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World Juniors Recap Day 8: The United States and Finland will faceoff for World Juniors glory

Russia and Switzerland will settle for playing for bronze. Do the Swiss have it in them for one last upset?

Hockey Canada via Twitter

KAZAHKSTAN HAS RELEGATED DENMARK!

A decisive 4-0 victory yesterday morning sent the Danes packing. They’ll play in Division 1A next year, while Germany will be promoted up to the top division. It means that we’ll see Kazahkstan in 2020, and they have nine players from this year’s team eligible to play next year — including goalie Vladislav Nurek, who held his own against USA and Slovakia. Artur Gatiyatov finished second in tournament scoring with 5 goals.

2019 ends a five-year run of Denmark staving of relegation at the top division. They have eight players eligible to return next year, so we may see them back up here sooner rather than later.

Now, onto the semi-finals!

Game One: United States 2, Russia 1

SOG: USA - 24, RUS - 33
PP: USA - 1/2, RUS - 0/2
Players of the Game: USA - Cayden Primeau (MTL), RUS - Grigori Denisenko (FLA)
USA’s Players of the Tournament: Ryan Poehling (MTL), Jason Robertson (DAL), Mikey Anderson (LAK)
RUS’s Players of the Tournament: Pyotr Kochetkov (2019), Ilya Morozov (2019), Klim Kostin (STL)

It’s a shame that this match-up couldn’t have come in a medal game, but this game lived up to its reputation and hype. Obviously, Canadian fans gave it to both teams:

Russia looked like they opened the scoring early in the first when Dmitri Samorukov’s (Edmonton) slap pass was redirected in by Nikita Shashkov. However, subsequent replays showed the puck deflected off Shashkov’s skate and in past USA goalie Cayden Primeau (Montreal):

The goal was called back thanks to a recent IIHF rule change, detailed here thanks to TSN’s Bob McKenzie:

The rule change clearly states that “any direction of the puck into the net by the skate would result in a no-goal decision”. The referees, who decided the puck was intentionally directed into the net by Shashkov, got the call right on this one. You can see Shashkov’s skate change angles ever-so slightly just before the puck deflects off of it.

Two New York Islanders prospects teamed up for the opening goal of the game. Logan Cockerill drove up the left side of the ice before hitting Oliver Wahlstrom with a perfect pass, and he made no mistake:

Russia pressed hard to find the equalizer late in the first, after Jason Robertson (Dallas) was off for tripping. Vitaly Kravtsov (Rangers) got the puck just as the period ended, and took a shot anyways. Dylan Samberg (Winnipeg) took exception to that, and bowled over Kravtsov in response:

Samberg would be penalized at the start of the second. Unfortunately, Grigori Denisenko (Florida) came to his teammate’s defense by taking Samberg down in the scrum, and he also took a penalty. Kravtsov was visibly shaken up by the play (you’ll remember he left Russia’s quarter-final game with an undisclosed injury) but would return for the rest of the game.

Kravtsov ended up in the box for tripping early in the second. The United States, who boast the best powerplay of the tournament, put on a passing clinic on the man-advantage before Sasha Chmelevski (San Jose) beat Pyotr Kochetkov five-hole:

The Russians did get some life later in the frame, as Denisenko’s individual effort ended with him roofing the puck up over Primeau’s shoulder:

Chaos ensued near the end of the second as the Russians fought for another goal. With Primeau nowhere near the net and Josh Norris (Ottawa) trying to play goal, Kravtsov fired a shot that was deflected by a scrambling Cockerill. Needless to say, Kravtsov was not happy he couldn’t find an opening there.

Russia entered the third down one goal, and came inches from tying it in the opening minute. With American Mikey Anderson (Los Angeles) in the box, Klim Kostin (St. Louis) put a shot on net that slipped through Primeau:

Ivan Morozov dove for the loose puck in the crease, but it was Phil Kemp (Edmonton) who beat him to it and cleared it off the goal line.

The Russians couldn’t get sustained pressure in the American end to pull their goalie and USA escaped with a 2-1 victory and a berth in today’s gold medal game.

It wasn’t a pretty win for the United States, but they’ll take it. Russia put up a good fight, but they were obviously devastated once the game ended. Kostin was fighting back tears during the entire awards ceremony before finally breaking down afterwards. It is hands-down the most gut-wrenching part of this tournament — these kids play their hearts out for their country and team, and to fall short of gold is understandably heartbreaking.

The turning point of this game was obviously Kemp’s goal line clearance, but Primeau was rock solid in net. He robbed Kravtsov several times on that powerplay alone. Aside from that strange sequence where Norris ended up playing goal, he was never out of position. This was his best game of the tournament.

USA’s puck control, especially from their blueline, is as good as it gets. It doesn’t matter what position, or who is on the ice — all five players will come back to support the puck before beginning breakouts, and it serves them well in case of turnovers. They stymied Russia’s transition game and made it difficult for them to gain entry to the offensive zone.

Russia will play for bronze tomorrow, but they’ll need a quick turnaround and an emotional reset if they want to take home a medal. It wasn’t just Kostin — there were several other visibly distraught players on the ice at the end of the game (understandably, of course). The team who wins bronze at this tournament has typically been the team who forgets about their semi-final loss sooner. The Russians were gutted by this loss, so we’ll see if they can flip the switch tonight.

Meanwhile, USA will play in the gold medal game for the first time since 2017 (which they won). The Americans have medalled three straight years — 2019 will mark their fourth. Even though they beat Finland in the preliminary round, the Finns have come alive in the medal round and look like stronger competitors than they did in December. USA will need their best game if they want to walk away with a second straight gold medal on Canadian soil.

Game Two: Finland 6, Switzerland 1

SOG: FIN - 34, SUI - 16
PP: FIN - 2/5, SUI - 1/2
Players of the Game: FIN - Aleksi Heponiemi (FLA), SUI - Sandro Schmid
FIN’s Players of the Tournament: Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (BUF), Henri Jokiharju (CHI), Aarne Talvitie (NJD)
SUI’s Players of the Tournament: Tim Berni (CBJ), Philipp Kurashev (CHI), Luca Hollenstein (ANA)

Ah, man. I was really pulling for a Swiss victory here (not just because Finland knocked out Canada) because I wanted to see them win a medal for the first time since 1998. They’ve still got a chance for bronze, but it would have been nice for them to be guaranteed one.

But Finland played a perfect, 60-minute game, and they absolutely deserve to be playing for gold. Jesse Ylonen (Montreal) got the Finns on the board 40 seconds into the first:

Captain Aarne Talvitie (New Jersey) made it 2-0 just minutes later:

And Switzerland found themselves in an early, multi-goal hole. For a team whose typical game plan is to hang in with opponents before striking opportunistically, this was not an ideal start.

Talvitie made it 3-0, banging in a rebound after Rasmus Kupari (Los Angeles) made a great drive to the net:

Loaned Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Henri Jokiharju made it 4-0 Finland on the powerplay with a seeing-eye point shot. 2020 draft-eligible Anton Lundell screened Luca Hollenstein (Anaheim):

That would be the end to a rough night for Hollenstein, who lasted just under eight minutes in goal. Akira Schmid (New Jersey) entered the game for Switzerland. Santeri Virtanen (Winnipeg) put the Swiss on the powerplay, which is a bad idea considering how good they’ve been on the man-advantage:

Kurashev’s sixth goal of the tournament cut the deficit to three goals, which put Switzerland in a better position heading into the second. Unfortunately, the Swiss got undisciplined in the second frame — not that it really made a difference:

Eeli Tolvanen (Nashville) made a great drive to the net. The rebound was banged in by Aleksi Heponiemi (Florida) to give them a 5-1 lead:

Kaapo Kakko made an unbelievable pass to Kupari for Finland’s sixth goal:

There weren’t any goals in the third, which was just as well. Finland did enough damage early to pretty much seal the victory by the end of the first. That sets them up for a gold medal showdown with the Americans.

This will not be the first meeting between the two 1999-born teams. USA and Finland met in the U18 gold medal game in the last two years. USA won gold in 2017, and Finland won in 2018. I guess you could kind of view the 2019 U20 gold medal game as the tie-breaker?

Can Switzerland flip the switch for today’s game? Their players weren’t as devastated by this loss, though admittedly, the game wasn’t as close. Hollenstein didn’t have his best game yesterday, but head coach Christian Wohlwend should go back to him in goal today. It would be amazing to see them win bronze, and they probably could have beaten Russia in the preliminary round. Perhaps this is the game where they return the favour.

Saturday at the World Juniors

Bronze Medal Game

Russia vs. Switzerland (4pm EST/1pm PST)

  • Players to Watch: RUS - Dmitri Samorukov (EDM), SUI - Nando Eggenberger

Gold Medal Game

United States vs. Finland (8pm EST/5pm PST)

  • Players to Watch: USA - Cayden Primeau (MTL), FIN - Aarne Talvitie (NJD)