CANADA PICKS APART DENMARK
It was close, and then it wasn’t. For nearly five minutes, the Danes hung with the Canadians on the opening day of the 2019 World Junior Championship, but a Morgan Frost tally 4:52 into the opening frame saw the game break wide open. As the first period wound on, goals by Owen Tippett and a second by Frost put the game at a distance for Denmark, but it was a convincing second stanza that truly showcased the difference between the two sides.
From the drop of the puck in the second period onward, Canadian captain Maxime Comtois and his squad took over. Five times the host nation struck, including a brace by Tippett and a Frost hat trick. In the third, Comtois was showered by chapeaus before slotting home his fourth tally, while Canada earned subsequent goals from MacKenzie Entwistle and a pair from Brett Leason in the third.
By the time the final whistle blew, Canada — led by Comtois’ four goals, Frost’s five points and Micheal DiPietro’s 14 saves — skated to an incredibly convincing 14-0 victory.
THIRD PERIOD STRIKES SAVE USA
If not the tournament favorite, Team USA hit the ice on Boxing Day as one of a handful of teams selected to at least finish atop the podium at the world juniors. But on the opening day of action, victory didn’t come easy to the American side with nearly 46 minutes standing between the Red, White and Blue and their first lead of the tournament.
Matched up against Slovakia on opening night, the U.S. took it to the opposition through the first 40 minutes of Wednesday’s outing, owning the shot chart to the tune of 19-12. Despite the seven-shot lead, though, it was the Slovaks who skated into the second intermission with the edge after Marek Korencik’s perfectly placed shot beat Kyle Keyser. The 1-0 lead lasted a mere four minutes of playing time, however, as Mikey Anderson drew USA level just 70 seconds into the second period and Evan Barratt put home what would stand as the eventual game-winning goal with 4:18 left in the second frame.
Despite markers from Anderson and Barratt, it was Keyser who eventually played hero. The American netminder stoned Andrej Kukuca on a penalty shot with less than seven minutes remaining to seal victory for Team USA.
SWEDES DOWN FINNS IN CLOSE CONTEST
A contest that was expected to be one of the tightest on opening night delivered as the Swedes eked by the Finns thanks to a pair of goals by Erik Brannstrom. The Swedish blueliner’s first of the game came on a seeing-eye shot in the opening frame that beat Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen from distance, while the second came when Sweden’s captain blasted a one-timer past Finland’s netminder on a 5-on-3 in the middle period. Before the game was through, the Finns made it interesting thanks to an Aarne Talvitie marker with 3:34 remaining. It wouldn’t be enough, however, as Sweden skated away with the 2-1 victory.
CZECHS SNEAK BY SWISS
Czech Republic entered the tournament with serious podium potential. Switzerland, not so much. But that didn’t stop the do-it-by-committee Swiss from putting a serious scare into their more powerful opponents in the tournament opener. In fact, it was Switzerland that struck first when Nando Eggenberger tallied nearly eight minutes into the second frame. Unfortunately for the Swiss, the lead wouldn’t stand long. Less than 90 seconds later, the incredibly skilled Czech top trio of Filip Zadina, Martin Necas and Martin Kaut came through for the tying goal, with the latter sneaking one in to draw his side level. The two squads traded chances for the remainder of the outing, but it wasn’t until the extra frame that David Kvasnicka played hero, scoring the overtime winner to give the Czechs a victory in their opener.
Luukkonen’s two stellar saves from the first period against Sweden:
— Steven Ellis (@StevenEllisNHL) December 27, 2018
1. Maxime Comtois (CAN): A four-goal night is rare, even at the WJC. He paced Canada in its opening-night cakewalk.
2. Erik Brannstrom (SWE): Two huge goals, including the eventual game winner, in battle between rivals.
3. David Kvasnicka (CZE): Overtime winner sent Czechs to victory over the Swiss in hard-fought opener.
Thursday — Dec. 27, 2018
Russia vs. Denmark, 4 p.m.
Slovakia vs. Sweden, 6:30 p.m.
Switzerland vs. Canada, 8 p.m.
Finland vs. Kazakhstan, 10:30 p.m.
Friday — Dec. 28, 2018
Czech Republic vs. Russia, 8 p.m.
Kazakhstan vs. USA, 10:30 p.m.
Saturday — Dec. 29, 2018
Denmark vs. Switzerland, 4 p.m.
Finland vs. Slovakia, 6:30 p.m.
Canada vs. Czech Republic, 8 p.m.
Sweden vs. USA, 10:30 p.m.
All times Eastern.