Thursday, December 28, 2017

Bucek masterpiece stuns U.S.

Bucek roared down the left side, went behind the American goal when Joseph Woll over-committed, and tried to tuck the puck in the back side. Woll made a great lunging save, but Bucek got the rebound and found the net.
Bucek also assisted on the other two Slovakian goals, both scored by Filip Krivosik.
The Americans got goals from Brady Tkachuk and Casey Mittelstadt.
One thing must be made abundantly clear, though. Yes, the Americans were heavy favourites coming into the game. Yes, their loss was stunning. But, the Slovaks deserve all the credit in the world for the win. They got timely scoring, played great defence, and got the better goaltending. 
It was the first Slovak win over the U.S. at the World Juniors since the 2009 quarter-finals, a string of six losses in between. The result puts the U.S. and Slovakia in second place with Finland, all three nations with three points in the Group A standings behind Canada (six).
Goaltender Roman Durny was the hero for the winners, stopping 43 of 45 shots. Joseph Woll was a bit uneven in the U.S. net and faced 25 shots.
It was a game of few scoring chances and even fewer goals, but in the end the Slovaks showed a resilience the Americans couldn't match.
The scoreless first period featured an American team that dominated puck possession but couldn’t penetrate the Slovakian defence or get many clear chances on goal. 
Tkachuk hit the post with one shot and Bucek made a nice dash in on goal, crashing into Woll as the puck rolled by the goal.
In a game like this, the superior team had to be patient, and that’s what the Americans were. But instead of being rewarded, they found themselves trailing 1-0 at 4:52 of the second period.
Krivosik skated down the right wing on a three-on-one, but he saw an opening and instead of trying to pass he beat Woll between the pads to give the visitors a shocking lead.
But the Americans did not respond to the challenge right away. They took a penalty, and on the ensuing power play Marian Studenic had two nice chances to give Slovakia a 2-0 lead. He missed on the first and Woll came up with the big save on the second, and a short time later the Americans finally created—and converted—a nice chance.
Even that came as a result of a counter-attack after another good Slovak scoring chance. Ryan Poehling drove down the right side and fed a perfect saucer pass to Tkachuk cutting to the net. Tkachuk controlled the puck, made a slick deke, and tucked the puck five hole on Durny, who had been impressive in goal for Slovakia.
The Americans had a great chance to take the lead in the third when Mittelstadt set up Kailer Yamamoto for a point blank shot, but Durny was right there. 
And then, the improbable happened. Krivosik took advantage of a turnover behind the U.S net and swiped a backhand from in front that somehow found the back of the net at 15:15.
That seemed to be the game winner, but the game was, in fact, far from over.
A minute and a half later, Mittelstadt scored a highlight-reel goal, stealing the puck at the Slovak blue line, deking one player and then Durny to tuck the puck home for a 2-2 tie at 16:49.
Slovakia would not take disappointment this night, however. Bucek replied with a stunner of his own, giving Slovakia an incredible victory.
The U.S. now has to collect its thoughts before playing Canada in the outdoor game tomorrow. Slovakia has a day off before facing Finland on Saturday.

Sweden holds off Czechs

Alexander Nylander had a goal and an assist for Sweden, and Marcus Davidsson and Elias Pettersson chipped in singles for Sweden, which cashed in twice on the power play. Rasmus Dahlin added two assists.

"I think we played well in the first and third periods," said Pettersson. "The second period was the Czechs’ period. But overall, it was a great game."

Swedish coach Tomas Monten continued to ride the phenomenal Dahlin, who logged a team-high 24:05. The 17-year-old Frolunda Gothenburg defenceman also led the team with 20:50 in the 6-1 win over Belarus.

"I play hockey because I love it," said Dahlin. "I’m having fun out there. Why not have fun?"

Filip Zadina replied for the Czechs.

"The first period was bad," said Zadina. "We received penalties and we didn’t compete. That’s the reason why we were down 2-0. We got up in the second period and we tried to play better. I think we did. It’s tough to play against this team. They are so good."

Despite this loss, the Czechs, who opened with a 5-4 upset of Russia, have shown they can’t be taken lightly here in Buffalo. They are questing for their first medal since 2005's bronze in North Dakota.
Swedish starter Filip Gustavsson made 24 saves for the victory, and Jakub Skarek had 32 saves for the Czechs.
The Juniorkronorna carried the play in the first period. Davidsson opened the scoring from the slot at 5:56, converting Axel Jonsson Fjallby’s gorgeous back pass from Skarek’s right post on the rush. It was video-reviewed for goalie interference but deemed good.
On the power play, Pettersson notched Sweden’s second goal with a wicked wrister from the left faceoff circle at 19:04.

"When we got on our power play, me and Nylander changed sides," said Pettersson. "I don’t know if it was part of the plan, but I got the puck from Nylander and I tried to use the Czech player as a screen. It went in."
The Czechs pushed back in the second period, outshooting Sweden 14-7. They nearly got on the board when defenceman Radim Salda rang one off the cross bar near the midway point.
Sweden ran into penalty trouble, taking three minors in the middle frame, and the Czechs, hustling hard, finally capitalized. At 19:02, Zadina’s one-timer snap shot found the twine. The 18-year-old World Junior rookie has scored in both his games so far.

"I’m happy that I’ve scored two times, but we lost," said Zadina. "I’m more thinking about the team than myself. It’s a tough loss today, but we have to prepare ourselves for the next game and play better."

With a 5-on-3 man advantage for 1:35 early in the third, the Czechs had a golden opportunity to tie it up, but couldn't. That failure proved costly.

"It was very important," said Pettersson. "I don’t know if that maybe was their chance to get in the game again and tie it. Our special teams came up big."

The Swedes made it 3-1 at 4:25 on their next power play when Nylander coolly cut in and whizzed one over Skarek's glove. After that, it was smooth sailing.

The next Swedish game is against Switzerland on Saturday, while the Czechs take on Belarus that day. Asked for the key to success against the newly promoted Belarusians, Zadina said: "We have to play faster, move the puck faster and get more shots."
Sweden has won 10 straight World Junior games against the Czechs. The last Czech victory was 3-1 on December 31, 2002 in Halifax, Canada.

Kayumov rescues Russia

Kayumov took a nice pass from Klim Kostin and snapped a shot over the glove of Philip Wuthrich to beat a stubborn Swiss team that twice rallied to even the score. Two late goals sealed the Swiss fate, but it was a good game for both teams.
Nonetheless, after outshooting Switzerland by a 37-13 margin, the Russians were full meaure for the win. They had lost to the Czechs 5-4 on opening day but played a determined game today.
The Swiss, winners in their debut yesterday, fell to 1-1 with the loss.
"We played more of a team game and made some adjustments," Kayumov said. "The score was tied in the third period, I think, because of our own mistakes. We gave them good chances, and they scored. But we played better today than in the first game."
"We played better defensively and created more offensively," agreed forward Vitali Abramov. "They played a good game, and their goalie played really well today."
"We were playing a good game, and then we made a stupid mistake, and they scored the third goal," offered Justin Sigrist of Switzerland. "Our defence was nearly perfect and so was our goaltending, but when you score only two goals against Russia, you won't win very often."
Although the Russians dominated the opening period they managed only one goal, on the power play. Vladislav Syomin drifted a low shot that bounced through traffic and past a screened Philip Wuthrich at 10:21. 
Despite two power plays in the opening 20 minutes, the Swiss could muster few decent shots on Vladislav Sukhachyov.
The Swiss tied the game off the opening faceoff to start the second. Philipp Kurashev fed a nice pass to Marco Miranda streaking over the blue line, and Miranda ripped a nice shot under the glove of Sukhachyov just nine seconds in.
The rest of the period belonged to Russia, however, and the Swiss managed but two more shots in the middle 20 minutes. Nevertheless, the Swiss defence proved resilient, killing off a two-man disadvantage for 52 seconds. 
The Russians got a much-deserved second goal at 18:16 when Kostin swiped home a rebound from the top of the crease.
But the Swiss weren't done just yet. They tied the game just 2:10 into the third on a nice second effort from Ken Jager. The right-handed shot drove down the left wing and cut in on goal, jamming his own rebound in to make it a 2-2 game. 
Russia got a late goal at 18:18 on an odd-man rush and another 13 seconds later into the empty net to close out the scoring.
Russia plays again tomorrow afternoon against Belarus while the Swiss have a day of rest before facing Sweden on Saturday.

Finns take revenge on Danes

Danish goalie Kasper Krog had a far busier outing than his Finnish counterpart Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen as shots on goal massively favored Finland, 61-7. (Canada set the single-game shots record in Moscow on January 4, 1988, outshooting Poland 95-30 in a 9-1 win.)

"I think I showed what I’m capable of," said Krog. "Now I’ve just got to do the same moving forward. I’d say I’m not that tired. I’m just starting to cramp up in my legs a bit. But that’s how it goes."

Of Krog's performance, Finnish captain Juuso Valimaki said: "Unbelievable. Got to give a lot of credit to him."

Valimaki and Henri Jokiharju led the way with a goal and an assist apiece, and Joona Koppanen and Aapeli Rasanen also scored. Miro Heiskanen added a pair of assists. Finland bounced back after losing its opener 4-2 to Canada.

"Obviously we got more than 60 shots and they blocked probably another 30, I don’t know," said Valimaki. "They didn’t really get any scoring chances, so obviously we were on top of the game. We’ve got to make sure we manage our scoring chances a little better, but it’s a big win and it’s a good thing."
Nikolaj Krag replied for Denmark.
The Finns, with nine returning players, are aiming to medal after a disastrous ninth-place result in Montreal in 2017. They last won gold on home ice in Helsinki in 2016. Their next game is on Saturday against underdog Slovakia.
Denmark is pointless through two games, and must improve against Canada on Saturday and Slovakia on Sunday if it is to crack the quarter-finals for the fourth straight time.

Asked for the key to success against Canada, Krog said: "As soon as we get into the zone, we need to get pucks on net and then try to outwork them when we’ve got the puck – and the same when they’ve got the puck."
The Finns sent a message that this year would be different when they scored on their first shot on goal. Koppanen’s quick release from the left faceoff circle squeezed through Krog’s pads at 2:49.
At 6:56, Rasanen snared Eeli Tolvanen’s rebound off the end boards and roofed it for a 2-0 lead. It was total Finnish dominance in the first period with an 17-1 edge in shots.
Just 1:38 into the second period, the Danes struck back on their opening power play. Krag zapped home a high wrister from the right faceoff circle, beating Luukkonen stick side. That was Denmark’s third shot.
But like true Corsi believers, the Finns kept firing away. Krog did his part, including a tough glove save on Markus Nurmi halfway through the game. However, he couldn’t stop Valimaki’s rising center point drive (shot #40) to make it 3-1 at 15:38.
At 17:44, Jokiharju put the game out of reach, pinching in to bang home a rebound. Danish coach Olaf Eller called his timeout, but there was nothing he could say to turn the tide now.

"We shot a lot, but I give a lot of credit to Team Denmark," said Jokiharju. "They blocked so many shots. It’s kind of tough. I’ve never played against guys who block so many shots."

In the third period, Finland's biggest moment of concern was when a prone Joni Ikonen accidentally blocked his own teammate's slapper in front of Krog. But he got up and carried on.

During a subsequent Finnish power play, Danish captain Christian Mathiasen-Wesje showed a lot of guts when he stayed on the ice for eons after painfully blocking a Jokiharju drive. When he finally got to the bench, he earned a warm round of applause from the spectators. Perhaps that kind of selflessness will give the Danes something to build on.

"It’s huge," said Krog of his captain. "He did the same thing last year, and it’s outstanding. We’ve been talking about that all the time, that we’ve got to sacrifice and work hard. And to see him do that, it’s great."