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WJC Roundup: Quarter-final Matchups Set as Canada, Russia, Finland, USA Advance

An early Swedish lead wouldn't last as Finland pulled off a late-game comeback to win a thriller. Plus, heavyweights Canada, USA and Russia pull off victories to make up the semifinal four.

Sweden Gives Up Late Lead, Finns Move On

For the first time since 2004, Sweden has lost three games in a row at the World Junior Championship - but it came at the expense of an early tournament exit as the Swedes blew a 2-0 lead to their rivals from Finland to lose 3-2, advancing the Finns to the semifinal.

The loss comes just days after Sweden saw its 54-game round-robin win streak end dating back to the 2008 tournament. The Swedes have won just two medals over the past seven years despite their preliminary round success, while the Finns - often undervalued in these tournaments - could win gold for the fourth time since 2014.

The scoring was started by Sweden's Lucas Raymond, the fourth overall pick at the 2020 NHL draft by the Detroit Red Wings. At 14:28, Raymond appeared ready to set up a teammate for a pass on a rush, but he instead faked a feed and instead made a quick move before sending it over Kari Piiroinen's blocker, giving Sweden a 1-0 advantage.

Two minutes later, 6-foot-8 forward Elmer Soderblom scored a power-play goal by putting the puck between the legs for the second time in the tournament, doubling Sweden's advantage.

The Finns had a much better second period, with Henrik Nikkanen sending a quick wrister past Hugo Alnefelt at 25:32 to put the Finns on the board. On the next play, Aku Raty scored for the Finns while standing alone in front, but the goal was reviewed and taken away because Finnish defender Ville Heinola brought the puck out of the zone briefly trying to get around a Swedish player on the rush down the ice.

But were the Finns done? Not even close. Finland outshot Sweden 27-12 over the final two periods, but they wouldn't score again until there was just nine minutes to go in the game. On the power play, Finnish captain Anton Lundell took Ville Heinola and beat Alnefelt for the 2-2 goal.

But when the clock hit the final 30 seconds of play, with everyone expecting overtime, Roni Hirvonen grabbed the puck behind the Swedish net and beat Alnefelt's sprawling effort on the left post to score the 3-2 goal and give Finland the shocking comeback victory.

Canada Shuts Out Czechs to Advance

Team Canada has still yet to trail at the 2021 World Junior Championship and a 3-0 victory against the Czech Republic didn't do a thing to change that.

Canada will meetup with Russia in a rematch of the 2020 gold medal game, with the winner on Monday earning a berth in the championship against either Finland or USA.

Devon Levi was the star of Saturday's game with a 29-save shutout, including 11 saves in the third period - but seven of them came in the final eight minutes of play. Malik made 22 saves for the Czechs but his team couldn't find a way to put a puck in the other net.

The game was fairly even in the first period, and the Czech Republic even led the shot advantage 12-8 despite being down by two goals. But scoring is what really matters, and at 8:22, No. 22, Dylan Cozens, opened the scoring after his shot trickled through Nick Malik's legs and over the goal line to make it 1-0. Two minutes later, defenseman Bowen Byram's shot hit Malik's arm and directed in, marking the first time the Czechs have trailed in the first period at any point at the tournament.

Connor McMichael scored the lone third period goal, an empty-netter, to finish off the contest.

USA's Shutout Streak Ends But Still Defeats Slovakia

Ever since the Americans gave up a late third period goal against the Russians, USA's goaltenders Spencer Knight and Dustin Wolf combined for 218:53 of shutout hockey, the longest in tournament history. 

That ended late in the second period against Slovakia, but that was the only goal that beat Knight on Saturday as the Americans held on for a 5-2 victory to move on to the next round.

Arthur Kaliyev got the Americans on the board first at 10:44 with a power-play goal, taking a Matt Boldy feed all alone in front to send a quick shot in and take the 1-0 lead. The score remained the same for another 21 minutes of action until John Farinacci tipped in a point shot from Ryan Johnson, doubling USA's lead against a team that has struggled to score in the tournament. 

Speaking of struggling to score, Cole Caufield, a noted NCAA goal-scorer tabbed as Montreal's next star winger, had just one goal and three points heading into USA's fifth game of the tournament. You can see his excitement when Caufield finally grabbed his second of the tournament on a bar-down shot on the two-man advantage at 36:53, only to have Slovakia answer back two minutes later off of Matej Kaslik's blast.

Slovakian netminder Simon Latkoczy made a habit of making some big saves in this tournament and that wasn't any different on Saturday. Every time he made a big save, it seemed like the Slovaks found a bit of energy and would attempt to use it to his advantage. 

That's what happened in the third when he made a couple of big stops in the first few minutes, only for the Slovaks to show a bit of strength at the other end. At 49:50, it paid off as Samuel Knazko's shot from the point was tipped by Dominik Sojka in front of the net. The goal gave Slovakia some new life, but Farinacci added one more and Matt Beniers scored an empty-netter to finish off the 5-2 victory - a game that was closer than the score would suggest.

German Fell-Good Story Ends With Russian Victory

After turning a rough start into a memorable second half of the tournament, Germany was the first team sent home from the World Junior Championship after dropping a 2-1 loss to Russia to kick off the quarter-finals.

Russia's goal-scoring began at 9:06 when Carolina Hurricanes prospect Vasili Ponomaryov intercepted the puck at his team's blueline while shorthanded. From there, Ponomaryov skated down the ice uncontested and beat Florian Bugl with a quick deke blocker side to make it 1-0.

The Germans did a good job of limiting Russia's high-danger scoring chances, but the Russians still found a bit of success in the second. At 28:27, Danil Bashkirov scored his first of the tournament after taking Yegor Afanasiev's pass in the slot, doubling Russia's advantage with just over half the game to go.

Germany wouldn't back down quietly, though. At 43:24, Florian Elias had the puck stripped off of him but he grabbed it back just outside the high slot. Elias then unleashed a quick wrist shot past Yaroslav Askarov's glove and in, cutting Russia's advantage in half. The Germans would get a late power-play chance but less than a minute in, John Peterka would take a penalty for Germany, ending the advantage and the momentum needed to try and tie the game up at two. 

Three Stars:

1. Simon Latkoczy, G (SVK): Latkoczy didn't grab the win, but he couldn't do everything himself. An outstanding performance for a goaltender who gave it his all in every start.

2. John Farinacci, C (USA): Scored USA's second goal and eventually scored the one that put things away with five minutes to go. Even off the scoresheet, it was a fantastic effort for him.

3. Devon Levi, G (CAN): A 29-save shutout helps further his case as the tournament's top goaltender with two games to go.

Semifinal schedule:

Canada vs. Russia - 6:00 PM ET

USA vs. Finland - 9:30 PM ET



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