There were only two games today, and both unfolded the way we expected them to. However, neither game was without excitement, as day three of the World Juniors delivered in more ways than one.
Game One: Russia 2, Czech Republic 1
SOG: RUS - 28, CZE - 22
PP: RUS - 0/5, CZE - 1/3
Players of the Game: RUS - Nikolai Kovalenko (COL), CZE - Lukas Dostal (ANA)
The Czechs made two fatal mistakes on the powerplay last night, and they fell to Russia in a game that they actually started well in. They were outshooting Russia early in the first until Alexander Alexeyev (Washington) took a hooking penalty. As four Czech players converged on a puck battle deep in the Russian zone, the Russians cleared the puck and sent Artyom Galimov and Kirill Slepets up the ice with only one Czech defender back. Galimov wired a shot past goalie Lukas Dostal and Russia took a 1-0 lead into the second.
After Nikolai Kovalenko (Colorado) collided hard with Martin Necas (Carolina) in the offensive zone, Ivan Morozov (Vegas) took a holding penalty. Russia’s second goal was almost identical, as Pavel Shen and Kovalenko came in on another odd-man rush. Kovalenko put the puck past Dostal before tripping over his pad and going head-first into the end boards. He was shaken up, but would stay in the game.
Meanwhile, the Czechs had a wild goal of their own — on the powerplay (which did not yield a third shorthanded goal), 6’7” forward Jachym Kondelik (Nashville) screened Russian goalie Pyotr Kochetkov and deflected David Kvasnicka’s point shot into the net.
That sounds pretty normal until you watch the replay:
Czech player scores a goal with his face. The beautiful game pic.twitter.com/itntmB6ZbD— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) December 29, 2018
Kondelik was a little shaken up, but was fine afterwards. Unfortunately, as the Czechs pressed for an equalizer, they took a penalty with under three minutes to go. Filip Zadina (Detroit) made a fantastic save on Kovalenko’s attempt at the empty net. Necas had a glorious scoring chance with under five seconds left (Kochetkov barely got a piece of it), and that would be the end of the game.
Russia gets the day off today, but will play Switzerland on Sunday looking for their third straight win. Kovalenko was one of their best players at both ends of the ice yesterday, and Kochetkov was solid all game long.
The Czechs attempted to reunite Zadina with Necas and Martin Kaut to get something going, but that didn’t quite pan out. They should really reunite them permanently, since they were their best line last year. While the Czechs got into penalty trouble in their first game and were undone by their penalty kill, in this game, it was their powerplay that ultimately sunk them. Dostal kept them in it the entire game and was deservedly their player of the game. They’ll get a chance to flip the switch against Canada today.
Game Two: United States 8, Kazahkstan 2
SOG: USA - 68, KAZ - 13
PP: USA - 1/5, KAZ - 0/5
Players of the Game: USA - Jason Robertson (DAL), KAZ - Samat Daniyar
First of all, let’s give a hand to Kazahkstan, who scored their first goal at the World Juniors in nearly a decade:
And, in doing so, we got to hear their goal song! I must say, it was a pretty excellent choice considering the tournament is being held in Canada:
As if Kazakhstan didn't already have the fans in Victoria on their side, they selected Sweet Caroline as their goal song. The arena erupted when they scored against USA and then the sing-a-long began. 1-1 3 mins into the game #WorldJuniors #howtowinfriendsandinfluencepeople #101— Julie Robenhymer (@JulieRobenhymer) December 29, 2018
Top-ranked 2019 NHL draft prospect Jack Hughes was a scratch for the United States in this one. USA Hockey labeled him as ‘day-to-day’:
Per USA Hockey spokesman, Jack Hughes will not play tonight and is day-to-day. "Nothing to worry about." Sounds like this is more of a precaution to hold him out against Kazakhstan.— Chris Peters (@chrismpeters) December 29, 2018
With Hughes out of the lineup, Ryan Poehling (Montreal) slid back to centre and played with Islanders prospects Oliver Wahlstrom and Logan Cockerill on the third line. Joel Farabee (Philadelphia) moved up to the top line with Josh Norris (Ottawa) and Jason Robertson (Dallas). Both new-look lines shone for the United States as soon as the puck dropped. Cayden Primeau (Montreal) got the start with Spencer Knight (2019) backing up.
Wahlstrom opened the scoring for USA before Andrei Bulyaskiy scored for Kazahkstan. Then Farabee scored a natural hat trick to end the first period. Vladislav Nurek had started the game for Kazahkstan, but was pulled after Farabee’s second goal for Demid Yeremeyev. Sasha Chmelevski (San Jose), Poehling, and Tyler Madden (Vancouver) added goals in the second, followed by Nurek returning to the game after the game’s seventh goal. Norris made it 8-1 in the third, and then this happened:
Kazakhstan has goal number two after Dmitri Mitenkov knocked in Valeri Orekhov's rebound, who now has two assists tonight.— Steven Ellis (@StevenEllisNHL) December 29, 2018
Just look at Mitenkov's reaction after it. #WJC2019 pic.twitter.com/wILbArMDaL
That celly was perfection, and I really hope Kazahkstan scores more. Dmitri Mitenkov’s goal was the last one scored and even though they’ve fallen into an 0-2 hole, Kazahkstan has a lot to be proud of. Hopefully they can ride that momentum into their next two games.
In all the Yeremeyev hubbub yesterday, I forgot to shoutout Kazahkstan’s awesome jerseys:
Kazakhstan’s WJC jerseys are surprisingly dope. The gold numbers are nice pic.twitter.com/ELiKHvM6QD— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) December 28, 2018
For a team who fired a tournament-high 68 shots on goal and scored eight times, the Americans took an awful lot of penalties against an admittedly weaker team. They may want to avoid that against Sweden or Canada.
Kazahkstan gets a night off before playing Slovakia in what has to be their most important game of the tournament right now. If they can pull off an upset, they will avoid relegation and move on to the quarter-finals. Meanwhile, the United States will face a much tougher opponent in Sweden today — will they be the team that ends Sweden’s 46 game winning streak?
- Switzerland vs. Denmark (4pm EST/1pm PST)
Players to Watch: SUI - Philipp Kurashev, DEN - Phillip Schultz
- Finland vs. Slovakia (6:30pm EST/3:30pm PST)
Players to Watch: FIN - Aleksi Heponiemi (FLA), SVK - Pavol Regenda
- Czech Republic vs. Canada (8pm EST/5pm PST)
Players to Watch: CZE - Filip Zadina (DET), CAN - Nick Suzuki (MTL)
- United States vs. Sweden (10:30pm EST/7:30pm PST)
Players to Watch: USA - Quinn Hughes (VAN), SWE - Adam Boqvist (CHI)