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. 

Swedes power past Canada

It was a heated affair that entertained the Helsinki Ice Hall crowd of 7,003 royally. The Swedes finished the preliminary round with a perfect record and will take on Slovakia in the quarter-finals.

Of facing the Slovaks, Swedish captain Andreas Englund said: "We played them in an exhibition game before [a 6-3 Swedish win]. They’re a skilled team. I think we’re going to have to play a good game if we want to win."

Alexander Nylander, Gustav Forsling, and Rasmus Asplund led the way with a goal and an assist apiece, and Adrian Kempe and Anton Karlsson also scored for Sweden.

"It was a tough game, but I think we were much better," said Sweden's Dmytro Timashov. "A 5-2 win is a big difference."

Mitchell Stephens and Mitch Marner replied for Canada, the defending champion, which came third in Group A.

"At this stage of the tournament, special teams are important," said Canadian coach Dave Lowry. "Tonight we lost that battle."

This is the first time Canada has lost two round-robin games in regulation since the 1998 World Juniors in Finland. That year, Canada finished eighth, its worst result ever. Canada last finished third in its group in 2001, when it won bronze in Russia.

Lowry's team will face a stiff test of character when it plays the host Finns in a do-or-die situation on 2 January.

"It’s going to be an exciting game," said Canada's Joe Hicketts. "Any time you play the host nation in the big rink in the big game, it’s something that you get going for."

In goal, Sweden’s Linus Soderstrom outduelled Canada’s Mackenzie Blackwood as the Swedes outshot Canada 32-24. Felix Sandstrom came in to relieve Soderstrom with under four minutes left.

It was a rockin’ atmosphere on and off the ice to start this clash. Competing chants of  “Let’s go, Canada!” and “Sverige!” rained down from the stands.

Canada’s Travis Konecny set the tone with some aggressive forechecking. The Canadians, however, came out shorthanded from a scrum in front of Blackwood’s net, with Jake Virtanen and Roland McKeown sitting down for roughing with Sweden’s Adrian Kempe. 

It took just 17 seconds for the Swedes to capitalize off the rush. At 4:37, Rasmus Asplund zipped a shot from the left faceoff circle and Blackwood kicked the rebound out to Alexander Nylander, who slid it home past the goalie’s left skate.

The Swedes went right back to the man advantage when Rourke Chartier was called for high-sticking while following through on a shot under IIHF rules. The Canadians killed that one off, but couldn’t keep the Juniorkronorna at bay after Anthony Beauvillier was penalized after shooting the puck over the glass in his own end.

Forsling sent a wicked wrister from the top of the faceoff circle past Blackwood’s glove for a 2-0 lead at 7:08.

The Canadians really started throwing their weight around in the latter stages of the first period. It finally paid off at 15:51 when Stephens raced to the front of the net and converted the rebound from Thomas Chabot’s left point shot to make it 2-1.

Early in the second period, Sweden came within a hair’s breath of making it a two-goal lead when Timashov set up Asplund in front. He batted the puck out of mid-air off Blackwood’s left post.

The physical tone continued with lots of jawing back and forth between the whistles. More mid-period rough stuff resulted in another Canadian power play, but it proved fruitless.

At 13:38, Sweden made it 3-1 with Brendan Perlini off for slashing. Axel Holmstrom’s lovely cross-ice pass from behind the goal line found Kempe in the right faceoff circle and his quick release got past Blackwood.

Reflecting Canada's combined sense of frustration and urgency, Marner threw a huge hit on Carl Grundstrom in the neutral zone that knocked his helmet off.

In the third period, the Swedes kept on coming, outshooting Canada 13-6.

"I think we took this as a playoff game with all the crowd and so on," said Sweden's Marcus Pettersson. "We took the tempo that’s in the playoffs and played that game."

Karlsson put the game out of reach with 7:09 left, falling to his knees as he backhanded a rebound past Blackwood and then leaping up with pure exuberance.

The Canadians took some consolation from killing off a mid-third period two-man advantage that lasted 1:53. They then strategized during a time-out prior to their own 5-on-3 advantage, and Marner hammered one high past Soderstrom's blocker to cut the deficit to 4-2 with 5:50 left.

But that was as good as it got for the champs. Lowry pulled his goalie for the extra attacker, and Asplund scored into the empty net with 11 seconds remaining.

Looking ahead to the quarter-finals, Stephens said: "We’re excited for the opportunity. We finished the preliminaries here. The biggest thing for us is to keep a level head and move forward toward the next game."

Swedish star William Nylander remained sidelined. He took an illegal check to the head in the opening 8-3 win over Switzerland and has not played since.

Remarkably, this was the first Canada-Sweden game at the World Juniors in five years. Sweden beat Canada 6-5 on December 31, 2010 on Anton Lander’s shootout winner in Buffalo. The previous two encounters were Canada’s gold medal wins in 2008 and 2009, completing their record-tying run of five straight titles.

Yes! Jesse and the boys win

Jesse Puljujarvi scored two, Patrik Laine one, and their centre Sebastian Aho collected two assists in the game. Puljujarvi, 17, now has five goals and 12 points in the tournament.
"It was a tough game, with lots of action and goals. I don't think we've played a great 60-minute game yet, but we got the win," he said.
His centreman, Aho, acknowledged that the line's self-confidence is at an all-time high now. 
"Of course, success breeds success and boosts confidence. And with a sold-out arena supporting us, there was no need to look for motivation," he said. 
For the Czechs, the loss was bitter. 
"The power play decided the game. We were better in the third period, and we proved to ourselves that we can beat any team in the tournament. Next time, we just won't touch the opponent," said Jiri Smejkal, unhappy with some of the calls that went against them. 
The Finnish defence had been hit hard with illnesses and injuries. Vili Sopanen injured his knee in the game against Slovakia and with Miro Keskitalo sick, coach Jukka Jalonen had turned centre Miska Siikonen into a defenseman. In the first period, Finland lost also Vili Saarijarvi to the stomach flu, and had to finish the game with four defensemen. 
But up front Finland was still dangerous. Especially the top line with Sebastian Aho, Patrik Laine, and Jesse Puljujarvi was, as expected, an offensive threat every time they stepped onto the ice, even if they didn’t manage to get the puck over the goal line in the first period. Then again, nobody did. 
Czech Republic had a breakaway to start the second period, but Veini Vehvilainen made a save, and Finnish defence sent the puck quickly out of the zone. Sebastian Aho carried the puck into the zone, and tried to send a saucer to Puljujarvi, but a Czech defenseman stopped it. Aho followed the play and flipped a backhander to Puljujarvi who fired the puck into the net, giving Finland a 1-0 lead in the game. 
Three and a half minutes later, it was time for the Czech lion to roar. The Czechs managed to keep the puck in the Finnish zone for an extended period of time, and it had the effect they desired. Finland turned the puck over and David Pasternak and Michael Spacek played the puck to Jiri Smejkal, who wired the puck top-shelf and tied the game. 
Just 1:46 later, the Czechs had taken the lead. The limping Finnish defence found themselves scrambling in the own zone and the Czechs played the puck to Jan Ordos who had an easy job to tap in the puck from Vehvilainen’s doorstep. 
But the Finns came back. Now it was the Czech defence who turned the puck over in their own zone, and Roope Hintz could drive to the net all alone, and flip the puck through Vanacek’s five-hole and tie the game at 8:06 into the second period. 
And then they took the lead again. Kasperi Kapanen and Filip Hronek got dangled up in the neutral zone, and the referee sent Hronek to the box for roughing. On the ensued power play, Kapanen held the puck on the left faceoff dot, and sent a long pass through the Czech box and Antti Kalapuhdas one-timed 3-2 for Finland, with his first goal of the tournament. 
"It was a strange game with lots of back and forth," said Kapanen, whose grandfather Hannu was in the stands wearing his lucky sports jacket, the one he wore as coach of the 1998 World Junior Championship team. 
"His jacket must have worked, because I felt lucky out there," Kapanen added, with a laugh. 
With 59 seconds remaining in the period, the Czechs got on a power play when Kasper Bjorkqvist took a roughing minor. Dominik Masin got the puck at the half-wall, and he waited David Sklenicka to follow the rush. He dished it to Sklenicka who fired a cannon of a shot and beat Vehvilainen on his blocker side and the game was tied with 33 seconds remaining in the second period.
The Czech Republic took over the game in the third period outshooting Finland 9-4 by the halfway point, and most importantly, outscoring Finland. With 11:23 remaining in the third period, Pastrnak carried the puck into the Finnish zone, waited until Spacek was in the sweet spot on the other side, and sent a long pass which Spacek one-timed to the back of a net for 4-3. 
But Finland had Jesse Puljujarvi and a lethal powe rplay. Olli Juolevi sent a long and hard pass to Julius Nattinen by the side of the net, he sent it quickly to Puljujarvi in the front of the net, and the 17-year-old scored his second of the night. 
Three minutes later, it was the other 17-year-old's turn to show off his skills. On another power play, Sebastian Aho played the puck to Juolevi, who drove to the slot, then dropped the puck to Patrik Laine, and he fired a shot that raised the roof of the sold-out arena, and gave Finland the 5-4 lead in the game.
And the win.

U.S. takes down Danes

Auston Matthews and Colin White also chipped in a goal and an assist apiece for the Americans, and Matthew Tkachuk recorded two assists. Anders Bjork had the other U.S. goal.

"Today I think we had a slow start, but we came together in the middle of the game and capitalized on some chances," said Matthews, the U.S. scoring leader with eight points.

The U.S. will face the loser of the Finland-Czech Republic game in the quarter-finals. The Danes, who came fourth in the group, will take on Russia.

Mathias Lassen replied for Denmark.

This was a more hard-fought game than the U.S.’s 10-1 shellacking of Switzerland the night before. But the final result was the same: three points for the Stars and Stripes.

"Tonight was a particularly difficult game when you consider the circumstances," said U.S. coach Ron Wilson. "We scored 10 goals the last game, and tonight was going to be a little bit harder, and it was. But our team responded the way they should. They played a smart game for a team so young."

In a battle of backup goalies, the U.S.’s Brandon Halverson got the better of Denmark’s Mathas Seldrup. Shots favoured the U.S 44-17.

With just one loss (1-0) to group-leading Sweden, the Americans look to be heading in the right direction as they vie for their fourth gold medal of all time. They previously won the World Juniors in 2004, 2010, and 2013.

"It’s not about your draft stock or about how many points you have," emphasizeed Matthews, the projected #1 NHL pick for 2016. "It’s about the team and it’s about winning the gold medal. That’s what we came here to do."

Even though the Danes only returned to the elite division in 2015, they’ve surprised the hockey world by making the final eight for the second straight year. Facing last year’s silver medalists in Russia is a difficult but exciting challenge.

Denmark battled gamely in the early going. Swedish and Canadian fans awaiting the late game at the Helsinki Ice Hall supported the underdogs with chants of “Let’s go, Denmark!”

The Danes responded by getting the opening goal at 10:14. Inside the U.S. blue line, Lassen picked off Louis Belpedio’s ill-advised pass up the middle and scored high to the glove side. 

The U.S. knotted the score with 2:56 left in the opening stanza. Matthews powered to the front of the net and got two cracks on two centering passes from Tkachuk, capitalizing on the second one.

At 4:02 of the second period, the U.S. went up 2-1. Milano came out of the penalty box after serving a bench minor for too many men, hustled to the side of the Danish crease, and banged in a rebound. 

Outshooting Denmark 16-7 in the middle frame, the U.S. steadily took over the play, even though it remained a one-goal game. Kristian Jensen hobbled to the Danish bench after blocking a hard Brandon Carlo slap shot.

Early in the third period, Halverson made a big stop on Soren Nielsen on a Danish shorthanded 2-on-1 break.

At 5:29, White thought he'd given the Americans a two-goal lead when he went to the net and pivoted in front of Seldrup, directing the puck through the goalie with his skate. However, the goal was video-reviewed and called back for a distinct kicking motion.

It didn't matter. Eleven seconds later, Matthews pivoted at the right point and sent a shot toward the net that White tipped home. Again, the play was video-reviewed and the goal stood, as it was not a high stick.

On the power play, Bjork killed any hopes of a Danish comeback by tipping home a nice Milano pass from the right faceoff circle at 7:43 for a 4-1 lead.

"We played well in all the games," said Wilson. "We finished second and that’s a feather in our cap. Now we’ve got to prepare for the next game."

Not scoring with the man advantage has been a handicap for Denmark in this tournament. Through four games, they remain the only World Junior team with zero power play goals. (They have also only garnered six man advantages.)

U.S. forward Alex DeBrincat missed his second straight game after being injured in the loss to Sweden on Monday.

It was just the second World Junior meeting in history between these two nations. The U.S. hammered Denmark 11-3 on December 26, 2011 in Edmonton, Alberta.

Russia wins group

Russia lost a point in their first game of the tournament but have since that taken three straight regulation wins, and have shown signs of excellence and is oozing with confidence. 
"Before the game we were confident, and then even got the first goa. If you don’t believe you can win any team, you’ll never win the gold medal," said Russian forward Radel Fazleyev. 
This Russian team is excellent at churning out wins. They’re not always flashy, although some of their long cycles are just that, but in the preliminary round the red machine has got the job done almost without hiccups. 
In the game against Slovakia, they had some penalty trouble but could still come out on top. Russia had to kill off seven penalties in the game. 
“We couldn’t score goals and their goalie played well so we need to work with out scoring tomorrow, hopefully we can turn it on in the next game. 
“Penalty kill was good, but we took too many penalties,” Fazleyev said. 
Slovakia came into the game after a big disappointment in their game against Finland 24 hours earlier. Slovakia had a 2-0 lead early in that game, but ended up losing 8-3. 
“I think it was an easier game than yesterday’s game against Finland, a much better game, we tried our best but didn’t make it in the end," said Slovakia’s Filip Lestan.
Artur Lauta’s first period goal that gave Russia the 1-0 lead was a result of one of those impressive long cycles in which the puck finally ended in Ivan Prokorov’s stick. He skated around the Slovak net, and sent it to the point to Alexander Mikulovich who fired a wrist shot.
Adam Huska made the initial save, but left a rebound in front of him. Thanks to two Slovak players colliding, Lauta got two cracks at slamming the puck in, and he gave Russia the lead at 15:29. 
At 9:12 into the second period, Yegor Rykov gave Russia a two-goal buffer when he fired a well places wrist shot from the slot. Vladislav Kamenev had got the puck to the Slovak crease and when the Slovak defense tried to clear it, they only got it as far as to Rykov who had plenty of time to aim his shot. Huska made a fine dive but couldn’t get his pads on the puck. 
The buffer turned out to be useful. 
Slovakia had four power plays in the first two periods and even got to play almost a minute with a two-man advantage but the Russian penalty kill, which had only let in one goal in the tournament before the game, worked well tonight as well and Slovaks couldn’t find a way to bury their chances. 
Then, while both teams had a player in the penalty box, Matus Sukel won cleanly a faceoff in the Russian zone. Christian Jaros fired a slap shot and Alexander Georgiev didn’t have a chance to stop the shot that landed in the top corner of his net at 15:50 into the second period.
"I’m not sure if they deserved the goal, I made a mistake and lost the faceoff, and maybe we got a little nervous and couldn’t finished our chances,” Fazleyev said. 
Either way, Slovakia didn’t give up and chased a tying goal until the end, and the Russian coaches surely were a little worried during yet another Slovak power play with less than five minutes remaining, but the Russian penalty kill worked perfectly, again. 
"We wanted to keep them in their zone in the end, but got a penalty, and that was the problem. We had some chances and but we didn’t score so it wasn't enough," Lasten said. 
Russia wins the group, and takes on Denmark in the quarter-final. Slovakia finishes fourth, and will meet Sweden in their quarter-final on Saturday.