One of hockey’s favorite holiday traditions started a day early this year. The 2021 Under 20 World Juniors kicked off on Christmas day with three games. The day was capped off with a marquee match-up between Russia and the United States as the prime time game. The tournament runs through January 5th and features some of the best young players in the game. Nine out of the top ten picks in last summer’s draft will be appearing (top pick Alexis Lafreniére was held out by the New York Rangers).
The Tampa Bay Lightning only have two of their prospects competing with Hugo Alnefelt (14th in our Top 25 Under 25) going for Sweden and Maxim Groshev (15th in our Top 25 Under 25) for Russia. Both have experience in this tournament as Alenfelt was in net for Sweden last year when they won the bronze medal while Groshev played for the Russian team in 2020.
For an excellent primer on the tournament check out Lauren’s article for Sportnet.
Slovakia 1, Switzerland 0
Slovakian goaltender Simon Latkoczy wasn’t supposed to start the game, but that didn’t seem to phase him as he made 28 saves en route to the shutout. His best save of the night might end up being the best save of the tournament.
Just watch and be amazed.— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) December 25, 2020
Simon Latkoczy, you have our attention. #Slovakia #WorldJuniors pic.twitter.com/BigR3q9V08
Roman Faith scored the game’s only goal at the 14:17 mark in the third period.
Finland 5, Germany 3
Playing any sport in the Covid Era means having to deal with line-up adjustments due to players missing time due to quarantines. Germany has taken that to an extreme as they took the ice with just nine forwards and five defensemen due to having nine players in quarantine.
They battled, trimming what had been a 3-0 Finnish lead to 3-2 midway through the second period, but Finland kept the pressure on and scored two more goals before the end of the frame. They pelted the German net with 51 shots on their way to a 5-3 win.
Ottawa prospect Tim Stützle appears to be fully healed from his wrist injury earlier this year as he had a goal and an assist for Germany.
Hey there Tim Stützle @deb_teams #WorldJuniors @Senators pic.twitter.com/c90DNZnjpl— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) December 26, 2020
Russia 5, United States 3
Not the start the Americans were looking for. After a close first period, the defense and the goaltending of Spencer Knight took twenty minutes off and the Russians scored three times.
The U.S. played a little better in the third and trimmed it to 4-3 with a 6-on-4 power play goal, but couldn’t find the equalizer. Vasiliy Ponomarev led the way for the Russians with two goals while Cameron York, John Farinacci, and Trevor Zegras scored for the United States.
Lightning prospect Maxim Groshev had a strong game and made his way onto the score sheet with an excellent pass to Zakhar Bardakov for Russia’s second goal. Think he might fit in with a team that loves the stretch pass?
Maxim Groshev (TBL) finds Zakhar Bardakov with a gorgeous stretch pass. He makes no mistake. pic.twitter.com/pf46c9B8NN— Kevin Papetti (@KPapetti) December 26, 2020
The knob of a stick denied him a goal later that period.
So close for Maxim Groshev, he has been a ball of fire. pic.twitter.com/rRIKzeDFQA— Dylan Griffing (@Dylan_Griffing) December 26, 2020
Czech Republic vs. Sweden 2:00pm EST NHL Network
Lightning prospects? Yes, Hugo Alnefelt will be between the pipes for Sweden.
The Czechs have experience on the blue line, but their offense is a question mark. Sweden, who were quarantined upon their arrival in Edmonton and didn’t get to play a warm-up game, should be competing for a spot on the podium.
Adam Raska will not be suiting up for the Czech Republic as the forward was suspended for one game by the IIHF for a reckless boarding on Slovakian defenseman Simon Becar when the two teams faced off in their preliminary match.
Canada vs. Germany 6:00pm EST NHL Network
Lightning prospects? Nope.
Canada gets their traditional Boxing Day game against a depleted German squad who will be playing their second game in as many days. Oh and they will still have just 14 skaters on the ice.
Austria vs. United States 9:30pm EST NHL Network
Lightning prospects? Nope.
The U.S. will look to bounce back against a team they should have no trouble beating. The big question for coach Nate Leaman will be if he starts Spencer Knight in goal. The number one goalie, and first round draft pick of the Florida Panthers, had a rough outing against the Russians.