The 2020 World Juniors kicked off with a bang on Boxing Day, with a total of 30 goals scored and 39 penalties called. Yeah, exactly.
We had great morning games, which saw Switzerland narrowly escape with a win against Kazakhstan, and an absolutely astonishing result between Russia and the Czech Republic. The afternoon games didn’t disappoint, either, with a goalie battle needing to be decided in overtime, and a special teams onslaught between two storied rivals.
If you remember these recaps last year, I embedded a ton of goal videos. But there’s something strange going on this year, with a lot of people having their GIFs and videos taken down due to copyright reasons. Because I don’t want to include a whole bunch of tweets that may end up being taken down within the next 18-24 hours, I’ve decided to limit the amount of embedded videos in this post.
Hopefully that issue will be remedied in time for tomorrow’s recap, and I’ll be able to include more clips in future recaps. And with that, onto the games!
Game One: Switzerland 5, Kazakhstan 3
SOG: SUI — 34, KAZ — 19
PP: SUI — 1/3, KAZ — 0/4
Players of the Game: SUI — David Aebischer, KAZ — Maxim Musorov
This game was extremely entertaining, although not as-viewed due to the Russians and Czechs playing at the same time. Still, Kazakhstan dug in deep and kept the game close, and the Swiss had to fight to come away with the win.
After the teams traded penalties in the opening minute of the game, Matthew Verboon started the scoring in the first period when he tipped in a shot from Valentin Nussbaumer (ARI) less than three minutes in.
It took most of the period, but Kazakhstan answered the goal with one of their own. Star forward Maxim Musorov tied the game with under five minutes in the period, receiving a pass from defenseman Oleg Boiko before skating in and beating Swiss goalie Luca Hollenstein. The Swiss responded with another goal, though, late in the first, as David Aebischer sent a point shot in on goal that was batted in by Jeremi Gerber.
In the second, Ruslan Demin tied the game at two, displaying clever hands and ripping a shot past Hollenstein from the circle. Then, Kazakh goalie Vladislav Nurek misplayed the puck and accidentally shoved it past the goal line with his own skate. 3-2 Switzerland.
Kazakhstan refused to quit, though. After Switzerland turned the puck over in their own end, Musorov jumped on the loose puck to tie the game at three, with his second goal of the game.
Gian-Marco Wetter gave Switzerland a permanent lead in the third period, tipping home another Aebischer point shot. Verboon scored his second of the game to give the Swiss a two-goal lead, and Switzerland came away with three points in the win.
Kazakhstan will play again tomorrow, against Slovakia. Both teams met last year in group play and Slovakia spanked them 11-2. However, their play against Switzerland was encouraging, and Kazakhstan proved that they can score and take advantage of opponents’ miscues.
Switzerland has the day off before taking on Sweden on Saturday, as they attempt to play spoiler and end the Swedes’ 49-game win-streak in the preliminary round at the World Juniors.
Game Two: Czech Republic 4, Russia 3
SOG: CZE — 17, RUS — 26
PP: CZE — 2/5, RUS — 0/6
Players of the Game: CZE — Jan Mysak (2020), RUS — Yegor Zamula (PHI)
First, 17-year old goalie phenom and top draft-eligible goalie Yaroslav Askarov started for Russia in this game, and I don’t think we’ll be seeing him again. Maybe not even on the bench. He might be relegated to the third seed.
That might be a tad melodramatic, but man, Askarov and Russia did not have a good start to this game. The Czechs jumped out to an early 2-0 lead. The first goal was on the powerplay, where 2020 draft-eligible defenseman Simon Kubicek blasted home a point shot to open the scoring.
Then, another 2020 draft-eligible Czech — Jan Mysak, who is a forward — streaked into the Russian end and put the Czechs up by two. At this point, I thought the Russians would pull Askarov (head coach Valeri Bragin is not afraid to pull a goalie, he pulled Andrei Vasilevskiy at this tournament), but he stayed in.
Then the parade to the penalty box began. Yegor Zamula (PHI) got Russia on the board as a Czech penalty expired. The Czechs took another penalty, and just as that one expired, Vasily Podkolzin (VAN) banged home the puck to tie the game at 2.
In the second period, the Czechs took the lead again, this time on a goal from Matej Blumel. 45 seconds later, Russia tied the game again with Zamula’s second goal. At this point, back-up Amir Miftakhov began putting his gloves on at the bench, and I was sure he was coming into the game for Askarov. But the 17-year old stayed in net.
Then Russia got into penalty trouble. On a 5-on-3 powerplay, Jan Jenik powered a shot past Askarov to give the Czechs a 4-3 lead. That expired, and then Russia proceeded to take two more penalties to give the Czechs a second straight 5-on-3. Russia managed to kill that one off, but they headed to the third down a goal.
Miftakhov was in net to start the period, which effectively ended Askarov’s chance to be Russia’s starting goalie at the tournament. There is a chance we could see him again, but Bragin isn’t known for giving too many second chances, especially for 17-year old goalies.
That was it for the goals, though. The Czechs had another 5-on-3 late in the third, but couldn’t capitalize on it. Russia essentially ran out of time to get the tying goal, and the Czechs upset Russia 4-3.
It was a massive win for the host team, who were already down a forward after Jakub Lauko (BOS) was injured in the game’s opening minutes from a center ice collision. He was seen watching the game from the tunnel, sitting in a chair with his right leg in a knee brace. We haven’t received an update on him yet, but it doesn’t look like he’ll be ready to return to game action anytime soon (if at all).
The Czechs do have two extra forward spots (they only registered 11 forwards yesterday) available to bring in a replacement for Lauko if he’s not able to continue playing. Their next match is against Germany on Saturday. In the Group of Death, that was a monstrous win for them, as they earned a critical three points in the group standings.
As for Russia, they have Canada up next on Saturday. Now that they’ve dropped this game, every other one is an absolute must-win. That might be easier said than done, though. They still have a good chance to advance to the elimination round, but it’s not likely going to be near the top of the group.
Game Three: Sweden 3, Finland 2 (OT)
SOG: SWE — 48, FIN — 25
PP: SWE — 1/5, FIN — 0/6
Players of the Game: SWE — Nils Hoglander (VAN), FIN — Justus Annunen (COL)
First of all, Finland owes Justus Annunen something big for the one point he earned for them tonight. He was peppered with nearly 50 shots on goal and Finland relied far too heavily on their goalie.
At the other end, Bolts prospect Hugo Alnefelt was solid in front of the Swedish goal, and he made an incredible save in the third period to keep his team alive (at the time, they were down a goal).
There were penalties and two breakaways, one for each team, to start the game. Annunen stopped Rasmus Sandin (TOR), and Alnefelt stood his ground against Antti Saarela (CHI).
But it was Finland who opened the scoring first, as Patrik Puistola (CAR) managed to get enough of his stick on the puck to redirect it past Alnefelt.
Nils Hoglander took matters into his own hands in the second period, pulling off his second Michigan-style lacrosse goal this season to beat Annunen and tie the game.
Finland would respond, though. Kristian Tanus jumped on a loose puck and buried it past Alnefelt to restore the Finns’ one-goal lead.
In the third, Annunen made another breakaway save, this time shorthanded against Samuel Fagemo (LA) — who he had also robbed several times previously in this game. Rasmus Kupari (BUF) and Philip Broberg (EDM) collided in the neutral zone, and Kupari got the worse end of it. He needed help to get off of the ice, and although we don’t have an update about his health status just yet, he didn’t put any weight on his left leg.
Unlike the Czechs, who can replace Lauko with another player, Finland only registered twelve forwards and decided to register eight defensemen, which would mean that if Kupari is too injured to play any other games, they’ll have to go with 11 forwards for the rest of the tournament. That could be problematic down the road.
Annunen continued to shine in the third despite being hammered with shots, but Fagemo wouldn’t be denied a fifth time. His goal tied the game at 2, and overtime was seeming more and more likely. That goal kept Sweden’s then-48 game preliminary round win streak alive for the moment, but they would still need to win the game in overtime.
Luckily for them, Alnefelt stood tall and turned aside a great Finnish scoring chance. Then, Finland took a penalty in the 5-minute extra frame. Alexander Holtz (2020) made no mistake on the overtime winner, walking into the Finnish end and wiring a bullet past Annunen. Sweden’s win streak was preserved, and it now stands at 49 games.
The better team came away from the game with two points. Sweden dominated this match, and had it not been for Annunen’s brilliance, the score could have easily gotten out of hand. But that’s not to say Alnefelt didn’t play well. He was excellent when he needed to be, and definitely proved that the Swedish coaches made the right decision about starting him in this game.
This was Finland's best chance in OT. W Matias Maccelli (ARZ) made a great backhand pass to LHD Santeri Hatakka (SJS) but Hugo Alnefelt (TBL) made an excellent save. #WorldJuniors pic.twitter.com/8em1TPsHz1— Jokke Nevalainen (@JokkeNevalainen) December 26, 2019
Both teams will get tomorrow off, and play again Saturday. Sweden will have a chance to extend their win-streak to 50 games against Switzerland, while Finland will take on Slovakia in a crucial game for them. If they drop another match, their odds at a favourable quarter-final matchup are slim. This game being decided in overtime could make the final group standings interesting.
Game Four: Canada 6, United States 4
SOG: CAN — 32, USA — 32
PP: CAN — 3/5, USA — 3/5
Players of the Game: CAN — Alexis Lafreniere (2020), USA — Shane Pinto (OTT)
The special teams came out with a bang in this game, but both Canada and USA have to be more disciplined in their future games. Although this was both teams’ toughest game, they really shouldn’t just be handing power play opportunities to any other teams they play.
The United States jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead, off of powerplay goals from Shane Pinto (OTT) and Arthur Kaliyev (LA). They were all over Canada early, and returning Canadian players were the ones heading to the box.
USA gets on the board first, thanks to Shane Pinto's deflection on the power play! pic.twitter.com/7lD1K5oZOe— TSN (@TSN_Sports) December 26, 2019
Trevor Zegras with the gorgeous feed to Arthur Kaliyev, and the USA take a 2-0 lead. pic.twitter.com/UGgXi6Znsk— TSN (@TSN_Sports) December 26, 2019
Then things got slightly out of hand, as Canada decided to start running at American players in an attempt to swing the momentum back in their favour. And although I was getting PTSD flashbacks to what happened when they did that last year, it actually seemed to work for them. At least they were being smart about the hits they were throwing.
Down 2-0 to start the second period, Canada needed a huge start to claw their way back into the game. Their fourth line went to work, and were rewarded when Connor McMichael (WSH) beat Spencer Knight (FLA) to get Canada on the board.
Then, Canada was gifted another powerplay, and they took off. Seven seconds into the man-advantage, Alexis Lafreniere (2020) fed Barrett Hayton (ARI) for a one-time bomb that beat Knight and tied the game at 2.
USA took another penalty as Aidan Dudas (LA) was buried in front of the American net. Canada’s powerplay went back to work, and Tampa’s Nolan Foote whipped a rocket past Knight to give Canada its first lead of the game.
Make that three goals in the period for Canada! Nolan Foote with the snipe pic.twitter.com/518bKBm2kS— TSN (@TSN_Sports) December 26, 2019
Late in the second with the Americans on the powerplay, Pinto appeared to have scored a buzzer-beater to tie the game at 3. The play went to a video review, where it was determined that the puck crossed the line after time had expired in the period. Although we didn’t get a camera angle with the time in the corner shown on the broadcast, a different angle did indicate that the goal light went off before Pinto actually shot the puck.
Shane Pinto finds the back of the net for USA as the period ends, but the officials rule it as a no-goal. pic.twitter.com/T26uTeVPDL— TSN (@TSN_Sports) December 26, 2019
So, Canada entered the third period up one goal. They went back on the powerplay and Hayton scored his second goal on man-advantage to give them an insurance marker.
THERE HE IS Alexis Lafrenière dangles through four guys then dishes to Barrett Hayton! pic.twitter.com/umrfBEvpy6— TSN (@TSN_Sports) December 26, 2019
But the United States refused to quit. Nick Robertson (TOR) made his way into the Canadian end and ripped a heavy shot past Nico Daws in the slot to bring USA back within a goal.
Leafs prospect Nick Robertson with a gorgeous snipe for the USA! pic.twitter.com/u4wkHkeMSO— TSN (@TSN_Sports) December 26, 2019
Canada took a penalty late and USA made good on their powerplay. Pinto matched Hayton with his second powerplay of the game and tied the game, 4-4.
Shane Pinto's second of the game is the power play equalizer, with minutes to go in the third! pic.twitter.com/tt7SrflqOY— TSN (@TSN_Sports) December 26, 2019
Seven seconds later, off the ensuing center-ice faceoff, Alexis Lafreniere jumped into the American end with the puck and beat Knight to restore Canada’s one-goal lead. The fans in the arena promptly lost their minds, as did most of us on Twitter.
ALEXIS. LAFRENIERE. What else is there to say?! pic.twitter.com/tVyObK4fZw— TSN (@TSN_Sports) December 26, 2019
Ty Dellandrea (DAL) hit the empty net to make it 6-4, and Canada won a wild game and a critical three points in the Group of Death standings. They’ll have tomorrow off before taking on Russia on Saturday. Meanwhile, USA has a quick turnaround, with a date against Kazakhstan tomorrow. They were not good at even strength in this game, and it’ll be interesting to see if and how the lines are juggled to be more competitive.
(All times ET)
9:00am — Slovakia vs. Kazakhstan
1:00pm — USA vs. Germany
I’m interested to see how USA adjusts for Germany tomorrow. Germany may not be as deep as Canada, but boy, they’ve got the talent this year. And the American team we saw today on the ice isn’t going to cut it.— World Juniors Lauren (@laurkelly24) December 26, 2019
And, the only other game tomorrow aside from USA-GER is Slovakia vs. Kazakhstan. KAZ put up one heck of a fight today against Switzerland. Slovakia had better be prepared. #GoBolts prospect Maxim Cajkovic will get his first taste of WJC action in that match.— World Juniors Lauren (@laurkelly24) December 26, 2019
This recap was compiled with information sourced from IIHF game sheets, Twitter, and TSN.