Wednesday, January 3, 2018

USA back to semis

Kieffer Bellows scored a Production Line-type goal to break a 2-2 tie midway through the third, putting the U.S. in the semis. Russia goes home in 5th place.
Dylan Samberg fired a shoot-in into the corner at just the right angle, and as the puck caromed back into the slot Bellows tore in and one-timed a blistering shot over Vladislav Sukhachyov's shoulder at 12:31.
This kind of goal was made famous by Gordie Howe-Ted Lindsay-Sid Abel with the Detroit Red Wings when goalies rarely roamed from their crease.
"I think it was just simple hockey," Bellows offered. "He put the puck deep and I knew the boards are lively back there, so I thought I could just forecheck and put the puck on net. Lucky enough it went in."
Bellows scored twice for the winners and now leads the tournament with six goals. Teammate Casey Mittelstadt had an assist and continues to lead the points race with 10.
With the win the United States will now play Sweden in the semi-finals on Thursday afternoon. Canada and the Czechs face off in the other semi.
"Obviously our goal is a gold medal, and going through Sweden right now is our focus," said Adam Fox. "They’re a skilled team. They have a lot of great players. We’ll do our pre-scout and be ready for them."
Russia, meanwhile, had the longest active medal streak in U20 play, reaching the podium each of the last seven years. Tonight's result, then, can only be seen as a disappointment.
The game was chippy and emotional, and the Americans were at a disadvantage in that they dressed only 18 skaters (the Russians had the standard 20).
"This rest day will be huge for us," acknowledged defeneman Ryan Poehling. "We were short guys tonight, so we had a lot of guys playing heavy minutes. This rest willbe good for us."
"We stuck with it," said Brady Tkachuk. "We knew we were going to win. We were confident. We can enjoy this tonight, but we're back tomorrow focusing on Sweden. It's a difficult task, but we're really excited."
The Americans started out like a house on fire, dominating puck possession and attacking the Russian net effectively. They were rewarded early on with a power-play goal from Bellows. He scooped up a rebound in the slot and fired a quick shot that beat Sukhachyov at 2:18.
The Russians didn’t get a shot until seven minutes in, and even that was a drifter from outside the blue line. But their second shot, almost four minutes later, was a beaut. Marsel Sholokhov snapped a nice backhander off the rush over the glove of Woll at 10:32 to tie the score. Shots favoured the U.S. at that point, 10-2, but it was a 1-1 game.
The U.S. got a well-deserved second goal on a great effort by Kailer Yamamoto. Chasing down a loose puck with Suckhachyov out of position, he turned and fired just as he was being hooked to the ice. Still, he kept his focus and hit the target at 14:34.
The game might have changed late in the period had the U.S. power play capitalized. Vladislav Syomin nailed Max Jones in the head with a dangerous shoulder check and received a five-minute major and game misconduct, but the Russian penalty killers did a masterful job in washing out the penalty without harm. 
Although the second period was scoreless, it didn’t want for action, but it was the goaltenders who stole the show. Woll in particular was both good and lucky. In the case of the former, he robbed Vitali Abramov from in close, getting his pad out to make a save even though he was down and out.
Later, Sholokhov walked out front and got off a nice shot, but Woll was square to the shooter and made the save.
In the case of the latter, the luck was with Woll during a late Russian power play when Abramov fired wide when he had an open side of the net to work with.
Russia didn't take long to stir things up in the third. Andrei Altybarmakyan scored perhaps the nicest goal of the tournament at 3:38. Taking advantage of a turnover inside the Russian blue line, he darted off down ice with only Fox chasing. 
Fox didn't want to take a penalty, and couldn't keep up, and Altybarmakyan blew by him and tucked the puck in after Woll committed too early. A beautiful goal, and a 2-2 game.
Joey Anderson added an empty netter with 41.2 seconds remaining.

Swedes hold off Slovaks

Isac Lundestrom scored twice as unbeaten Sweden edged a gutsy Slovak side 3-2 at HarborCenter on Tuesday to advance to the 2018 World Junior semi-finals.

The Swedes will take on the winner of the USA-Russia quarter-final on Thursday. The result guarantees they will play for a medal for the 12th straight year.

"I think we still need another level or two coming up in the next games," said Alexander Nylander. "We’ve just got to step it up and play playoff hockey."
Fabian Zetterlund also scored for Sweden, and Tim Soderlund had two assists. Captain Martin Bodak scored both goals for Slovakia.

Sweden last medaled on home ice in Malmo in 2014 (silver) when Tomas Monten was an assistant coach. Now the 40-year-old is hoping to win gold in his second stint as head coach. The Swedes have only won gold twice before (1981, 2012).
In a showdown between two of the tournament's top-performing goalies, Filip Gustavsson prevailed over Slovakia's Roman Durny. Sweden outshot Slovakia 39-22.

Of Durny, Bodak said: "He was all the time outstanding in this tournament. He’s a really good guy in the locker room and on the ice."
It was Sweden’s fourth quarter-final victory over Slovakia in the last five years, but it was a much tighter result than usual. The Juniorkronorna won 6-0 in 2014, 6-0 in 2016, and 8-3 in 2017.
The Slovaks’ last quarter-final victory was 3-0 over the Czech Republic in 2015, when they marched to an unexpected bronze medal in Montreal. Despite seeing their 2018 medal hopes go up in smoke, they can be proud of what they accomplished in Buffalo, including a 3-2 upset over the United States.

"We tried to play our best, and I think we played our best," said Bodak. "A little luck was missing for us."
You couldn’t fault Slovakia’s effort in this do-or-die affair, but Sweden had the skill to execute a little better. After getting injured against Switzerland and missing the final group game against Russia, forward Jens Boqvist returned to the Swedish lineup for this crucial victory.
Both teams rang shots off the goal post in the early going, and the Slovaks showed defensive tenacity to keep their opponents on the outside, blocking plenty of chances despite being outshot 13-4 in the first period.
However, in the middle frame, Sweden picked up the pace, getting offensive contributions from throughout its lineup.
Just nine seconds in, Lundestrom barged over the blue line into the slot and wristed home his first goal of the tournament.
Zetterlund made it 2-0 Sweden at 6:55, splitting the Slovak defence and tucking a backhand between Durny’s legs to complete a dazzling solo rush.

"I skated the puck into the offensive zone, took the backhand and went five-hole," said Zetterlund.
As the period wore on, the Swedes also took it to Slovakia physically. Defenceman Timothy Liljegren crunched Viliam Cacho next to the Slovak bench, and Boqvist knocked Bodak down with an open-ice hit.
Top Swedish defenceman Rasmus Dahlin was penalized for delay of game for flipping the puck over the glass in his end, and at 17:41, Bodak got some revenge. The Slovak captain stepped in off the right point and beat a screened Gustavsson on the short side to make it 2-1. The underdogs were still in it.

"I was trying to pass first far side, but I couldn’t because there was a player from Sweden," said Bodak. "Then I saw our two players in front of the net and one Swedish guy. I tried to put it in the net and it went in, so I was really happy."

To kick off the third period, Slovakia had a glorious opportunity with a two-man advantage for 1:44. Marian Studenic put one off the post from the slot, but the Slovaks failed to bulge the twine.

"We tried to pass and shoot as much as possible there," Bodak said. "I got a shot and I broke my stick, so that was also unlucky. It was good play from us, but we just didn’t score a goal."

"It was really big," said Nylander. "Great job by our penalty-killers to not let them score. We just kept going from there."

Lundestrom gave Sweden some breathing room with his second goal at 10:17. Soderlund found him all alone to Durny's left, and the Lulea forward just had to slide the puck into the gaping net.

But Slovakia wasn't done. Just 1:41 later, Bodak charged to the net to finish off a great line rush, putting the puck over Gustavsson's glove to make it 3-2.

Durny foiled Lundestrom's hat trick attempt from close range with under four minutes remaining. The Slovaks kept on coming hard, but the Swedes pressed right back and Slovakia couldn't get its goalie out for the extra attacker. It was a gallant but doomed effort.

"In the game against Canada, we didn’t play well," Bodak reflected. "We were a little bit scared or something. But otherwise, our game was pretty good. I’m happy and proud of my team. I think we should get to play in the semi-finals, but it’s hockey, you know?"

Slovakia's three best players of the tournament were honored afterwards: Roman Durny, Martin Bodak, and Samuel Bucek.

Canada rolls along, 8-2

It took Canada 48 seconds to confirm Swiss coach Christian Wohlwend’s prediction of what would happen in today’s quarter-finals.

That is, Maxime Comtois fired a hard pass to Brett Howden on a two-on-two, and Howden buried the shot to give Canada a 1-0 lead.
It would be unfair to say that the game was over at that point, but the goal confirmed what Wohlwend had predicted – that Canada was bigger, faster, stronger. Better. Plain and simple.
"That was a bit of reverse psychology," captain Dillon Dube suggested. "But that got us focused to playing our own game. It helped a bit. We came out strong. That first one helped settle us down, and then the floodgates opened."
The dominating 8-2 win gives Canada a place in the semi-finals on Thursday and a date with the Czech Republic. The winner of that game plays for gold.
"They're a good team, and they're fast," defenceman Cale Makar said of the Czechs. "We'll turn our focus to them now. We're excited to play them. We haven't played our best yet. I know we can step our game up."
"We played the Czechs before the tournament, so we know a little bit about them," said Brett Howden, who had a goal and three assists tonight. "They've changed a few things, I think, but we'll address that tomorrow on our day off and get ready for them."
The Swiss go home now after an 8th-place finish.
“I think we had a good team here," offered Swiss captain Nando Eggenberger. "We won the deciding game in the preliminary round and wanted to get further, but we have to realize that they were simply stronger. Now we have to start preparing for next year. Every player must become stronger, more disciplined and smarter.”
Canada outshot its opponents by a massive 60-15 count and was in control from start to finish, scoring in the opening and closing minute.
Less than eight minutes after the early first goal Canada made it 2-0 when Makar stepped in from the point and drilled a high shot over Philip Wuthrich’s glove.
Three-and-a-half minutes later, Drake Batherson controlled a loose puck near the crease on the power play and made no mistake. 3-0.
The goals continued to come in the second. Batherson got his second when he stepped on the ice to find the puck at his feet. He skated in hard on goal and put another high shot over Wuthrich’s glove.
Less than a minute later Batherson’s stick got its hat-trick goal. Jordan Kyrou was in the Swiss end when his stick broke. He went to the bench, and Batherson stuck his stick out for Kyrou to take. He did, got the puck, and scored, immediately turning to the bench for a laugh with Batherson.
That spelled the end for Wuthrich. Wohlwend gave Matteo Ritz the chance to play. There was but one small moment of relief for the Swiss in the period. Simon le Coultre’s long shot deflected off the toe of Dario Rohrbach's skate in front of Carter Hart to make it a 6-1 game.
The Swiss made it 6-2 midway through the third on a nice short-handed effort. Axel Simic got to a puck and drove down the right side, beating Hart with a wrist shot from long range.
Later on that same power play, though, Canada added another, this on a one-timer from the slot by Dube.
Comtois finished the scoring with a second effort on a wraparound with just 50.4 seconds remaining.

Advantage: Denmark!

Andreas Grundtvig scored the winner with 15 seconds left as Denmark rallied from a 4-2 deficit to top Belarus 5-4 in the relegation opener.

The first World Junior meeting ever between these nations was a wild affair. Denmark blew a 2-0 first-period lead but scored twice in the final minute for the victory.
For Denmark, assistant captain Joachim Blichfeld stepped up with two goals and an assist, and Jonas Rondbjerg had a goal and two assists. Philip Schultz added a single.
"It’s one of the craziest games I’ve played," said Blichfeld. "I think we started out really good. We were up 2-0. We’ve got to keep that lead, but we didn’t. Still, we found a way to fight back. It’s a great feeling right now."
Ilya Litvinov, Vladislav Yeryomenko, Ivan Drozdov, and Igor Martynov tallied for Belarus. Captain Maxim Sushko and Yegor Sharangovich each added two assists.
Belarus’s last World Junior victory came on 3 January, 2007 (3-1 over Germany) in Mora, Sweden. So this was truly a tough loss for the newly promoted former Soviet republic.
Game Two of the relegation round is Thursday at 12 noon at KeyBank Center.
"I don’t know what happened in the last minute. We just didn’t play to win at the end. We need to realize that and come out and win the next two," said Yeryomenko. "I think we are stronger than our opponents and we should win the next two games. I don’t think we need to change anything. We just need to be tougher and every player should play their best and everything will be good!"
The Danes made the quarter-finals each year from 2015 to 2017, but this year, they were outscored 26-2 in the preliminary round. Even without a game-breaker like Nikolaj Ehlers or Oliver Bjorkstrand, more was expected. Finally their offense came alive in the battle for survival.
Shots on goal favored Denmark 30-28.
"It’s never fun to let in four goals, but as long as we score five, I don’t really care," said Danish goalie Kasper Krog. "It’s about the team and we won today. I’m happy."
The Danes won despite lacking several key forwards. Captain Christian Mathiasen-Wesje served a one-game suspension for an illegal check on Slovakia’s Erik Smolka in the 5-1 Danish loss on New Year’s Eve. Mathiasen-Wesje can return for Game Two of the series. Nikolaj Krag, who did not play in the third period against Slovakia, sat out with a concussion, and Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup was ill.
"Everybody’s got a big heart," said Blichfeld. "We love the game. Everybody loves each other. We’re fighting for each other."
During a sloppy Belarusian line change midway through the first period, Blichfeld had a great chance to open the scoring on a breakaway, but Belarus starter Andrei Grishenko foiled his backhand attempt.
With 4:04 left in the first, Denmark drew first blood. Blichfeld won a faceoff in the Belarusian end back to Rondberg, who beat Grishenko with a great glove-side shot inside the post.
Just 52 seconds later, it was 2-0 Denmark. Quick on the forecheck, Grundtvig picked the puck up on the end boards and sent it around to David Madsen, who centered it to Schultz, and he squeezed one through the Belarusian goalie’s five-hole.
At the other end, Krog stared down Drozdov on a breakaway in the final minute of the first.
Belarus broke through shorthanded just 1:01 into the second period, capitalizing on confusion behind the Danish net as Litvinov’s wraparound deflected off Danish defenceman Malte Setkov and past Krog.
At 9:13, Yeryomenko’s centre-point blast on the power play made it 2-2, beating Krog with Litvinov providing the screen in front. Sharangovich almost gave his team the lead when he fired one off the cross bar on a power play rush in the last minute of the second.
"I think when they shoot the puck, we’re way too soft," Blichfeld said. "We’ve got to be hard on the puck, skate back harder."
Early in the third period, Viktor Bovbel got a minor and misconduct for a hit from behind on Grundtvig. However, the Danes failed to take advantage. At 1:44, Belarus scored its second shorthanded goal, as Drozdov picked off a bad back pass by Sektov in the Danish zone and swooped in to deke out Krog.
Martynov gave Belarus a 4-2 lead on the power play at 8:30, roofing a rebound home. But the Danes got new life 34 seconds later when Blichfeld cut to the slot and fooled Grishenko to make it 4-3.
"He played great," Krog said of Blichfeld. "The guy is dangling around outthere. Sometimes he just does what he wants to. And I’m happy to see him make great plays out there for us."
With 1:52 left, Danish coach Olaf Eller pulled Krog for the extra attacker, and that paid off when Blichfeld converted a rebound to make it 4-4 with just 34 seconds left in regulation.
Looking ahead, Krog said: "We’ve just got to be a bit better on special teams and we’ve got to work hard. We’ve got to prepare ourselves for the next game and come out flying."

Necas scores SO winner

It was another uninspired start for Finland, and today it cost the team dearly. They rallied and took the lead, but the Czechs scored late to tie the game.

Kristian Reichel and Martin Necas then scored in the shootout for the Czechs while only Kristian Vesalainen scored for Finland.
Shots favoured Finland, 54-30, but that stat didn't matter after the game. Josef Korenar was great in goal for the Czechs.
"It feels awesome," Reichel, the son of Czech legend Robert, said. "We worked so hard for this. We deserved it. They were better but we were luckier in the shootout. Now we're celebrating."
Reichel channelled family history into his shootout goal. "When we were at the bench before the shootout, the coach asked us who wants to shoot first and who doesn't," Reichel explained. "I said I want to go first. I want to score a goal for everyone in Czech Republic. After I scored, I remembered it was 20 years ago that my dad scored on the first shot against Canada in the semi-finals at the Olympics." 
"We did it! It's unbelievable," enthused Filip Zadina, who scored twice for the Czechs. "We played great. I'm so happy. We owe a big thanks to our goalie. He played so well."
"We had plenty of chances to put the puck in the net, but the Czechs kept going and their goalie was amazing," said Finland coach Jussi Ahokas. "He played a great game, and we didn't score. That was the difference."
The win ends a long semi-finals drought for the Czech Republic. The team hadn't made it as far as the semis since 2005 when it won bronze. Finland, meanwhile, won gold in 2014 and 2016 and is going home early. The Czechs will now play the winner of Canada-Finland in one semi-finals on Thursday.
"it's been 13 years," Reichel acknowledged, "but it doesn't end today. We must work hard still. We want to win a medal now that we're in the semi-finals."
Necas had two assists in regulation time and Zadina's second goal of the game tied the score with only two and a half minutes left in regulation.
The Finns, as they did two nights ago against the United States, got off to a slow start, and although they recovered, it wasn't enough.
The Czechs opened the scoring at 6:20 on the power play when Zadina wired a high shot over the shoulder of Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. It was the team’s seventh goal with the extra man this tournament on only 14 chances, second best to Canada.
"I didn't see any room, so I just shot top shelf, and it went in. That was great," Zadina said.
Despite holding a 15-4 shot advantage in the period, the Finns didn't have many good scoring chances, but the Czechs also failed to create greater distance on the scoreboard either.
The Finns tied the game at 3:04 of the second with a man advantage of their own. Vesalainen’s shot was blocked in front by a group of players, but Aapeli Rasanen managed to pull it from the scrum and snap it into the open goal with Korenar down and out.
The Finns took the lead at 9:53. Olli Juolevi’s quick point shot was nicely screened in front, beating Korenar over the glove on a shot the goalie really couldn’t see.
But the Czechs fought back and tied the score four and a half minutes later. Reichel made his dad happy by scooping up a loose puck in centre ice and going in on goal. He drew a penalty on the play but managed to make a nice deke on Luukkonen and roof a backhand on the play.
Shots may have been 29-15 for Finland after two periods, but the score was equal, 2-2.
Early in the third it appeared Finland had scored the goal needed to take it to the semis. Vesalainen pounced on a rebound at 6:30 after goalie Korenar made two good saves on Eeli Tolvanen. He couldn’t control the rebound, though, and Vesalainen was uncovered in front.
The Finns then played solid, two-way hockey, but as time wound down the Czechs scored the equalizer. Jakub Galvas's point shot was deftly tipped in front by Zadina, and the puck fooled Luukkonen and went in, setting the stage for a ten-minute overtime of four on four.
That OT produced previous few shots (three each) and only one real chance, when Janne Kuokkanen hit the side of the post with a shot. Beyond that, it was all caution and control.
And then came the shootout...and a little family history.