed a 1-0 lead on a skillful play at 5:21. John Quenneville sent a clever backhand pass from behind the goal line to Konecny, who in turn beat Vehvilainen with a backhander to the stick side.

Finland got its first power play when Thomas Chabot put the puck over the glass in his own end, but was unable to break through despite peppering Blackwood with shots.

The Canadians jumped into a 2-0 lead at 10:59. Vehvilainen was unable to smother a loose puck in his crease and Strome banged it home.

Finland’s top guns got a big momentum-building goal with 11 seconds left in the period. After a faceoff in the Canadian end, with some help from Puljujarvi, Aho got the puck along the boards and sent it to Laine at the top of the faceoff circle. His powerful one-timer, which he models on Alexander Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos, squeezed past Blackwood.

"He’s a good player and he’s got a good shot," said Virtanen. "It’s tough to see that one go in."

The Finns tied it up at 6:18 of the second period on a Canadian defensive error. Chabot stumbled and fell over inside his own blue line, enabling Kalapudas to scoot in unmolested and whip one over the goalie’s glove.

Carrying the play, Canada stormed the Finnish crease about eight minutes into the middle frame, but Vehvilainen hugged his right post, and video review confirmed the puck did not cross the goal line.

Just seconds afterwards, Crouse gave Canada a 3-2 lead. After defenceman Vili Saarijarvi gave the puck away, Virtanen set up Crouse for a snap shot from the right faceoff circle that beat Vehvilainen on the glove side.

At this point, Kaapo Kahkonen took over from Vehvilainen. His only previous appearance at these World Juniors was in an 8-3 win over Slovakia.

"Actually, I didn’t expect that," said Juolevi. "But I kind of understand that they want to wake our team up. I think it was pretty smart. Kaapo made some good saves in the second period and also the third period."

The Espoo Blues netminder looked confident coming in, and stoned the Canadians on multiple chances. He got a standing ovation from the Finnish fans when he sprawled with his left arm and robbed Brendan Perlini of a sure goal by his left post.

With Perlini off for slashing, the Finnish power play came to life. Puljujarvi fed Saarela on the left side and his bad-angle shot from the goal line sneaked past a befuddled Blackwood at 15:44.

The Finns went up 4-3 with 2:43 remaining in the middle frame. As the Finns buzzed around the Canadian zone, Juolevi set up Saarela for a one-timer that Blackwood stopped, but Nattinen golfed the rebound over him.

At 3:14 of the third, Canada finally got one past Kahkonen on the power play. Coming in from the right side, Point dished it sweetly to Marner, and he cut to the middle and flipped a backhand over Kahkonen's glove.

Finland responded with the 5-4 marker just 1:07 later. Taking a long pass from Laine, Puljujarvi bulled in from the right side and couldn't get it past Blackwood, but Aho was there to stuff in the rebound.

Canada struck right back to tie it up with the man advantage at 5:07. On another Point set-up, Marner picked up the puck in the faceoff circle and executed a nice toe drag before zipping it high glove.

Trailing 6-5, the Canadians pulled Blackwood for the extra attacker with 1:05. But despite a brief flurry, they couldn't cash in and their reign came to an end.

"Finland scores a lot of goals, and you wish them all the best because they’re the team that beat you out," said Hicketts. "That being said, there are so many great nations, and that just proves it in the quarter-finals. You look at what Denmark did to Russia, forcing them to overtime. You’ve got six, seven powerhouse hockey nations now, and anyone can win on any given night."

Sweden to semi-final

Four Swedes – Kempe, Jens Looke, Axel Holmstrom, and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson – had two-point games and Linus Soderstrom made 17 saves en route to his second shutout in the tournament. No other goalie has recorded a shutout.
"Feels good to be through to the semi-finals, and I thought we played a really solid game," Holmstrom said.
"We went out there to play our hockey for 60 minutes and except for a short period in the second period, I think we did just that," he added.
Slovakia's goaltender Adam Huska made over 50 saves in the game, and was, despite the score, one of Slovakia’s best players in the game.
While Sweden lost the bronze medal game to Slovakia last year, 4-2, they had won the eight previous meets, dating all the way back to 2004. Of course, Slovakia wanted to repeat last year’s upset, but this time Sweden wouldn’t have any of that and they took a convincing 6-0 win.
"We knew they have a good team, and we wanted to give it our best shot and win the game. Unfortunately, that didn't happen," said Slovakia’s Matus Sukel.
Sweden’s domination was total especially in the first period in which they outshot Slovakia 17-5, and carried the play from the first minute to last, despite taking three penalties.
Joel Ek Eriksson gave the Swedes the all-important first lead at 5:10 when he wired a wrist shot top-shelf after Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson had won an offensive zone faceoff cleanly. Ek Eriksson had a clear line to top-shelf, and Adam Huska in Slovakia’s goal didn’t stand a chance.
"We did what we had aimed to do and took control of the game early on by being physical," said Anton Karlsson.
Sweden scored their tournament second best seventh power-play goal – Finland had eight before their quarter-final against Canada – five minutes later. Adrian Kempe took a shot from the point, Axel Holmstrom and Oskar Lindblom were in front of the net, and Lindblom slammed in the rebound at 11:35.
Halfway through the middle period, Christoffer Ehn carried the puck into the Slovak zone and tried to deke his way around a defenceman. The puck bounced to Jens Looke instead, he skated around another defenceman and sent a backhand pass to the backdoor where Ehn had an easy job to tap it on for 3-0 at 10:07 into the period.
3:43 into the third period, Kempe showed off his wrist shot once more to make it 4-0.
Sweden outshot Slovakia 35-11 through two periods. Holmstrom carried the puck into the Slovak zone and passed it to Kempe, who toe-dragged a Slovak defenceman and sent a laser top-shelf, on Huska’s blocker side, much like he scored the goal in Sweden’s game against Denmark in the preliminary round.
Sweden made it 5-0 while shorthanded, with the hockey gods smiling upon Looke whose shot missed the net originally, but bounced back and hit Huska’s left pad, hit the left post, and rolled in. Forsbacka Karlsson’s assist was his second point in the game.
With 3:03 remaining in the game, Alexander Nylander also got on the scoresheet. Dmytro Timashov had the puck in the corner and he had all the time in the world to wait for Nylander to get from the bench to the top of the circle. Timashov sent a long pass, Nylander fired it top-shelf to seal the final score, 6-0.
Slovakia's tournament is now over.
"We played well against tough opponents, and we won our most important game, against Belarus, which got us to this quarter-final. We wanted to do some damage here, but unfortunately, came up short," Sukel concluded.

Russia avoids upset

The Nashville Predators prospect completed a lovely passing play with Ivan Provorov and Andrei Svetlakov, scoring five-hole in front of the net at 5:00 of the extra frame. In regulation, Kamenev had tied the game with just 44 seconds left.

"This will really help us to be more like a team, to play with emotion and without mistakes," said Kamenev.

Russia, which earned the silver medal last year after losing 5-4 to Canada in the final, is seeking its first gold since Buffalo 2011. The Russians have medalled five straight times at this tournament.

Under head coach Valeri Bragin, the Russians tend not to do things the easy way, but usually find a way. It would have been the biggest upset in World Junior history if Denmark had prevailed.

"I want to say sorry to our parents!" said Russia's Radel Fazleyev with a smile of relief. "It was really nervous, but we won and that’s what matters."

The underdog Danes can be proud of their effort. This is just the fourth time the Danes have even been in the elite division. They played a disciplined team game to counter Russia's superior individual skills, and it almost paid off.

"They’re just normal people like us, and I think it shows that we can compete with anybody in the world," said Denmark's Alexander True.

The Russians trailed twice, but showed character by not letting this one get away.

Finishing eighth for the second straight year was another major accomplishment for Denmark. The small Scandinavian country will host the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in 2018 (Copenhagen and Herning), and this result should help to drum up more hockey fever at home.

"It’ll be fun to get all the hype to Denmark, just to see how it’ll be," said True. "I’m excited to see how the Danish people will welcome the World Championship."

Yegor Korshkov and Artur Lauta added a goal and a helper apiece for Russia, which will face the USA-Czech Republic winner in the semi-finals.

Thomas Olsen had a goal and an assist for Denmark, and Markus Jensen and Emil Christensen also tallied.

Russia outshot Denmark 46-21 as Alexander Georgiev and Thomas Lillie got the call in net.

"I’m happy with the way I played today," said Lillie. "Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to shut down Russia in the last minute."

Just 2:49 in, Russia drew first blood. Korshkov picked up the puck behind the Danish net and surprised Lillie with a swift backhanded wraparound. It was his first goal of the tournament.

Mathias From nearly equalized for Denmark when he split the Russian defence on a spectacular end-to-end rush. However, Georgiev foiled him as the net came off.

The Danes kept on pushing. William Boysen toppled Russian forward Radel Fazleyev with a big open-ice hit in the Russian zone.

Early in the second period, Denmark tied it up. After Olsen took a bad-angle shot from the right corner, Jeppe Holmberg cleverly bounced the puck to Markus Jensen off the side of the Russian net. Jensen cut in front of the Russian net and put it home.

Denmark jumped into a 2-1 lead at 9:20. Kristian Jensen held off Alexander Polunin as he circled around the Russian net and swivelled on the left side boards to slide it on net. Georgiev kicked out the rebound with his left pad and put it right on Olsen’s stick, enabling him to shoot it into the gaping cage.

Russia came in with the tournament’s second-best power play (35.7 percent), but couldn't cash in when the Danes took their first minor of the afternoon to start the third period.
The Russians dominated the play in the final stanza, outshooting Denmark 20-4.

At 12:31, Russia tied it up again. Off a faceoff in the Danish zone, Dergachyov found Lauta right in front and he lifted a forehand that squeaked past Lillie's glove.

With 5:24 remaining, Denmark made it 3-2. Christensen snared the rebound off Anders Krogsgaard's point drive and backhanded it high into the net. The Danes celebrated ecstatically.

"I think I still believed that we were going to win that game," said Fazleyev. "I believed that we’re a better team and we deserved it more than Denmark."

Russia wasn't done yet. It called its timeout with under two minutes left. The Russians controlled the puck in the Danish zone, and Kamenev scored high to the blocker side in the final minute to send the game to overtime.

"It’s just tough right now," said True. "But I know when I look back at this, it’ll be a proud day."

"It shows a lot," Lillie added. "It means that the development in Denmark is getting better and better. Of course we’re disappointed, but hockey in Denmark is getting bigger and bigger."

In the only previous World Junior meeting between these two teams, Russia prevailed 3-2 in a shootout at last year’s tournament.

Russian hockey legend Alexander Yakushev was in attendance. He was shown on the video scoreboard midway through the first period.

Advantage: Switzerland

Yes, there's an "i" in both Timo and Meier, but it's not capitalized. Team(o) captain Timo Meier's line scored two important goals in the second period.
Meier and his linemate Denis Malgin scored one and collected two assists each. Malgin scored the game winner off a breakaway in the second period. 
"We haven't won anything yet. The game tomorrow is going to be huge for us, and we want to play our best game then," Meier said. 
"We'd played against  them before so we knew what to expect. And they haven't given up now," he added. 
Switzerland outshot Belarus 41-21 in the game. 
Dmitri Buinitski scored Belarus's lone goal. 
Belarus had never beaten Switzerland at the World Juniors. The goal difference in their five previous games was 20-7 to Switzerland, but on the other hand, their latest battle had been in 2006. These were not only two new teams, it was a whole new generation. 
Sometimes desperation is a good thing as it helps you get the best out of you. You can’t accuse either team of lack of trying in the tournament earlier, either - Switzerland pushed Canada to a shootout, and Belarus was close in most games it played in the preliminary round - but both teams really stepped up when their spot in the top division was on the line.
"It's not fun to play in the relegation round, we wanted to play in the quarterfinal but the motivation is still here, we have to save Switzerland from being relegated. That was enough motivation for us," Meier said. 
"We played well in the first period and scored the first goal, but they got their first goal fast afterwards," Vadim Malinovski said. 
Belarus got off to a great start when Jonas Siegenthaler took a slashing minor just 30 seconds into the game, giving Belarus their first power play opportunity. The Swiss penalty kill unit did a good job with keeping Belarus out of the scoring areas, but at 1:59, Buinitski simply skated into the Swiss zone and blasted a slap shot from the point to give his team the lead. 
They hadn’t had a lot of time to get used to the smaller rink at the Helsinki Ice Hall, but if anything, it seemed to benefit the Belarusian team whose tight defence is good at keeping the opponent on the outside. 
Five minutes after the Belarusian goal, Noah Rod refused to stay on the outside, and instead, drove hard to the net and beat Kulbakov with a backhander through the five-hole to tie the game. 
Belarus got two more power-play opportunities in the first period, but couldn’t convert them. 
In the second period it was Switzerland who got to play extended periods of time on power play, but Belarus could kill back to back penalties to start the period and one after that when Ruslan Vasilchuk got 2+10 for checking to the head. Even that one they could kill, but the penalty kill took a toll on their energy levels and gave Swiss the keys to the game.
"We lost our energy and it was so hard to create something in the offensive zone," Malinovski said. 
As the period went on, Switzerland took the game over completely, outshooting Belarus 20-6 in the second period, and outscoring them 2-0, with two similar goals by the same Swiss line. 
"We didn't come out with the right mind-set, and maybe that was a little bit of frustration of not making the quarterfinal showing there, but we got away with," Meier said. 
First Damien Riat sent a long stretch pass to the offensive blue line to team captain Timo Meier, who sent it quickly to Denis Malgin, who was all alone against Kulbakov. He deked to the left and fired the puck top-shelf, and the Swiss had taken the lead for the first time. 
The second goal came in the line’s next shift, this time Meier and Malgin got the assists when they sent Riat on a breakaway that he finished with style. Switzerland had the puck bounce the right way as Malgin’s long pass to Riat got deflected to Riat off a Belarus defenceman’s skate. 
Switzerland also had three goals disallowed, two after video review when the puck was kicked into the net, and once when a player was in the crease before the puck had crossed the line.
With 8:55 remaining in the game, Julien Privet put the game to bed when he scored on a third rebound after a mad scramble around the Belarus net. Kulbakov could have used a little help from his defencemen. 
And 61 seconds before the end, Meier sealed the final score on power play. 
Game 2 of the relegation round will be played tomorrow at 12 CET. 
"We just have to play our game, keep it simple, and play with our strengths. Tomorrow want to come out much stronger than we did today," Meier said. 
Belarus is going to have a team meeting tonight. 
"Switzerland controlled the game completely. We had many guys who have never been in a situation like this and we must understand that the whole team has to pull together," said Belarus coach Alexander Beliavski. 
"Of course we have to win tomorrow. We don't have a choice," Malinovski added.