USA CLAIMS SECOND SPOT IN GROUP B
In order to lock down second spot in Group B — and with it the second-easiest path out of the group and into the semi-final — all USA had to do was take care of business against Finland on the final day of round robin action at the 2019 World Junior Action. And on New Year’s Eve, that’s exactly what USA did.
In the first frame, USA got an early edge when Jason Robertson found the back of the net with nine seconds remaining in the period, and the American side proceeded to pull away in the second. Only 1:40 into the middle frame, Tyler Madden put one past Finland’s Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, followed not long after by a Ryan Poehling tally that put USA out to a commanding 3-0 lead. From there, an early third-period goal from Madden, his second of the game, would give USA all the insurance they would need. The four-goal lead would be chipped away slightly when Jesse Ylonen managed to beat Cayden Primeau late in the third, but it would be the only hiccup in an otherwise excellent performance for USA. Primeau stopped all but one of the 28 shots he faced as USA skated to a 4-1 victory and claimed first place in Group B.
With the victory, USA set a date against Czech Republic in quarter-final action, while Finland’s loss set them up for a quarter-final meeting with Canada.
RUSSIA DROPS CANADA TO WIN GROUP A
The showdown between Group A’s top two teams was an evenly matched duel that offered a glance at a potential gold-medal game at the 2019 WJC, and when it came down to one team finding the edge, it was Russia’s Pavel Shen that scored when it mattered to hoist his side to victory.
In a contest in which Canada and Russia traded opportunities throughout the night — the game ended with a 31-31 shot total — Cody Glass and Grigori Denisenko traded early first period tallies before netminders Michael DiPietro and Pyotr Kochetkov slammed the door shut for nearly the final 55 minutes of action. With it appearing the two teams were bound for an extra frame, though, DiPietro was the first to blink when Shen’s mid-third period drive by the Canadian defense was capped by a tucked-in tally that put Russia ahead with nine minutes remaining. Canada would push, out-shooting Russia 13-8 through the final frame, but they were unable to find twine behind Kochetkov and net the equalizer en route to a 2-1 defeat and second place in Group A.
The win sent Russia into top spot and a knockout stage meeting with Slovakia, who were Group B fodder during the round robin. Canada faces a much tougher test in the Finns in the quarter-final.
SWEDEN COASTS BY KAZAKHSTAN
It was one of those games that was over before it began. On one side, a Swedish side that hasn’t lost a round robin game since before most of their players knew how to shave. On the other, Kazakhstan, which has been lucky to hang around in a few games and was bound for relegation. And the contest, as one might expect, followed the script. In the opening frame, Emil Bemstrom, Rasmus Sandin and Nils Lundkvist tallied to put Sweden ahead 3-0, and after trading third-period markers by Sandin and Batyrlan Muratov, the Kazakhs fell 4-1 to the powerhouse Swedes and skated into the relegation round. Sweden, meanwhile, will face the pesky Swiss in quarter-final action in what is sure to be a tougher test than most would have expected entering the tournament.
CZECHS SKATE BY SCORELESS DANES
It’s hard not to feel bad for Denmark, who entered the tournament with little hope of coming out as a medalist but couldn’t have expected for things to go this awry at the 2019 WJC. After a tournament-opening 14-0 defeat by Canada, a subsequent 4-0 loss to Russia and another 4-0 defeat at the hands of Switzerland, Denmark entered the final game of round robin action with two goals: win a game and, more importantly, score a goal. Unfortunately, neither happened.
In their closing game of Group A action, Denmark was handled tidily by the Czechs, who scored twice in the first frame, once in the second and once in the third in an outing that they outshot the Danes 34-20. The loss sent the scoreless Denmark side into the relegation round against Kazakhstan, while the Czech Republic moves on to a meeting with USA in knockout action.
1. Pyotr Kochetkov (RUS): Stopped 30 of 31 in clutch win over Canada.
2. Tyler Madden (USA): Two crucial goals in defeat of Finland.
3. Pavel Shen (RUS): Game-winning goal in Group A-deciding victory against Canada.
Pavel Shen drives around the Canadian defense for the winner:
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) January 1, 2019
Wednesday — Jan. 2, 2019
Kazakhstan vs. Denmark, 2 p.m.
Sweden vs. Switzerland, 4 p.m.
Canada vs. Finland, 6:30 p.m.
USA vs. Czech Republic, 8 p.m.
Russia vs. Slovakia, 10:30 p.m.
Friday — Jan. 4, 2019
Kazakhstan vs. Denmark, 12 p.m.
Russia/Slovakia vs. USA/Czech Republic
Sweden/Switzerland vs. Canada/Finland
Saturday — Jan. 5, 2019
Kazakhstan vs. Denmark, 12 p.m.
Bronze-Medal Game, 4 p.m.
Gold-Medal Game, 8 p.m.
All times Eastern.