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2020 World Junior Championships: Hugo Alnefelt backstops Sweden to perfect preliminary round record

Nolan Foote won, but Maxim Cajkovic lost.


Happy 2020, everyone! There’s no hockey today, but the quarter-finals will start tomorrow.

Day 6 of the World Juniors was the perfect way to end 2019. Sweden won their 52nd straight preliminary round game, Russia’s powerplay finally woke up against Germany, Switzerland upset Finland, and Canada rode a four powerplay goal first period to a win over the Czech Republic.

Czech Injuries

The poor, host nation Czechs can’t catch a break, it seems. They lost Jakub Lauko (BOS) in the first period of the tournament, their starting goalie Lukas Dostal (ANA) has missed the last two games with an injury, and now, it looks like top forward Jan Jenik (ARI) is not only done for the rest of the tournament, but the season as well:

Game One: Sweden 6, Slovakia 2

SOG: SWE — 42, SVK — 18
PP: SWE — 2/10, SVK — 1/7
Players of the Game: SWE — Alexander Holtz (2020), SVK — Marko Stacha (2020)

No surprises in this game — Sweden cruised to another easy win. They extended their preliminary round win streak to 52 games, which is flat out ridiculous. They will finish first in Group A, while Slovakia finishes fourth.

The Game

It was scoreless for quite a while to start the game, but Sweden broke the ice off an Alexander Holtz (2020) blast halfway through the first:

15 seconds later, Albin Eriksson (DAL) beat Slovak goalie Samuel Hlavaj to make it 2-0:

Philip Broberg (EDM) made it 3-0 with a beautiful wrister from the slot on the powerplay:

Sweden actually had a goal called back after an offside challenge:

In the second period, it was more of the same thing. Oskar Back (DAL) made it 4-0:

Holtz’s second goal of the game made it 5-0. His shot is unreal:

Slovakia got on the board after a funny bounce saw the puck go high on Tampa Bay prospect Hugo Alnefelt and trickle into the net:

Then, Adam Ginning (PHI) decided to throw a hit at the opposing blueline (why, I have no idea), which sent the Slovaks down on an odd-man rush. Robert Dzugan wired a wrister under the bar past Alnefelt to make it 5-2 on his fourth goal of the tournament.

But Sweden got one last goal in the final minute of the period. Tournament goal scoring leader Samuel Fagemo got his sixth goal:

Rasmus Sandin (TOR) left the third period after taking a stick to the hand. He dropped his glove and stick and went immediately off the ice and down the tunnel without stopping to talk to trainers. It looked pretty bad, but Sandin had an x-ray performed later that night and it was good news:

Hugo Alnefelt

Alnefelt only faced six shots in the first two periods, but both of his first period saves came on this play (I thought he made three, but the scoresheet says he only faced two).

Alnefelt was good when he needed to be, but he really didn’t face many shots at all.

The two goals that Alnefelt allowed in the third period weren’t too bad. The first goal came off a bad bounce, but he was beat cleanly on the second goal up high on the short side. He looked as though he was expecting Dzugan to pass instead of shoot, which opened up the net on the left side.

Alnefelt has locked down the starting goalie job for Sweden, though, and Sweden will need him to be sharp as they face stronger opponents in the medal round.

Maxim Cajkovic

Slovakia is heading to the quarter-finals, but they did not have a good preliminary round performances in any of their games. Even in their tournament opener against Kazakhstan (which they won), they got off to a slow start and just looked off. They may have beat the Kazakhs, but in all of the other games, they lost handily.

Cajkovic has been one of the brighter spots for the underwhelming Slovak team. He skates hard, he takes shots, and he’s passionate. He didn’t get on the scoresheet today, took a penalty late, and he played a little less than he normally does, just 15:23. Cajkovic was also split from Oliver Okuliar today, as Okuliar was promoted to the top line.

Any team has a chance to pull off an upset in the quarters, but Slovakia doesn’t seem like they have that extra jump. They’re missing that kind of game-breaking presence (*cough* Martin Chromiak), and they’re relying too heavily on players like Cajkovic, Okuliar, and Dzugan to produce. They need other players to step up offensively if they want any chance at pulling off an upset on January 2nd.

Game Two: Russia 6, Germany 1

SOG: RUS — 31, GER — 23
PP: RUS — 3/5, GER — 0/6
Players of the Game: RUS — Kirill Marchenko (CBJ), GER — Hendrik Hane

Germany needed to win this game to avoid relegation, but they just couldn’t overcome the Russian onslaught and will play in the best of three series against Kazakhstan in the new year.

The Game

Kirill Marchenko scored the game’s first two goals. The first was a great individual effort on the rush, and the second was a cross-ice pass that ended up squeaking through Germany goalie Hendrik Hane’s pads:

Russia’s powerplay, which had been scoreless through three games, finally came alive in their final round robin game. Grigori Denisenko (FLA) made it 3-0 in the second period, finally breaking through on the man-advantage:

Pavel Dorofeyev scored two more goals on the powerplay to give Russia a 4-0 and then 5-0 lead:

Russia didn’t let up heading to the third period. Dmitry Voronkov (CBJ) gave Russia a 6-0 lead less than a minute into the third:

Germany played a much stronger third period, and they were able to get on the board late, spoiling Yaroslav Askarov’s shutout bit. Well, he really only had himself to blame for this goal — going for the pokecheck here seemed slightly unnecessary:

But that was all Germany could muster against the more dominant Russians.

To Wrap

Russia will finish third in Group B. They made some critical changes to their powerplay units in this game, and it paid off in dividends. Yaroslav Askarov wasn’t tested often against Germany, but he did a well enough job that hopefully, he’ll get the start on January 2nd in the quarter-finals.

It’s a shame that Germany was placed in the Group of Death. This team gave several teams in the group a run for their money, and probably would’ve rattled off a couple more wins had they played in Group A. But their chances look good against Kazakhstan, as long as their young stars come through for them (like they did against the Czech Republic).

Game Three: Switzerland 5, Finland 2

SOG: SUI — 22, FIN — 38
PP: SUI — 0/3, FIN — 1/4
Players of the Game: SUI — Simon Knak (2020), FIN — Anttoni Honka (CAR)

The winner of this game would finish second in the group, and the loser in third place, but regardless of the outcome, neither team would be getting a favourable quarter-final matchup. Switzerland won a stunning result over Finland, but their prize for finishing second in the group is a date with Russia in the quarters. Meanwhile, Finland has to play USA in a 2019 gold medal game rematch.

The Game

Things were pretty even to start the first, and Finland took the lead on a powerplay goal by Anttoni Honka (CAR):

That was the only goal in the first period, but Switzerland took over in the second. They outshot Finland 19-9 and outscored them 4-1.

Fabian Berri got Switzerland on the board 19 seconds into the period:

Gaetan Jobin gave Switzerland the lead two minutes later:

Lassi Thomson’s (OTT) point shot is tipped in front of Swiss goalie Stephane Charlin by Joonas Oden, which ties the game at 2:

But Switzerland would respond. Berri scored his second goal of the period to restore Switzerland’s lead:

Down a goal heading into the final frame, Finland needed a strong performance from its entire team. But halfway through the third period, Simon Knak scored an insurance marker for the Swiss and put them up 4-2:

Valentin Nussbaumer sealed the deal with a shorthanded empty net goal in the final minute, and Switzerland won in surprising fashion over Finland:

Group A Standings

This was a huge win for Switzerland, but their quarter-final matchup is about as difficult as Finland’s is. Even if the Finns had won, neither team’s next opponent would have been favourable. Sweden finished the round robin undefeated and atop Group A. They were followed by Switzerland, Finland, Slovakia, and the relegation-bound Czechs.

Switzerland will play Russia at 6:30am ET on Thursday. Although it looks like the Russians have finally gotten their offense going, Switzerland is no stranger to upsets and will need their most disciplined, defensively-sound game of the tournament if they want to win.

Finland will meet USA in the quarters, in a rematch of the 2019 gold medal game. That’s certainly the most loaded QF matchup. Justus Annunen (COL) was not good for Finland in this game, but he’ll still likely start in goal on Thursday. He has to be at his best, because USA has better offense than Finland.

Game Four: Canada 7, Czech Republic 2

SOG: CAN — 31, CZE — 19
PP: CAN — 5/8, CZE — 1/4
Players of the Game: CAN — Dylan Cozens (BUF), CZE — Jan Mysak (2020)

Canada needed to win this game to win Group B — a loss would mean they finish the round robin in fourth place (obviously not ideal). The Czechs had already secured a medal round berth by way of Russia beating Germany.

The Game

This game was absolutely insane, especially the first period.

Bowen Byram (COL) drew a high-sticking penalty, which put Canada on the powerplay. Joe Veleno (DET), who returned from a one-game suspension, fired home a rebound into an empty net to put Canada up 1-0:

Nolan Foote (TB) made it 2-0 with Canada on its second powerplay of the game. His shot is terrifying:

Then things got crazy. Byram gave a crosscheck to Otakar Sik, who retaliated by spearing Byram in an, uh, unpleasant area. The referees handed Sik a five-minute major and a game misconduct, which put Canada back on the powerplay and put the Czechs down to 10 forwards.

Barrett Hayton wired the puck in from a bad angle to make it 3-0 Canada. There was a lengthy review after this play, because officials had to make sure the puck crossed the line:

After about seven minutes, play resumed. With his team still on the powerplay, Connor McMichael scored his second goal of the tournament:

Czech goalie Lukas Parik was injured on this goal and forced to leave the game. The problem was, Parik was their second string goalie — starting goalie Lukas Dostal was injured earlier in the tournament. So, the already decimated-by-injuries Czechs, down 4-0 in the first period, had to put their third goalie in, Nick Malik.

The first period ended without anymore goals, mercifully for the Czechs.

The Czechs started the second period a lot better. Veleno put the Czechs on the powerplay when he took a slashing penalty, and Vojtech Strondala scored to get the Czechs on the board:

Strondala wasn’t even on the Czech roster until the morning before the game, being named because Jan Jenik (ARI) had been ruled out of the tournament, but he came through for his country.

14 seconds later, the Czechs got another one! Captain Libor Zabransky finished off a great pass from Jan Mysak (2020) to get the Czechs within two:

That momentum didn’t last long. Exactly ten seconds later, Liam Foudy (CBJ) made it 5-2, thanks to a fortuitous bounce:

On the powerplay again, Dylan Cozens scored his first of the tournament and Canada’s fifth powerplay goal to make it 6-2:

And Jared McIsaac finished off the onslaught with the lone goal in the third period:

Nolan Foote

Foote scored again for Canada, and played just 15:08. He also took 5 shots on goal. And while I could talk about the penalty he took in the first period, I’d much rather discuss how Hockey Twitter is in awe of his shot:

Goalin’ Nolan, as the WHL Twitter account likes to call him, will take his ridiculously scary shot with him as Canada heads into the quarter-finals.

Group B Standings & Czech Injuries

Canada cruised to an easy win and finished atop Group B. Behind them are the United States, Russia, and the Czech Republic. Germany will head to relegation. Of all the teams in Group B, the Canadians have the easiest quarter-final matchup, against Slovakia.

Meanwhile, the Czechs have to take on Sweden without their top scorer, potentially both their starting and backup goalie, and a ton of depth players. To add insult to injury (literally), Martin Hugo Has (WSH) blocked a one-time bomb from Jamie Drysdale (2020) at the end of the game that looked like it really hurt him. The Czechs can’t take anymore injuries, and he would be another huge loss if he can’t play on Thursday. Lukas Dostal (ANA), the Czechs’ starting goalie, could potentially be healthy enough to start against Sweden, but that’s still debatable.

There is also a possibility that Sik faces additional discipline from the IIHF for his spear on Byram that cost the Czechs the game. It was an unnecessary, dumb penalty, and it only hurt his team. That could be another player the Czechs won’t have available to them for the quarter-finals. They’re running out of players to put on the ice, at this rate, which puts Sweden at more of an advantage on Thursday.

Quarter-Final Games:

(Games with Bolts prospects bolded)

6:30am ET — Switzerland vs. Russia
9:00am ET — Canada vs. Slovakia
11:30am ET — USA vs. Finland
2:00pm ET — Sweden vs. Czech Republic