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2020 World Juniors Recap Day 7: Hugo Alnefelt delivers shutout for Sweden, Nolan Foote ejected

Sorry, Maxim Cajkovic.

PHOTO: ANDREA CARDIN / HHOF-IIHF IMAGES

Quarterfinals Day at the 2020 World Juniors pretty much went according to plan, except for one game. Russia powered their way past Switzerland, Canada defeated Slovakia, and Sweden shutout the Czech Republic to all advance to the semi-finals. The one surprising result was Finland’s close win over the United States.

Yesterday wasn’t without its controversies, and I’ll get into all of the biggest issues below. As far as Tampa Bay Lightning prospects go, Nolan Foote and Hugo Alnefelt are both heading to the semis (both went viral on Twitter for different reasons), but Maxim Cajkovic is going home.

Relegation Round: Germany 4, Kazakhstan 0

No big surprises here. It was a fairly even-matched first period, but Germany found another gear in the second period, outshooting Kazakhstan 19-3, and rode that momentum to a big win.

Lukas Reichel got Germany on the board and Louis Brune scored the 2-0 goal:

JJ Peterka added to the goal count in the third period:

And Dominik Bokk finished off the scoring with the 4-0 goal:

The best-of-three series will continue on Saturday, where Germany will have a chance to sweep the series and relegate Kazakhstan to Division 1A.

Game One: Russia 3, Switzerland 1

SOG: RUS — 36, SUI — 15
PP: RUS — 2/7, SUI — 0/5
POG: RUS — Yaroslav Askarov (2020), SUI — Luca Hollenstein
SUI’s Players of Tournament: Valentin Nussbaumer (ARI), Tim Berni (CBJ), Janis Jerome Moser

All things considered, I thought Switzerland got off to a pretty solid start in the first period. Yes, they were outshot by a wide margin (shots were 10-3 in favour of Russia after one period), but they were pretty clean and tight defensively.

That mindset got away from them in the second period, as Russia continued to press. After a sloppy change put the Swiss on the penalty kill because of too-many men on the ice, Dmitry Voronkov (CBJ) scored to make it 1-0:

Some uncertain and sloppy defensive play by Russia saw Gaetan Jobin jump on a loose puck off the faceoff and tie the game at 1:

Alexander Khovanov (MIN) gave Russia the lead:

And with Russia once again on the power play, Voronkov scored his second of the game to put the game out of reach for Switzerland.

Russia basically dominated all game and didn’t afford Switzerland too many scoring chances, other than the blunder on the 1-1 goal. The reseeding of the teams after the quarter-final stage (new to the tournament this year) means their semi-final opponent is Sweden.

Game Two: Canada 6, Slovakia 1

SOG: CAN — 44, SVK — 18
PP: CAN — 2/6, SVK — 0/3
POG: CAN — Barrett Hayton (ARI), SVK — Boris Cesanek
SVK’s Players of the Tournament: Martin Fasko-Rudas, Robert Dzugan, Marko Stacha

Things got controversial less than one minute into the game, as Tampa Bay’s Nolan Foote was ejected for this hit on Slovakia’s Kristian Kovacik.

Let me get to the goals, and then I’ll talk about the Foote ejection some more.

Canada would kill off the entire 5 minute major assessed to Foote and then turn on their own jets. Barrett Hayton (ARI) opened the scoring:

Canada blew the game open in the second period. Connor McMichael (WSH) made it 2-0 with his third goal of the tournament:

Jacob Bernard-Docker (OTT) gave Canada a 3-0 lead:

Speedy Liam Foudy (CBJ) made it 4-0:

Still in the second, Alexis Lafreniere, who returned after missing two games with an injury, cashed in on the power play:

Barrett Hayton extended Canada’s lead in the third period:

Oliver Okuliar got Slovakia on the board, but it was a little too late:

Canada won the game and will advance to the semi-finals. Slovakia will head home empty-handed, having finished seventh or eighth place at the last four World Juniors.

Maxim Cajkovic

Cajkovic was really good to start this game, especially on the five minute power play. He had several opportunities to get his team on the board, but it just seemed as though the puck refused to bounce his way.

Cajkovic will head back to Saint John to play out the remainder of his season.

Foote Ejection

Let me get thing out of the way first: the referees botched this call.

At the same time, though, it doesn’t matter whether the Slovak player was low and crouched over, or that Foote didn’t make contact with his head. The IIHf referees are going to make that call every time. They’d rather get it wrong than not call it at all, and they are especially strict with any hits that look high or do come up high.

Kovacik put himself in a terrible position when he decided to bend over to push the puck away from Foote. But Foote skated right by the loose puck, deciding to lay the hit instead. A penalty should have been called — a two minute minor for interference at most though, not a five minute major for a check to the head and a game misconduct.

The referees don’t have the opportunity to review major penalty calls — if they did, I’m sure they wouldn’t have come down as hard as they did on Foote. The good news is, because the referees were so harsh on Foote’s punishment, there’s little to no chance that he faces additional supplemental discipline from the IIHF — though they will review the hit.

The IIHF announced late Thursday night (Czech Republic time) that Foote wouldn’t face any further discipline, so we’ll see Foote back against Finland.

Game Three: Finland 1, United States 0

SOG: FIN — 29, USA — 30
PP: FIN — 1/4, USA — 0/2
POG: FIN — Joonas Oden, USA — Spencer Knight (FLA)
USA’s Players of the Tournament: Trevor Zegras (ANA), Shane Pinto (OTT), Spencer Knight (FLA)

Whoa. That wasn’t a result anyone was expecting (even for some Finnish fans I saw online). But Justus Annunen (COL) was perfect in goal for Finland, and they definitely shocked the United States in this game.

Here was the lone goal, scored by Joonas Oden in the third period:

What Went Wrong for USA?

The United States were my pick to win gold — but I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. What I didn’t expect them to do was to continually bite their own behinds. They rode their power play for offense, but that’s the only place it came from. USA was also incredibly undisciplined and and played poorly in their own end. Their penalty kill got obliterated by Canada and Germany.

If you thought Canada was coached badly last year, well, USA suffered the same fate this year. More talented, offensively gifted players were sheltered and dropped down to bottom-six roles in the lineup. US coach Scott Sandelin only stacked the offense in the dying minutes of games, or near the end of the tournament, but for the most part, players like Trevor Zegras, Cole Caufield and Alex Turcotte were severely under-utilized.

The good news is that a lot of players are eligible to return next year, including both goalies Spencer Knight and Dustin Wolf. There is a chance Caufield turns pro at the end of the season and won’t be made available, but USA could still have as many as 10 returning players.

Finland’s Back-to-Back Bid Lives

Justus Annunen was perfect in this game, and he wasn’t necessarily tested that often, but he stopped everything he faced. The goalie who struggled against Switzerland in the final round robin game rebounded for his best game of the tournament. And when Annunen is on his game, he is nearly impossible to beat.

For the second straight year, Finland bests the United States by one goal, and this year’s Finns keep their bid for back-to-back gold medals alive. They’ll head into the semi-finals and will be a formidable opponent, especially with Annunen in net. If he can shut the door for the next two games, there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that they can win gold.

Game Four: Sweden 5, Czech Republic 0

SOG: SWE — 37, CZE — 23
PP: SWE — 2/6, CZE — 0/1
POG: SWE — Hugo Alnefelt (TB), CZE — Jaromir Pytlik (2020)
CZE’s Players of the Tournament: Simon Kubicek (2020), Libor Zabransky, Michal Teply (CHI)

It was an emphatic shutout win for Tampa Bay’s Hugo Alnefelt as Sweden beat the host Czechs 5-0 in the last quarterfinal of the day.

Nils Hoglander (VAN) made it 1-0:

Then, a bad giveaway by Czech goalie Lukas Dostal (ANA) while they were on the power play saw Hugo Gustafsson score this goal shorthanded:

Hoglander scored his second goal of the game within the first minute of the second period:

Alnefelt made some terrific saves in this game, but we’ll get to him afterwards. Jonatan Berggren (DET) was taken down on a breakaway, which led to this penalty shot taken by Victor Soderstrom (ARI):

And to wrap up the goals, David Gustafsson (WPG) made it 5-0:

Hugo Alnefelt

The last Bolts prospect to play on quarter-final Thursday had the largest impact. Alnefelt made 23 saves for the shutout win and was the first Bolt to get Player of the Game honors. He was fantastic when he did get tested, especially on this save in the second period:

How Alnefelt was able to make that save, I have no idea. He displayed Andrei Vasilevskiy-like instincts on that save.

Here was his other great save in the game, a glove stop on Pytlik:

And another breakaway save on Teply:

At this rate, Alnefelt’s going to play himself into the Top Goalie conversation (though I still think Colorado’s Annunen has the edge at the moment). But if Sweden wins gold, Alnefelt will be a big reason why.

Semi-Final Games:

(all times ET, games with Bolts prospects in bold)

9:00am — Sweden vs. Russia
1:00pm — Canada vs. Finland

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