Updated: Jan 10, 2019
For the most part, things went how you would expect from the night that was in the World Juniors tournament. Canada kept it interesting, Sweden's powerplay stayed as dangerous as ever, and a Kazakhstan goalie stole my heart. If you missed it, here's a recap of everything you didn't see on Thursday night.
Denmark: 0, Russia: 4
After the absolute thrashing that team Denmark received at the hands of Canada, they were in tough again on Thursday against a good Russian squad. All signs pointed to another blowout loss for the team that's playing way out of their league; thankfully for hockey fans, that wasn't what happened at all.
Yes, Denmark wasn't able to find the back of the net for the second game in a row, but their compete level compared to less than 24 hours prior was night and day. The team shut down most of the attack from a Russian squad that is supposed to be poised to battle for a medal with the rest of the big boys, holding them to a mere 19 shots.
Now, hindsight is always 20/20, but if they reversed the starts of their goaltenders, I believe Denmark would've had a serious shot to win this one. I understand that Mads Sogaard let in 11 goals yesterday, but he also faced 39 shots on goal, most of which were high quality chances. William Rorth, however, let in all three shots that he faced in the same game.
Rorth got the start against Russia, and let in three goals on only 19 shots. Had they had Sogaard in against Russia, we're probably having a very different conversation. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case.
Russia got off to a great start when Vitali Kravtsov scored on the powerplay just 6:29 into the first period. Denmark sort of took over from that moment on, shutting the Russian offence down for the rest of the first period and most of the second period. It wasn't until the 17:50 mark that Alexander Romanov was able to find the back of the net again for team Russia.
Pavel Shen managed to extend the lead to 3-0 in the third with and absolute missile from the point that beat a screened Rorth. Denmark tried for a bit of a hail mary pass when the pulled their goalie with more than three minutes left in the third, ultimately leading to the fourth and final goal of the game.
The biggest takeaway from this game is the lack of finish from the Danes, and the lack of offence from Russia. After allowing 14 goals to team Canada, no one would be wrong to assume this Denmark team would get walked all over by Russia. The opposite happened, with Denmark out-shooting the Russians by two shots. Unfortunately, the star power isn't there for the Danes, and they couldn't manufacture a goal.
It's not all that surprising given that Denmark is ranked near the bottom of the tournament, and isn't expected to win any of their games. Russia on the other hand, should be expected to win in every match up except for their game against Canada, in which it is very close. If they continue to struggle to get shots on goal the way they did against Denmark, then they might as well pack their bags now and head home. They need to figure things out in a hurry if they are to compete with the Czech Republic on Friday, let alone Canada on New Years eve.
Sweden: 5, Slovakia: 2
Slovakia is silently becoming one of my favorite teams to watch in this tournament. No, they don't have a budding superstar like Filip Zadina, or a phenom like Jack Hughes and Alexis Lafreniere, but as a team they seem to do everything right. Despite a loss in this one, that sentiment remains.
The Slovak team continued to crash and grind through the first period against the much better Sweden team throughout this one. They were aggresive in the offensive end, and consistently breaking down the Swedes in the defensive end. The strategy had them knocking on the door for the first half of the game.
Sweden's Lucas Elvenes opened the scoring at 11:44 with the first even strength goal of the tournament for the team. That was followed by goals from Slovakia's Adam Liska, and Sweden's Emil Bemstrom before the end of the first period. The even strength scoring was a good sign for the Swedes who relied solely on their deadly powerplay to beat a weaker Finland team.
The powerplay flexed it's muscles in this one as well, with two goals in four opportunities. The first of which came in the second when Bemstrom tapped in a wide open look for the second of the night. The wagon of a powerplay is looking rather unstoppable through two games, opening up the defensively sound Slovakia team with ease on both goals before netting really easy opportunities.
The game was drawn a little closer in the middle of the third when Filip Sveningsson through a pass in the direction of his own net, bouncing of goaltender Samuel Ersson and in to make it 4-2.
Sweden shut it down from there, dominating possession and adding another insurance marker to secure a 5-2 victory, their 46th consecutive round robin victory.
Going forward it looks as though Sweden may consistently utilize their deadly powerplay to surgically pick apart their opponents. Not the worst strategy given the success of teams with good powerplays in previous tournaments. If they are to be beaten in the playoff rounds, their opposition will have to find a way to prevent them from moving the puck around so well.
Canada: 3, Switzerland: 2
Boy do I love when Jeff O'Neill looks bad. Prior to the game the TSN analyst said about Switzerland "they have no chance in this game." Maybe I'm wrong, but a one goal game with arguably the best team in the tournament says otherwise. The Swiss team that couldn't figure out how to score on the powerplay just one night ago did just that against Canada.
The game started as most people expected when Nick Suzuki came off the bench, received a pass from Maxime Comtois, and made a great pass to Cody Glass to open the scoring just 36 seconds into the contest.
What wasn't expected was watching the Swiss tie it on the powerplay a mere 46 seconds into the second period. It was really nice work from a unit that struggled mightily the night before, finishing 1-8 when up a man. On this powerplay however, Nicolas Muller made a great play behind the net to get the puck to Philipp Kurashev at the point; he proceeded to blast the puck low glove side for his first of the night.
Canada didn't stay down too long, as MacKenzie Entwhistle took a great feed from Shane Bowers to net the go ahead goal. Noah Dobson followed that by flexing all over Swiss defenceman Janis Moser, basically carrying him on his back to score the eventual game winner.
I was a little shocked to see some emotion and ferocity in this game given the match up, but there was plenty to look at after every whistle. It was a lot of fun to watch as a fan, a little less fun for Cody Glass who took a Nicolas Muller stick to an area no man ever wants to be hit.
Kurashev made it a 3-2 game on some terrible luck for Canada on the PK. Both Canadian defenders lost their sticks, leaving Kurashev with plenty of time to pick his shot and rip it past Scott.
In the dying minutes of the game Switzerland got hosed by a few calls from the refs. First, Kurashev was sent to the box on a crosscheck that Comtois embellished pretty well. Then, after a Glass tripping call made it four on four, the refs gave Switzerland an incredibly quick whistle on a puck that slid out to an open man with less than 10 seconds left on the clock.
I took a couple of things away from what was an ugly game for Canada. The first, was the play of Ian Scott. While he only faced 15 shots against, Scott looked really good throughout the entirety of the game. Many of the shots he faced were in quality scoring chances, and he kept the team in the game on certain occasions.
The second, and more worrying thing to look at is the lack of success on the powerplay. After a rough showing tonight, Canada is now 1-9 on the man advantage for the tournament. While I've already mentioned that the unit looks good, they're going to have to start burying the chances they get if they want to beat a team with a unit like Sweden.
Kazakhstan: 0, Finland: 5
This part is essentially a Demid Yeremeyev appreciation section. The Kazakhstan goaltender faced 56 shots on goal over the course of the game and looked brilliant on almost every single one of them. If the Kazakhstan style of play wasn't the physical embodiment of the Tasmanian Devil, then they probably would've upset Finland without a challenge.
As far as the game goes, Finland was in a bit of a tough spot to start with Teemu Enberg missing this game after being suspended by the IIHF for his hit against Sweden. Given that it was Kazakhstan, it wasn't a huge deal but Yeremeyev had something to say about that.
The Kazakhstan netminder stood on his head throughout, and my heart sunk for the kid when 12:51 into the he made what felt like 100 saves on the play before finally allowing the first goal of the game. There wasn't much Yeremeyev could do as Otto Latvala made a perfect shot in front of a screened Yeremeyev.
Fast forward to goal number three where Yeremeyev is hung out to dry by his defencemen, left all alone to deal with a breakaway and then a two on 0 just seconds later.
It was the same story all night, a ton of saves leading to a wide open look from a Finnish shooter. Almost every goal that went in can be blamed on the Kazhakstan defence before it can be blamed on Yeremeyev.
A huge positive on the other side for the Fins, 17 year old phenom Kaapo Kakko managed to net his first goal of the tournament. The projected second overall pick now has a goal and an assist in two games at the tournament.
To finish this one off (no pun intended), if this performance doesn't get the scouts talking about Demid Yeremeyev, then a whole bunch of people need to be fired.