Alex Formenton Image by: Nicholas T. LoVerde/Getty Images
A look at the fifth day of the 2018 World Junior Championship.
CANADA DOMINATES DENMARK, WINS GROUP A
The outcome wasn’t written in stone before the puck dropped, but in a game that Canada entered as the prohibitive favorites, the final result was somewhat predictable.
Squaring off against the winless Danes, who had scored a single goal heading into Saturday’s outing, Canada controlled play for large portions of time, skated circles around the Danish defense and put pucks past Emil Gransoe with enough regularity that victory was never truly in question. Four minutes in to the opening frame, Robert Thomas (STL) fired home the first goal for the Canadians, with his marker followed up by Brett Howden (TB) and Sam Steel (ANA) tallies that increased the lead to three heading into intermission.
With the game all but over after 20, though, the Canadian onslaught didn’t cease. In the second frame, Canada fired home another two goals in the second period, this time with Cale Makar (COL) and Howden adding to the lead. The third frame saw more of the same, as Alex Formenton (OTT), Michael McLeod (NJD) and Drake Batherson (OTT) added to the already sizeable Canadian lead before the contest came to a close.
Getting the start for a second straight night, Carter Hart (PHI) posted his first shutout of the tournament. While he didn’t exactly go unchallenged in blanking the Danes, Hart was only forced to make 18 saves, with the largest test coming in the second period when he turned aside seven shots. And thanks to Hart’s shutout and the dominant offensive performance, Canada finishes atop Group A, and while it will get them a favorable draw in the elimination round, their opponent for the quarterfinal is still unknown.
As for Denmark, they still have a meaningful final outing against the Slovaks despite their winless record. Downing Slovakia on Sunday would allow Denmark to slip up to fourth in Group A, which would earn them a spot in the quarterfinals.
FINNS DOWN SLOVAKS TO SET UP CLASH WITH USA
If Finland wanted a chance at second place in Group A, Saturday’s meeting with Slovakia was a must-win. And while pulling away from the Slovaks to take over the game took nearly 50 minutes, by the time the third period rolled around, Finland was able to widen the gap and put the game to bed. It took nearly half the contest for either team to find the board, with Finland’s Joona Koppanen (BOS) breaking the nil-nil draw at the 27-minute mark, but before the Finns could settle into leading the game, the Slovaks drew even on a Martin Bodak tally. Finland regained the lead with 58 seconds remaining in the second period on an Aapeli Rasanen (EDM) power play goal, however, and didn’t relinquish it from there on out. Aleksi Heponiemi (FLA), Joni Ikonen (MTL) and Markus Nurmi (OTT) added goals in the third as Finland skated to a 5-2 victory.
With the victory, Finland moved into second spot in Group A with two regulation wins, one loss and six total points. That puts the Finns one point ahead of Team USA, but makes Sunday’s New Years Eve clash with the Americans a crucial one for seeding in Group A. A regulation victory would give Finland second place in the group, as would an overtime victory. A loss of any kind, however, would push the Americans into second spot in the group.
SWEDES SURGE PAST SWISS WITH BIG THIRD
The Swiss have a habit of hanging around against tough competition at the World Juniors and their third outing of this year’s competition was no different, keeping the undefeated Swedes on their toes through the first 40 minutes of play. In the first frame, Switzerland’s Nicolas Muller fired home a game-tying marker minutes after Lias Andersson (NYR) scored his third of the tournament on a Swedish power play. In the second, after Andersson put Sweden ahead and Axel Jonsson Fjallby (WSH) stretched the lead to three, Marco Miranda brought the Swiss back within striking distance with a power play marker of his own. For as long as Switzerland hung around, though, they eventually succumbed to the offensive firepower Sweden possesses, surrendering four goals in little more than seven minutes en route to a tough 7-2 loss.
The same group that has been offensively brilliant for Sweden remained as such against the Swiss, beginning with Andersson, who finished the outing with two goals and three points, while Elias Pettersson (VAN) picked up two goals and three points and top draft prospect, defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, contributed a pair of assists. The win was Sweden’s 43rd straight in round robin play.
CZECHS AVOID UPSET, BEAT BELARUS
The Czechs’ defeat of the Russians in the first game of the tournament made for one of the biggest upsets of the round robin, but Saturday afternoon, coach Filip Pesan’s team was nearly on the receiving end of an equally surprising loss. Midway through the first of a contest against winless Belarus, Czech Republic found themselves down 1-0 on a power play goal by Yegor Sharangovich, and it took only 48 seconds of play in the second frame for the Belorussians to double their lead on Ivan Drozdov’s first of the tournament. However, after a goaltending change, the tide turned in favor of the Czechs, who ripped off five-straight goals, including two from Radovan Pavlik, and fought off a two pushbacks by Belarus to skate to the 6-5 victory. Pavlik’s pair led the Czech Republic, with four others registering a pair of points, while Ivan Drozdov’s goal and assist made him one of five Belorussians with a multi-point game.
1. Elias Pettersson (SWE): Two goals — and one highlight reel tally — in three-point night.
2. Lias Andersson (SWE): Continued dominance with two goals, three points.
3. Cal Foote (CAN): Three helpers as Canada takes top spot in Group A.
Elias Pettersson dances in and scores a beauty:
Sunday, Dec. 31
Czech Republic vs. Switzerland, 12 p.m. ET
Finland vs. United States, 4 p.m. ET
Denmark vs. Slovakia, 6 p.m. ET
Sweden vs. Russia, 8 p.m. ET