CANADA REMAINS UNDEFEATED WITH WIN OVER CZECHS
For the second consecutive game, there was a moment — albeit far more brief than the one against the pesky Swiss — where it appeared Canada was in for a challenge in Group A action. After Canada went ahead early on the strength of a Maxime Comtois goal six minutes into the first, the Czechs almost immediately drew level. It took just 37 seconds for Ondrej Machala to strike back. But any hope this contest had of being as close as Thursday’s tilt was gone by the time the first period was through.
In the wake of Machala’s tally, Canada poured it on and broke through when Brett Leason scored midway through the first. Minutes later, it was under-ager and projected top pick in the 2020 draft, Alexis Lafreniere, who extended the Canadian lead. From there, Canada would only widen the gap between themselves and the Czechs. A second period goal from MacKenzie Entwistle pushed the lead to three, and before the third period was out, Morgan Frost put Canada ahead 5-1, which would stand as the final score.
With the victory — and assuming the Russians can get by the Swiss on Sunday — the stage is set for the New Years’ Eve clash between Canada and Russia to be what decides top spot in Group A. An idle Canadian squad will enter the tilt with nine points and an undefeated record. Russia will attempt to achieve the same with a win over the Swiss.
USA COMEBACK FALLS SHORT AGAINST SWEDEN
In the first period, it was close. Through the second, the contest appeared to be slipping away from USA. And when Sweden’s Erik Brannstrom scored less than three minutes into the third to put his side ahead 4-0, the tilt between Group B’s top teams appeared to be all but over. And then it wasn’t.
With little more than 11 minutes remaining in the third frame, USA finally struck in Saturday’s all-important contest, one that was and is likely to decide top spot in the group, when Mikey Anderson found twine. Nearly five minutes later, Ryan Poehling drew USA within two. And while Poehling would score again with 37 second remaining, it appeared to be too little too late. Of course, that was before Poehling pulled a rabbit out of his hat, forced Sweden into a defensive zone turnover with less than 30 seconds remaining and picked a corner for his second goal in 13 seconds to draw USA level.
With USA carrying all the momentum into the extra frame, though, it was Sweden who wound up finding the winner at the right time. Nearly four minutes into the extra frame, the Swedes made magic on a 2-on-1 with a give-and-go play setting Adam Boqvist up for the OT winner. The victory put Sweden one point clear of USA atop the Group B standings and gives them an important tie-breaker should it come to that.
FINLAND EASES BY SLOVAKIA
The Finns continue to do it by committee. No one Finnish player has blown away the competition at the tournament, and in Saturday’s 5-1 victory over Slovakia, 11 different Finns found the scoresheet. Eeli Tolvanen, Ville Heinola and Henri Jokiharju each registered multi-point outings in a game that Finland took over with four goals in a 20-minute span through the middle of the first frame and into the middle of the second. Milos Roman scored for Slovakia to temporarily stop the bleeding, but Oskari Laaksonen’s third-period tally put an exclamation point on Finland’s victory.
SWITZERLAND BLANKS DENMARK
Philipp Kurashev continues to put himself on the map during the 2019 WJC. After a strong showing against the Canadians on Thursday, the Swiss sniper continued his offensive dominance with a three-goal showing against Denmark and now shares the tournament lead with five goals in three games. The hat trick, which came by way of two in the first and an early third-period tally, marked Kurashev’s second multi-goal game in as many outings. With the win and the Czech loss to Canada, Switzerland moved into third in Group A.
1. Ryan Poehling (USA): Natural hat trick in third period drew USA level in OT loss.
2. Philipp Kurashev (SUI): Swiss scorer continued to light it up with three against Danes.
3. Adam Boqvist (SWE): Overtime winner saved Sweden from blowing third-period lead.
Watch as Ryan Poehling finds twine twice in 13 seconds.
— CJ Fogler (@cjzer0) December 30, 2018
Sunday — Dec. 30, 2018
Switzerland vs. Russia, 8 p.m.
Kazakhstan vs. Slovakia, 10:30 p.m.
Monday — Dec. 31, 2018
Denmark vs. Czech Republic, 4 p.m.
Sweden vs. Kazakhstan, 6:30 p.m.
Russia vs. Canada, 8 p.m.
USA vs. Finland, 10:30 p.m.
Wednesday — Jan. 2, 2019
Knockout stage begins
All times Eastern.