Saturday, December 30, 2017

Canada finishes first

Canada now has two days off before the quarter-finals on January 2. It wll not play Sweden, but could still potentially play any of Russia, Czech Republic, or Switzerland.
"We knew if we won tonight we'd finish in first place," said Sam Steel, "so we wanted to play the right way and be prepared for the quarter-finals. Yesterday was a crazy day, and we were all a little exhausted last night, physically and mentally, but we re-focused and came to the rink ready to play today."
"We wated to come out and play hard, play the Canadian way, so it's good to get back in the win column," said defenceman Kale Clague. "But I think we still have more. Our goal is to build our game throughout the tournament, and I think going forward we're going to get better."
The loss leaves Denmark winless ot 0-3 and puts the team in a must-win situation tomorrow in its final round-robin game against Slovakia. If the Danes don’t win in regulation, they are off to the relegation round. If they do win in 60 minutes, the Slovakians will be off to the best-of-three survival series.
Over and above this fact is that Denmark has scored just once in three games while surrendering 21.
Carter Hart got the shutout for Canada by stopping 18 shots while Canada peppered Emil Gransoe with 44.
Brett Howden had two goals while Cal Foote had three assists in the game.
"it was a good overall effort by everyone," enthused Hart. "Our goal was to come out flying, and we played that way the whole game. Now we have to get ready and prepare for the quarter-finals."
Canada got off to just the start it needed to crush the Danish spirit and eradicate the bad memories from yesterday’s disappointing loss to the Americans outdoors. Robert Thomas scored from a bad angle off the body of goalie Gransoe, a shot Gransoe would love to have a second chance on.
That goal came at 3:58, and it wasn’t until late in the period that Canada scored two more. In between, it had the territorial advantage by a long shot. The late goals came as a result of juicy rebounds. In the first case, Gransoe was on his belly when Brett Howden backhanded a loose puck into the empty net at 17:21.
Finally, with only 20.4 seconds left, Steel knocked in a loose puck from the blue ice.
The Danes had only four shots in the period but two were on breakaways by Joachim Blichfeld. In the first, he was bested by a nice pad save by Hart midway through the period. In the second, Blichfeld took advantage of a poor clearing pass by Dante Fabbro and moved in alone, again being foiled by Hart.
Canada added two more in the second before taking its foot off the pedal for a while. Cale Makar fired a shot over Gransoe from the top of the slot that beat the goalie cleanly at 7:52.
Then, at 9:20, Foote’s long shot was tipped by Howden. Canada took its first two penalties of the period a bit later, but the Danes couldn’t generate any pressure or create a first-rate scoring chance with the extra man.
Michael McLeod added another in the third off a bullet shot to the far side of a beleaguered Gransoe.
Drake Batherson topped the count with a power-play marker at 12:26.

Finns overcome Slovaks

Markus Nurmi added a goal and an assist, and Joona Koppanen, Aapeli Rasanen and Henri Ikonen also scored for Finland. Martin Bodak and Samuel Bucek replied for Slovakia.

"Even though we are kind of the bigger country in hockey, Slovakia is a good team too," said Finland's Olli Juolevi. "They were a tough opponent for us today. I’m happy we got the win."
Finland and the U.S. will face off in a likely showdown for second place in the group on New Year’s Eve. Finland has won two straight since dropping its Boxing Day opener to Canada.

"After the Canada game, we've improved our play and have the two wins," said Finnish goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. "Of course, we could have been better against Canada, but we can't do anything about that now. We have to get ready now for tomorrow and play well against the U.S."
Could the Slovaks maintain the extraordinary focus and emotional level they reached in their 3-2 win over the defending champion Americans? Heading into this game, that was the question on everyone's mind. Slovak goalie Roman Durny got his second straight start after his upset debut, and he was busy as Finland outshot Slovakia 39-26.

"We have already put the U.S. game behind us," said Slovakia's Filip Krivosik. "Today was a new day. We wanted to take at least one point from today's game to make sure we got into the playoffs, but we didn't do that."

The Slovaks will face Denmark in a crucial battle on New Year's Eve.
In a scoreless, evenly played first period, there were several close calls. Finnish defenceman Kasper Kotkansalo saved a goal by pulling the puck off the goal line, and also rang a howitzer off the post.
Forechecking diligently, the Finns outshot Slovakia 18-5 to dominate the second period. They opened the scoring at 7:45 when Juha Jaaska fed Koppanen cross-crease for his second goal of the tournament.

"I liked Joona Koppanen’s game today," said Finnish coach Jussi Ahokas. "Penalty kill and otherwise, he played the way we want."
However, after killing two penalties in the first period, the Finns didn’t take the initiative with their own first two man advantages in the second period.
The Slovaks fought back on the rush. Forward Alex Tamasi found Bodak coming late down the middle, and the big captain sent it through Luukkonen's pads at 14:14.
When Slovakia’s Tomas Hedera put the puck over the glass and was penalized for delay of game, Finland finally got a huge power play goal with just 58 seconds left in the middle frame. Juolevi stepped into the left faceoff circle and sent a hard pass in front for Rasanen to tip in.
"I had a lot of time," said Juolevi. "It was a good pass from Eeli Tolvanen to me. We talk a lot about the power play. We haven’t really been that good on the power play this year here. But I think it’s getting better."
At 6:23 of the third, Heponiemi put Finland up 3-1. The star of the WHL's Swift Current Broncos stormed to the net and Janne Kuokkanen's pass deflected first off his backhand and then his skate into the net. After a review, it was concluded that no deliberate kicking motion was used, and the goal stood.

With a never-say-die attitude, Bucek, who scored the spectacular solo winner versus the Americans, corraled a bouncing puck to lift it past Luukkonen's glove and make it 3-2 at 9:03.

Yet Slovakia's joy was short-lived. The Finns restored their two-goal lead off an unusual play. At 12:36, Ikonen was credited with a goal directly off a faceoff in the Slovak end, with Durny looking stunned as the puck slid through his pads. Slovak forward Adam Ruzicka, who won the draw a little too forcefully, did not intend that to happen.

"It was a different goal, that's for sure," said Ikonen. "I just lost the face-off, but it was really lucky that it went in. A goal is a goal."

"That was probably the first time I’ve ever seen that in my career," said Juolevi.

Nurmi made it 5-2 Finland at 14:01 when he was allowed to step off the goal line unobstructed and ding a backhander off Durny's right post.

"We need to forget about this game and have a good sleep and get ready for tomorrow," said Krivosik.

With the result, Finland’s all-time World Junior record against Slovakia improved to nine wins, one tie, and four losses.
Legendary Finnish agitator and five-time Stanley Cup champion Esa Tikkanen was among the ex-NHLers in attendance.

Sweden beats Swiss, 7-2

The win gives Sweden a 3-0 record and first place in Group B. With the loss, the Swiss are 1-2 and stuck in fourth place, but that's as low as they can go. Belarus, winless in all four games, will be the Group B representative in the relegation round, and the Swiss will qualify for the quarter-finals.
Perhaps the nicest goal was the last of the game. Elias Pettersson danced around defenceman Simon le Coultre, cut in on goal, and swept the puck in the far side to make it a 7-2 game.
Pettersson and Lias Andersson both had two goals and an assist for the winners, who outshot the Swiss, 42-22.
"Switzerland started pretty fast today, but we got better as the game went on," said Alexander Nylander, who played on a line with Pettersson and Linus Lindstrom. "Our third period was really strong. We showed how we can play when we're playing well. They were forechecking hard in the first two periods, and we had to just simplify our game, which we did."
"We played very well," echoed defenceman Rasmus Dahlin. "We were strong out there, but we also played well against the Czechs. Those were different games, but we are playing well right now."
The Swedes got one power-play goal and another short-handed. They opened the scoring in the first with the extra man. Nylander made a perfect slap-pass to Andersson cutting in front, and Andersson made a nice deflection past Mattheo Ritz.
Switzerland tied the game on a brilliant little play from Nicolas Muller. He noticed that Swedish defenceman Linus Hogberg cut dangerously close to his goalie heading up ice and slapped Hogberg’s stick. In the process, the puck went into the net past an unsuspecting Filip Larsson.
In the second, however, Sweden controlled play and scored two pretty goals. Andersson picked off a weak pass from Tobias Geisser inside the Swiss blue line and waltzed in on goal, beating Matteo Ritz with a pretty little deke at 6:07.
Six and a half minutes later, another turnover presented itself to Sweden. This time, Valentin Nussbaumer was too casual with the puck inside the Sweden blue line on a power play. Axel Jonsson Fjallby made the steal and sprinted the length of the ice before roofing a shot over Ritz’s glove for a 3-1 lead.
The Swiss weren’t entirely done, though. This time it was Jacob Moverare of Sweden who was stripped of the puck in his end on a Swiss power play. Marco Miranda made the quick play, moved in on Larsson, and rifled a high shot in with just 45.4 seconds left in the period to give the Swiss some life heading to the dressing room.
That was as close as they got, though. Sweden made it 4-2 early in the third off another turnover inside the opposition blue line. This time a nice three-way passing play led to the goal when Nylander moved the puck to Pettersson. Pettersson made a final pass in front, but Swiss defenceman Tim Berni got his stick on the puck and tipped it over Ritz's glove at 4:55. An own goal at the worst time.
Tim Soderlund added another at 10:01 flying down his off wing and cutting in front before roofing a shot, and Fabian Zetterlund made it 6-2 less than two minutes later.
Sweden finishes the round robin with a New Year's Eve game against Russia in what should be a thrilling game. "It will be fun," Dahlin added, "and it will help us get ready for the playoffs."
Switzerland comes right back tomorrow afternoon to play the Czechs, 6-5 winners today against Belarus.

Czechs outgun Belarus

Captain Marek Zachar, who had the eventual winner with 6:37 left, and Filip Chytil each added a goal and an assist. Libor Hajek and Filip Zadina had the other Czech goals, and Vojtech Budik had two assists.

"We really underestimated the game," said Hajek. "Everyone wants to score, everyone wants to play just for himself. That’s why we almost lost. We had good luck today. But it was kind of a terrible game."

The Czechs trailed 2-0 early in the second period. After pulling goalie Josef Korenar in favor of Jakub Skarek, they stormed back with five unanswered goals, but then almost blew their hefty lead.
Yegor Sharangovich scored twice, Ivan Drozdov had a goal and an assist, and Igor Martynov and Vladislav Gabrus added singles for Belarus, which also swapped out goalies. Captain Maxim Sushko, Vladislav Yeryomenko, and Viktor Bovbel recorded two assists apiece.

Shots favored the Czechs 39-21.

"Sometimes we need to play an easier game," said Zadina. "We’re trying to find hard passes. It was a tough game. I’m happy we won today."
The Czechs have one more chance to shore up their quarter-final seeding when they face Switzerland on New Year’s Eve. Both nations are enduring long World Junior medal droughts. The Czechs last won bronze in 2005 and Switzerland in 1998.
It was a gutsy effort by the underdog Belarusians, but they came away with nothing to show for it. Winless in all four group games, they will play in the relegation round. The Belarusians have been outscored 20-10 so far.

"It was our best game so far, but we had a bad second period," said Drozdov. "We played well for 30 minutes and we have to build on this."
At 8:31, Belarus jumped out to a 1-0 lead on its first power play. Sharangovich came off the right side and sniped it past Korenar’s glove. It was the assistant captain’s second goal of the tournament.
Poor discipline was a constant problem for the Czechs. In front of the Belarusian net, forward Jakub Lauko received a major and game misconduct for slashing defenceman Vladislav Gavrus in the groin area. But the Belarusians couldn’t generate any great scoring chances over five minutes.
Top Belarusian goalie Andrei Grishenko was shaken up shortly afterwards when Chytil took the puck to the net and was driven into the goalie by defenceman Dmitri Deryabin. However, Grishenko stayed in.

"I don’t know what happened in the first period," Zadina said.
The second period got off to a crazy start. Belarus continued to see production from its top players. Sushko centred the puck from behind the net to Drozdov, who slid a backhander through Kolenar's legs. Just 48 seconds into the frame, Czech coach Filip Pesan decided to change things up. Kolenar’s second start ended as Skarek took over.
It was a wake-up call that worked. The Czechs struck back with lightning ferocity, scoring twice in just 24 seconds.
At 1:29, Pavlik finished off a discombobulated rush by whacking a rebound between Grishenko’s pad and the right post. At 1:53, Hajek cruised into the high slot and zinged home a high glove-side wrister to tie it up.
Deryabin continued to give his own goalie fits, shoving another onrushing Czech into Grishenko. This time he got an interference penalty, and it took just 13 seconds for Zadina to make Belarus pay as he one-timed a rebound into the gaping cage.
The Belarusians came achingly close to the tying goal on a mid-second period shift when Drozdov hit the post and Martynov almost converted a wrap-around.
At 12:45, Chytil made it 4-2 when he banged in captain Marek Zachar’s close-range centering pass from behind the net.
Pavlik gave the Czechs a three-goal lead when he took Chytil’s centering pass on the rush and banged his own rebound through Grishenko. Now it was Belarus’s turn to swap out goalies as Dmitri Rodik saw his first World Junior action ever. And as with the Czechs, the change proved to be a momentum-changer.
With 1:15 left in the middle frame, Sharangovich cut the deficit to 5-3 with a sweet power-play one-timer. Drozdov fired high and wide on a breakaway.

In the third period, the Czechs continued to misbehave. Pavlik got a misconduct for shooting the puck in the net on an icing call. On the power play, Martynov got Belarus within one goal at 10:27 with a top-shelf snipe.

Zachar made it 6-4 at 13:23 when he cut in off the wing to launch a lovely backhander past Drodzik.

However, Belarus wasn't done. With 5:08 left, Gabrus grabbed the puck in the neutral zone and swooped in to send a high one past Rodik. But that was as close as Belarus would get.

"We have to play way better," said Hajek. "We have to beat a team like Belarus the right way. If we want to play with the U.S. or Canada, this is not the kind of game we can win. We have to play better. Hopefully tomorrow."