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2020 World Juniors Recap Day 3: Alexis Lafreniere injured, Canada crushed by Russia

Germany wins a huge game against the Czech Republic!

ANDREA CARDIN / HHOF-IIHF IMAGES

Day 3 of the World Juniors was filled with more drama. Finland steamrolled Slovakia, Germany emerged victorious over the Czech Republic, Sweden defeated Switzerland, and Russia obliterated Canada.

There were two major pieces of news from yesterday, so let’s not drag this out.

Lafreniere Injury

Top 2020 draft prospect Alexis Lafreniere was injured in the second period of Canada’s game against Russia. I go into more detail in the actual CAN-RUS recap, but here’s the update we have as of now:

The injury did not look good. Fingers crossed that Lafreniere is able to return for Canada.

Hayton Helmet-Gate

Russia absolutely killed Canada yesterday, and following the game, this happened during the national anthems:

It was a really bad look for Canada’s captain. Here’s the footage:

Hayton and Hockey Canada issued a joint statement after the video went viral:

Now, onto all of the games!

Game One: Finland 8, Slovakia 1

SOG: FIN — 40, SVK — 26
PP: FIN — 2/4, SVK — 1/5
Players of the Game: FIN — Aku Raty (ARI), SVK — Robert Dzugan

Finland was looking to rebound after getting hammered by Sweden in their tournament opener, and Slovakia came into this game having defeated Kazakhstan the day before. Keep scrolling to the end for my thoughts on Tampa Bay prospect Maxim Cajkovic.

The Game

After Slovakia took two penalties in the first four minutes of the game, I knew it was going to be a long game for them. Sure enough, Finland struck on the second man-advantage. Patrik Puistola (CAR) buried the puck after a wild scramble around the net.

Sampo Ranta (COL) started the rush, drove the puck to the net, and linemate Aku Raty (ARI) buried the rebound for his first goal of the game:

In the second period, after Slovakia failed to capitalize on a length 5-on-3, Joonas Oden made it 3-0 Finland on the powerplay. Slovakian goalie Samuel Vyletelka tried to cover a loose puck and missed completely, which led to the net being left wide open.

Minutes later, 2021 draft-eligible prospect Aatu Raty (brother of Aku) made it 4-0 on a wraparound:

Finland scored four goals in the second period, in a span of about seven minutes. Back to back point shots saw Finland take a 6-0 lead off goals from Mikko Kokkonen (TOR) and Eemil Erholtz:

It was at this point that Vyletelka was pulled in exchange for Samuel Hlavaj, who played the day before. Slovakia did fight back to score a powerplay goal, and cut the lead to five goals:

As the second period wound down, Aku Raty scored his second of the game:

Finland would add one more goal in the third period shorthanded and win 8-1.

Maxim Cajkovic

When it was all said and done, Cajkovic finished with zero points, seven shots on goal, and played 19:24 in the loss. He was one of the more notable Slovakian players on the ice, but it’s hard to really have a good game when your team gets shelled by seven goals.

He took a penalty just over a minute into the game, which put Slovakia on their heels right out of the gate. He did also draw a penalty later on (which was because Peetro Seppala buried him in the corner), and spent a lot of time on the man-advantage.

Once again playing with Oliver Okuliar, both players played the point on the powerplay. Cajkovic had a couple of prime scoring opportunities, especially on the 5-on-3. He wasn’t able to beat Finnish goalie Justus Annunen, though, and he was frustrated after a couple of his shots.

Here are a few of my observations:

Slovakia will regroup on Sunday before facing Switzerland on Monday. Finland will play Kazakhstan later today.

Game Two: Germany 4, Czech Republic 3

SOG: GER — 25, CZE — 30
PP: GER — 3/7, CZE — 2/10
Players of the Game: GER — Dominik Bokk (CAR), CZE — Jan Sir

It was complete undisciplined chaos for the entire game, as the Germans and Czechs combined for 60 penalty minutes and multiple ten minute misconducts were handed out. Germany’s elite offensive players once again led the way for them, but the Czechs fought back hard in the third period to make it a close game.

The result of this game had huge implications for the Group of Death. Because the Czechs had beaten Russia earlier in the tournament, a win against Germany would have all but earned them a quarterfinal berth. Instead, the Germans jumped out to an early lead and barely managed to hang on for the win, putting the Czechs in more danger of playing in relegation.

The Game

After the Czechs took a penalty less than one minute into the game, Germany struck first on the powerplay. Lukas Reichel (2020) scored his first of the tournament:

JJ Peterka (2020) scored his third goal in two games to give Germany a 2-0:

The Czechs did get a goal late in the first, as Martin Hugo Has (WSH) got them on the board:

There was only one goal scored in the second period, as Dominik Bokk (CAR) scored on the two-man advantage to give Germany a two-goal lead:

The Czechs almost scored in the dying seconds of the period to close the lead, but the puck was fired off of the crossbar instead:

Bokk scored his second of the game in the third, again on the powerplay:

Things began to unravel for Germany in the third period, as the Czechs turned it on and began to put pressure on the three goal lead. Less than two minutes after Bokk made it 4-1, Jan Jenik (ARI) beat Hendrik Hane to cut into Germany’s lead:

Germany was on their heels, and then Moritz Seider (DET) and Justin Schutz (FLA) took back to back penalties to put the Czechs up on a 5-on-3. They made no mistake on that opportunity, and Libor Zabransky fired a rocket past Hane to bring the Czechs within one:

Furious pressure by the Czech Republic late in the final frame, including another penalty taken by Schutz as soon as he stepped out of the penalty box, saw the Czechs put up 13 shots in the third period, whereas Germany only sent four shots on goal.

When the buzzer sounded, though, Germany held onto their one-goal lead and won their first game of the tournament. It was a massive win for them, as they now look in pretty good shape to advance to the elimination round.

Group B (of Death) Implications

After three days worth of games, every single team in Group B has a 1-1-0 record. Canada had a chance to run away with the group if they could beat Russia, but they obviously didn’t do that (see: recap further down).

At the moment, because every team has an identical record, goal differential is used as the tiebreak. Russia sits atop the group, followed by USA, Czech Republic, Germany, and Canada. There are still a lot of games to be played between now and the quarter-finals, but the Group of Death has been played way tougher than a lot of people thought, and things really start to get interesting in these next few days.

Both the Czech Republic and Germany have tomorrow off before playing again on Monday. The Czechs have a date with USA, while Germany will do battle with Canada. We’ll see if these two teams have anymore upsets left in them.

Game Three: Sweden 5, Switzerland 2

SOG: SWE — 27, SUI — 27
PP: SWE — 2/5, SUI — 1/3
Players of the Game: SWE — Samuel Fagemo (LA), SUI — Valentin Nussbaumer (ARI)

Sweden has extended their World Juniors preliminary round win streak to 50 games with their win over Switzerland today:

That’s just insane. Sweden hasn’t lost a round robin game in well over a decade. Tampa prospect Hugo Alnefelt started his second straight game for Sweden. Let’s get to exactly how they did it.

The Game

Sweden got off to a hot start and was up 2-0 thanks to Samuel Fagemo (LA). His first of the game came just over three minutes in:

Fagemo’s second goal was also a beauty, mostly thanks to teammate Nils Hoglander (VAN):

Hoglander wasn’t done, displaying excellent hand-eye coordination to tip the puck past Swiss goalie Luca Hollenstein on the powerplay to make it 3-0:

Karl Henriksson (NYR) scored his first of the tournament to make the lead 4-0, set up beautifully by top 2020 draft prospect Lucas Raymond:

Hollenstein was pulled for Stephane Charlin, but it wasn’t effective right off the bat. It was Raymond’s turn for a goal. He received a pass Jonatan Berggren (DET) on the powerplay and ripped a shot past Charlin to give Sweden a 5-0 lead:

Gilian Kohler finally got Switzerland on the board on the powerplay, five minutes after Raymond’s goal. The puck took a funny bounce and Kohler batted the puck out of mid-air and past Alnefelt.

I’m not sure what was said in the Swiss locker room in between the second and third periods, but Switzerland was a different team when they took to the ice for the third. They outshot Sweden 13-3 in the third period and Alnefelt needed to be sharp.

With about six minutes left in the game, Nico Gross brought Switzerland a little closer, walking in from the point and ripping a shot past Alnefelt.

However, that was as close as Switzerland would get, and Sweden earned their first regulation win of the tournament.

Hugo Alnefelt

As I was busy watching Finland rout Slovakia, fellow Raw Charge writer Hardev generously offered to watch this game and Alnefelt for me. Here’s what he observed about the Lightning goalie prospect:

Alnefelt was a little wild when moving to track cross-ice passes and rebounds. On the Swiss [5-1] goal, he let the rebound fly up and not clear, letting Moser score. For much of the game, he wasn’t busy, saving the odd chance in the slot sounded by shots from the perimeter. There was a moment when he had to bail out defenseman Rasmus Sandin (TOR) who turned the puck over in his own zone, he was strong then.

Alnefelt really wasn’t tested in this game until the third period, when it looked like Switzerland was finally waking up and wanting to play competitive hockey. Alnefelt made 25 saves on 27 shots, and he was definitely Sweden’s best player in the third period.

Here’s a save of his from the second period, before he allowed the first Swiss goal. The puck hits him and deflects up high, and he is able to bat it away with his stick to the boards. It is eerily similar to what happened on the first Swiss goal, except he was unsuccessful that time.

Still, the game might have been a lot closer, score-wise, if Alnefelt hadn’t been sharp in the final frame. It would have been nice if he had stopped Gross’ goal, which went through him and under his arm, but he didn’t really get much help from his defenders on that play. Those two goals aside, he had another solid game.

Sweden will have the day off before playing back-to-back on Monday and Tuesday. Alnefelt will likely get the start against Slovakia on New Year’s Eve, which means one of Jesper Eliasson or Erik Portillo will play Kazakhstan on December 30th.

Switzerland also has the day off before playing Slovakia and Finland to close out their round robin. They’re in good shape to make the quarter-finals, having defeated Kazakhstan already, but any additional wins would be great as well.

Game Four: Russia 6, Canada 0

SOG: RUS — 40, CAN — 28
PP: RUS — 0/4, CAN — 0/3
Players of the Game: RUS — Amir Miftakhov, CAN — Liam Foudy (CBJ)

Um. Where do I even begin? Russia handed Canada their biggest loss by goal differential at the World Juniors ever.

I guess I’ll start with the scoring. Then I’ll get into Nolan Foote, and the mess.

The Game

Things started badly for Canada right from puck drop.

Alexander Khovanov (MIN) picked off a pass from Jared McIsaac (DET) and whipped a shot at Canadian goalie Nico Daws. The puck caught Daws up high, went airborne, and dropped behind Daws and into the goal. 1-0 Russia. Replays did indicate that the play might have been offside, but Dale Hunter didn’t challenge it, so the goal stood.

Pavel Dorofeyev (VEG) found himself alone in front of Daws with time. The closest Canadian player to him was forward Aidan Dudas (LA). Dorofeyev took the puck and went backhand shelf on an outstretched Daws to make it 2-0 Russia.

Though they struggled on the man-advantage, Russia took a 3-0 lead on a goal from Nikita Rtishchev:

Daws took a tripping penalty, and about a minute later, so did Canadian defenseman Jacob Bernard-Docker (OTT). Although unable to capitalize on the 5-on-3 powerplay, Russia entered first intermission up three goals on Canada, who just looked lost and confused in their own end all period.

Things went from bad to worse in the second when Alexis Lafreniere (2020) drove to the net, was stopped by Russian goalie Amir Miftakhov, and went down awkwardly. Replays showed that his skate got caught in the ice, and his knee was jammed. Lafreniere, who is arguably Canada’s best player, writhed on the ice for several moments as a trainer came out, before needing the help of his teammates to get off the ice. He placed no weight on his right leg skating off the ice and being helped down the tunnel.

Literally on the ensuing shift after Lafreniere left the game, Nikita Alexandrov (STL) burst into the Canadian end and beat Daws to make it 4-0. That ended the night for him, and backup Joel Hofer (STL) came into the game.

It didn’t matter. Yegor Sokolov made it 5-0, and Grigori Denisenko (FLA) finished off the scoring in the game with Russia’s sixth goal.

It was 6-0 heading to the third period, but there weren’t any more goals scored. Mercifully for Canada, that was the end.

Nolan Foote

Well, nobody who wore a Canadian jersey on the ice in this game played well, but if you had asked me to pick my own Player of the Game, I would have given it to either Foote or Bowen Byram (COL). Foote finished the game with five shots on goal and only played 12:13, which was third-least among Canadian skaters who played a full 60 minutes.

Once Lafreniere was injured, Foote’s linemates became Joe Veleno (DET) and Dylan Cozens (BUF). That line didn’t generate much of anything, and in the third period, Cozens was replaced by Barrett Hayton (ARI). Foote also took Lafreniere’s place on Canada’s first powerplay unit, but they almost never passed to him for a one-timer, despite him being open for a shot multiple times.

Anyways, here are some of my things on Foote. Keep scrolling for my game thoughts.

What On Earth Was That?

Let me clear one thing up: I didn’t think Canada would be good enough to beat Russia, but I didn’t think they would forget how to play defense and flat-out just give up after Lafreniere’s injury. When it came time for Player of the Game announcements, I genuinely had no idea who even deserved the honour.

Neither Daws nor Hofer were fantastic in this game, but it’s not like they got any help from their defensemen or forwards. Liam Foudy may have been chosen by Canadian management as Player of the Game (big shocker, London Knights GM Mark Hunter picked a London Knight for the award), but truthfully, nobody really deserved it.

But there is a debate as to what tandem Canada goes with Monday against Germany. Daws has allowed eight goals in two games. Hofer only allowed two goals, but he did look a little shaky when he came into the game. He settled in eventually, though, and was pretty brilliant in the third as Canada continued to hang him out to dry.

Sitting in the press box these last two games has been Olivier Rodrigue (EDM), Canada’s most experienced international goalie. Rodrigue backstopped Canada to Hlinka gold in 2017. With Daws struggling, does Rodrigue get a look in game action? I don’t think Hofer necessarily played poorly, and this game wasn’t entirely Daws’ and Hofer’s faults, but Canada needs better performances from whoever is in their goal.

More strangeness: even with his OHL coach (Dale Hunter) behind the bench, Connor McMichael (WSH) was deployed like Canada’s 13th forward yesterday. He barely played over ten minutes. Dawson Mercer (2020), who is actually Canada’s 13th forward, played 11:33. McMichael, who is known for his shooting ability, has struggled to be an effective fourth liner, and could benefit from a more offensively-inclined role higher up in the lineup.

Canada’s lines need changing if Lafreniere is out for at least a game. We saw Hunter juggle the lines, but I’m not loving Raphael Lavoie (EDM) so high in the lineup. And Quinton Byfield (2020) demoted to the fourth line? Come on. Ty Dellandrea (DAL) blocked a shot late in the game and was seen with his ankle wrapped in ice after the game. Canada’s in trouble if they’re down an additional forward.

As for Russia, that was the team I expected to see prior to the tournament starting. Fast, physical, overwhelming in the offensive zone, and stifling in the neutral and defensive zones. They walked all over Canada and made it look easy. After a pretty poor showing against the Czechs on Boxing Day, Russia rebounded in a big way. It was a huge statement game for them and their offensive producers. They were the first team to shutout Canada at the World Juniors since December 27th, 1998 (almost exactly 21 years ago).

Canada will take on Germany on Monday. Russia will enter another heavyweight battle against the United States later today.

Today’s Games

(all times ET)

All Bolts prospects have the day off.

9:00am — Kazakhstan vs. Finland
1:00pm — United States vs. Russia

This recap was compiled with information from IIHF game sheets, Twitter, and TSN.