Boxing day means two things in Canada: great deals, and World Junior Hockey.
The sporting event that unites families and Canadians during the holiday season began yesterday, with 4 games on the schedule. Below you'll find a recap of each game.
Switzerland vs Czech Republic
Looking at the first contest of the 2019 World Junior Championships, one would assume that the Czech Republic team was the favourite. Featuring 3 highly-skilled offensive players in Martin Necas, Filip Zadina, and Martin Kaut, the Czech’s seemed poised to come out on top.
However, the Swiss opened the scoring in the 2nd period, as Oshawa Generals sniper Nando Eggenberger, captain of Team Switzerland, buried a powerplay goal. It was somewhat of a broken play, as a misfired one-timer ended up on Eggenberger’s stick, and he turned from the goal line and slid the puck into the net.
After a very quiet start to the game, the Czech’s didn’t waste much time tying up, as under 2 minutes later Martin Kaut evened the score, on a nice give-and-go play with Czech captain Martin Necas.
The remainder of regulation solved nothing, and the game was sent to overtime.
Nearing 5 minutes into overtime, Martin Kaut slid the puck back to David Kvasnicka on the point, and he threw a weak shot on net that beat Hollenstein the Swiss goalie high glove side, as he was unable to see through the screen.
2-1 was the final score, in favour of Czech’s. Hollenstein won Swiss player of the game for Switzerland, following a 29 save performance, and Dostal, the Czech net-minder, won their player of the game award, with a 26 save victory.
The biggest takeaway from this game was the lack of discipline from the Czech’s, and Switzerland’s inability to cash in on the powerplay.
8 minor penalties for the Czech’s, including a 5-on-3, yet the Swiss only scored 1 goal on the man advantage. A lack of puck mobility and not being able to get set up in the offensive zone were the key proponents behind the demise of the Swiss.
I thought Filip Zadina looked unbelievable, despite having nothing to show for it. He’ll be a name to watch moving forward, and a reminder that he put up 8 points in 7 games as an 18 year old in last year’s tournament.
Slovakia vs United States
The best part about the World Junior Championships every year is the underdog stories, the team that has no business knocking off a powerhouse, and a goalie who stands on his head to carry a nation.
Looking at the firepower the American’s have this year, you can assume I’m referring to Slovakia as the underdog here.
Slovakia came out flying, throwing the body, and matching the Americans stride for stride. I was really impressed with their play through the first 20 minutes. Pospisil and Ruzicka were amongst the offensive standouts for the Slovak’s, and net-minder Hlavaj was playing exceptional.
No score after the 1st, however Marek Korencik got Slovakia on the board nearing the end of the 2nd, as the d-man jumped into the play and fired a weak wrister past American goalie Kyle Keyser. The Oshawa Generals net-minder would certainly want that one back, and USA seemed taken back by the 1 goal deficit.
The USA found their legs again to start the 3rd though, as captain Mikey Anderson found the back of the net with a point shot on the powerplay, with projected 1st overall pick Jack Hughes picking up the only assist on the play.
The tie didn’t last long, as around 5 minutes later Evan Barratt scored a highlight reel backhander, giving USA the lead. Tyler Madden and Dylan Samberg picked up the assists.
As the game wore on, the American’s depth was prevalent, as the Slovak’s could not keep up nor get any zone time. They spent the final 2 minutes trying to get set up in the American’s zone long enough to pull the goalie, but could not get anything set up.
The game ended 2-1 USA, with Evan Barratt taking home the player of the game.
Moving forward, Jack Hughes was dynamic, as everyone expected. His speed and vision is a lethal combination, not to mention his puck skills. However I was left feeling like there wasn’t much chemistry between he and his linemates. I loved Jason Robertson’s game, and feel they could both benefit from playing with one another.
Jack’s older brother Quinn, first round pick of the Vancouver Canucks, was good, but not great.
The American’s speed was evident, but they do lack some of the depth that other teams have.
Tyler Madden really stood out to me, as the son of long-time New Jersey Devil John Madden, he was a force offensively all night.
Denmark vs Canada
This game went just about how you’d expect.
Not even 5 minutes in, Morgan Frost opened the scoring on a beautiful deke, with Brett Leason finding him all alone in the slot.
Shortly after, a smart play by Owen Tippett to remain onside lead to a crisp tic-tac-toe goal for Tippett, with Cody Glass and Morgan Frost receiving assists.
Frost later got his 3rd point of the period, as a he buried a wrister off the post, following a nice bump pass from Markus Phillips, and a second assist to Evan Bouchard.
The second period was more of the same, as captain Maxime Comtois scored less than a minute in, assisted by Cody Glass and Ian Mitchell.
Frost completed his hat trick a few minutes later, as goalie Mikey DiPietro send a long stretch pass to Nick Suzuki, who froze the Danish goalie on a pump fake, and slid the puck cross crease to Frost.
Bruins prospect Jack Studnicka got the powerplay going, as he one-timed a Cody Glass pass past the Danish goalie to make the score 6-0 halfway through the game. Owen Tippett and Jaret Anderson-Dolan added goals before the period was over, making it 8-0 after 2 frames.
Another gorgeous tic-tac-toe, finished off by Maxime Comtois, marked Canada’s 2nd powerplay goal of the night. Comtois would later score 2 more goals, finishing with 4 on the night.
Brett Leason, Barrett Hayton, and MacKenzie Entwhistle added singles, making the final score 14-0 for the Canadians. Frost won player of the game for Canada, deservedly so, following his 3 goal 2 assist night.
Canada only went 1 for 4 on the powerplay, but scored right after the conclusion of one, so it could easily be clicking at 50%. They successfully killed off all 4 penalties they took, which is always a question mark for Canada.
DiPietro was solid between the pipes, despite only facing 12 shots. He made a big save early on, as well as shut the door on a penalty shot in the 3rd period. While Ian Scott will start the next game, coach Tim Hunter confirmed after the game that DiPietro is their guy moving forward.
Only 2 Canadians didn’t find the scoresheet; 17 year old Alexis Lafreniere, and d-man Noah Dobson. Scoring doesn’t seem to be an issue for the Canadian squad, but they’ll be tested more moving forward, especially by Russia on New Years Eve.
Sweden vs Finland
This game looked fairly even on paper, and did in fact turn out to be a close game, however I thought Sweden looked great at some points in the game.
Vegas Golden Knights prospect, and maybe the best defenceman in the tournament, Erik Brannstrom, scored first for Sweden halfway through the 1st.
Brannstrom found the back of the net again in the 2nd, with Adam Boqvist picking up his second assist of the night on the play, as well as Emil Bemstrom getting an assist.
As the clock ran down in the 3rd, projected 2nd overall pick this year, Finland's Kaapo Kakko found Aarne Talvitie would beat Ersson the Swedish goalie for the first time.
Finland tried to press for the equalizing goal, but without time on their side, they were unable to create many chances.
Another 2-1 final, with Sweden coming out on top, winning their 45th straight round robin game... which is just absurd when you consider that they have not lost a round robin game in over 11 years.
Erik Brannstrom won player of the game deservedly so, with his 2 powerplay markers being the only times Sweden was able to beat Sudbury Wolves goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkkonen, who posted 32 saves and won player of the game for Team Finland.
Moving forward, Sweden's d-men are insane. The best d-core in the tournament in my opinion, with the likes of Brannstrom, Boqvist, Rasmus Sandin, and Westerlund at the top.
Finland did not look great for most of the game. I was left feeling underwhelmed, as a team with the likes of Tolvanen, Kakko, Jokiharju, Kapari, and Heponiemi should be creating far more offense than they did in game 1.