FOX PLAYS HERO AS USA GETS BY FINLAND
Adam Fox (CGY) made his debut at the World Junior Championship last year, putting up four points — all assists — for the gold medal-winning American side. So, entering this year’s competition, Fox was left looking for his first goal at the international showdown. Well, he sure picked the right time to find twine for the first time at the tournament.
In a crucial matchup Sunday night, one that pitted USA against Finland in a game that would decide who finished second in Group A, the Americans got themselves out to a quick 2-0 lead after the first frame thanks to goals from Trent Frederic (BOS) and Casey Mittelstadt (BUF), with Joey Anderson (NJD) striking seven minutes into the second to increase the lead to three. From there, however, the Finns began to make a comeback. First, it was Aapeli Rasanen (EDM) and Eeli Tolvanen (NSH) scoring for Finland, then, after Anderson notched his second to make it 4-2 for the U.S. late in the second, Joona Kopanen (BOS) and Kristian Vesalainen (WPG) beat American netminder Jospeh Woll (TOR) roughly one minute apart to bring the game level.
But with the score deadlocked at four and it looking as though overtime would be needed to determine the seeding, the Americans started a late rush up the ice with Fox streaking down the right wing unchecked. Found tape-to-tape by Mittelstadt, Fox cruised in alone on Finnish netminder Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (BUF) and rifled one five-hole to lift USA to the 5-4 victory.
Fox’s goal was one of three points he registered on the night, adding two power play assists earlier in the evening, and he joined Mittelstadt and Brady Tkachuk as American players to post three-point nights. “It was great to see guys step up and contribute in big ways today,” coach Bob Motzko said post-game, per a release. “We believe our best hockey is still in front of us. There were a lot of highs and lows today, and we’ll focus on what we can do better as we get ready for the quarterfinals on Tuesday.”
As for who the Americans will take on, Sunday’s victory — and subsequent clinching of second spot in Group A — sets up a matchup with Russia in the quarters. As for Finland, the third place finish in the round robin has them in line for a meeting with the Czech Republic.
SWEDEN TAKES GROUP B WITH WIN OVER RUSSIA
It took a shootout to make it happen, but Sweden has kept its undefeated streak in the World Juniors round robin alive. After battling to a 3-3 tie with the Russians through 60 minutes and overtime, the Swedes snuck away with the shootout victory by way of goals by Linus Lindstrom (CGY) and Oskar Steen (BOS), while goaltender Filip Gustavsson (PIT) recovered after allowing an early goal to Vitali Abramov (CBJ) in game-deciding skills competition. The result of the game, however, didn’t matter all that much once regulation was over. By virtue of Russia failing to win by two goals — a scenario they pushed for by pulling their netminder in the final moments of the tied game — and earning a single point in the contest, Sweden claimed top spot in Group B and, as such, the most favorable matchup possible heading into the quarterfinal. On Sunday, the Swedes will square off against the Slovaks. Meanwhile, Russia will go head to head with Team USA, which is coming off back-to-back wins against Canada and Finland.
SLOVAKIA LEAVES DENMARK WINLESS IN ROUND ROBIN
Slovakia was all but assured a place in the quarterfinals heading into a tilt with Denmark, but they made sure to put a stamp on their berth into the elimination round with a sound 5-1 victory on Sunday evening. After each team scored once in the opening frame, Slovakia took over in the second period, with goals from Martin Fehervary, Milos Roman, Samuel Bucek and Adam Liska burying Denmark over the final 40 minutes. The win will pit the Slovaks against the Swedes when the quarterfinals get underway Tuesday.
Unfortunately for the Danes, one year after their best finish in the World Junior Championship, they find themselves in a fight to stay in the top division. The relegation round will see Denmark square off against a Belorussian side that had a much greater goal differential, too. Through four games, Belarus scored 10 goals and surrendered 20 while playing the likes of Sweden, Russia, Czech Republic and Switzerland. The Danes, meanwhile, had two goals and 26 against in a group that included the Canadians, Americans, Finns and Slovaks.
CZECHS DOMINATE SWISS, CLAIM SECOND IN GROUP B
For a second straight game, a goaltending change was the catalyst behind the Czech Republic turning the tide and taking over in a contest. Against Belarus on Saturday, Josef Korenar (SJS) was yanked in favor of Jakub Skarek before the Czechs ripped off five-straight tallies in a 6-5 victory, and Sunday against the Swiss, a switch from Skarek to Korenar sent the Czechs to three-straight tallies en route to a convincing 6-3 victory. The game, however, should have never been in question given the dominance the Czech Republic. Through 40 minutes, the Czechs outshot the Swiss 38-23 and finished the game with a 60-31 edge in shots on goal. Kristian Reichel, Martin Kaut, Daniel Kurovsky, Martin Necas (CAR) and Libor Hajek (TBL) all had two-point games for the Czechs.
The Czechs victory — paired with Russia’s loss to Sweden — sets up a quarterfinal matchup against Finland, while the Swiss are now headed towards a quarterfinal meeting with the Canadians, who finished as the top seed in Group A.
1. Adam Fox (USA): Three points and late winner clinched second spot in Group A for USA.
2. Casey Mittelstadt (USA): Continues to impress. Three big points in win over the Finns.
3. Kristian Reichel (CZE): Two goals in an important win over the Swiss.
— USA Hockey (@usahockey) January 1, 2018
Tuesday, Jan. 2 — Quarterfinal
Czech Republic vs. Finland, 12 p.m. ET
Canada vs. Switzerland, 3:30 p.m. ET
Sweden vs. Slovakia, 6 p.m. ET
USA vs. Russia, 8 p.m. ET