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WJC Roundup: Sweden's Win Streak Ends at 54; Germany, Finland Take Wins

After posting a perfect round-robin record since Dec. 31, 2006, Sweden was finally handed a loss in a thriller against Russia. Meanwhile, Germany is off to the quarter-final for the first time in tournament history and Finland has a chance to win Group A on the final day of the preliminary round.

Russia Tops Sweden to End Enormous Record

In what can only be described as one of the most incredible records in sports, Sweden's 54-game winning streak in the preliminary round at the World Junior Championship has finally come to an end at the hands of a 4-3 win by Russia.

Sweden's last preliminary round loss came on Dec. 31, 2006 against the United States, winning every game after in the process. More importantly, though, Sweden has won gold just once in that span, which makes you wonder if this bit of adversity could be a sense of relief going forward.

The Russians struck first in the game at 7:28 in the first. Arseni Gritsyuk caught two Swedish defenders moving slowly behind the net before tapping the puck over to Mikhail Abramov. Abramov then found Yegor Afanasiev standing all alone to the right of Jesper Wallstedt, with Afansiev re-directing the pass into the net. 

But seven minutes later, the Swedes would answer back after a poor defensive effort by the Russians led to Arvid Costmar grabbing a rebound all alone in front, batting it past Yaroslav Askarov to make it 1-1. But the Russians would regain the lead in the final minute of the first, with Rodion Amirov scoring all alone in front after Vasili Podkolzin caught the defenders cheating out, setting up Amirov in the slot.

After numerous scoring chances throughout the second, Alexander Holtz would tie the game just before the end of the stanza. Holtz hit the post twice and was stopped by Askarov a few times in close, but Holtz would retrieve the puck behind the goal line on a rebound and banked it off of Askarov's head and in to make it 2-2.

When Kirill Kirsanov scored a power-play goal with just over 10 minutes to go in the third, the Swedes sat back. They struggled to find any luck until the final minute of play when Noel Gunler tipped in Holtz's shot from near the point, forcing 3-on-3 overtime in an attempt to keep the streak awake. But with 5.6 seconds in the extra frame, Marat Khusnutdinov picked up a rebound in front and slid it past Wallstedt, giving Russia the victory - and, for the history books, an important win in the tournament's legacy.

With the win, Russia takes first place in Group A, but if Sweden or the United States win on Thursday in regulation, the winner of that game will take the top spot. If it goes to overtime, Russia will hold the top spot and play Slovakia in the quarter-finals.

Tim Stutzle Downs Switzerland to Help Germany Earn QF Berth

For the first time in tournament history - and in a year where their participation was compromised in the days leading up to the team's first game against Finland - Germany has managed to earn a birth in the quarter-final with a 4-0 victory over Switzerland.

The win was a big moment for Germany, who were forced to play their first three games with just 14 skaters. Thursday was the first time the group got to play together in a competitive setting, and the fresh, inspired team wanted to prove they were better than the 16-2 result against Canada suggested.

The Germans were slow to the punch, but the team's first real scoring chance resulted in a 1-0 lead. At 4:38, Tim Stutzle was stopped, but John Peterka found the loose puck behind the net. Peterka skated around the crease and jammed the puck past Thibault Fatton's right foot to score on the wraparound, giving Germany the 1-0 lead. 

But Stutzle wasn't done. At 9:08, the Ottawa Senators prospect pulled off a spin deke around a Swiss defender and skated in all alone, beating Fatton blocker side with a deke to make it 2-0 - a tough lead for Switzerland to overcome given their one previous goal at this tournament. Stutzle would grab his third point of the game when he set Peterka up once more for a one-timer, making it 3-0 just before the end of the first. Stutzle scored his second of the game in the middle stanza to cap off an incredibly dominant 40 minutes of play for one of the top prospects in the game.

When the Swiss looked down and out, a ray of sunshine appeared. At 49:59, Noah Delemont's shot made it through traffic and squeaked through Florian Bugl's legs and in to give the Swiss their first goal since the second game of the tournament against Finland. A minute later, Ronny Daehler contributed one more goal after stealing the puck outside of the slot uncontested, cutting the German lead in half.

Peterka would score one more that looked to put an end to the game, but the Swiss weren't letting Germany leave that easily. With under two minutes to go, Noah Meier scored just seconds after starting a 5-minute power play after Justin Volek cross-checked him in the face. Then, a minute later, Simon Knak gave Germany a real scare by getting one in close, cutting the lead to just one with 24 seconds to go. The Swiss couldn't capitalize on their next two shots, however, handing the Germans the win after a wild 10 minutes to finish the final stanza. 

With the loss, Switzerland will turn its focus to the 2022 tournament when 13 players will be eligible to return, including Dario Allenspach, the team's top scorer, and 2021 draft prospects Noah Meier and Attilio Biasca.

Finland Shuts out Slovaks

Finland will have a chance to win Group A on Thursday after beating Slovakia 5-0 on Wednesday to kick off Day 5.

The Anton Lundell show was in full effect this afternoon. At 8:57, Lundell opened the scoring when receiving Kasper Simontaival's pass at the doorstep to beat Samuel Hlavaj and make it 1-0. Six minutes into the second, Topi Niemela scored on a delayed penalty call after Lundell fed him near the net, doubling the lead. Lundell's offense continued shortly after when he repaid the favor to Simontaival, setting him up for a 3-0 goal that put the contest out of reach.

Defenseman Santeri Hatakka and Samuel Helenius added goals early in the third, but by then, the Slovaks were struggling to simply keep up. Helenius grabbed a second marker to finish off the 6-0 win, forcing Hlavaj to face 50 shots in a one-sided effort. 

Finland will now play Canada to decide the winner of Group A, marking what should be the biggest game of the preliminary round in the group. Slovakia will advance to the quarter-final, but will play the winner of Group B as the lowest seed once the medal round begins on Jan. 2.

Three Stars

1. Tim Stutzle, C (GER): Gee, another big game from the top German prospect. Who would have guessed? This time, a two-point first period eventually turned into a five-point night. 

2. Anton Lundell, C (FIN): Yet another dominant performance for Lundell, who has scored Finland's opening goal in all three games to date. A three-point effort was well-deserved.

3. John Peterka, LW (GER): Stutzle may get more of the attention for his ability to set goals up and score them himself, but Peterka's hat-trick goal on the empty net ended up being the difference-maker. Can't complain with five points.

Group A Standings

1. Canada, 9P (3-0-0-0)

2. Finland, 9P (3-0-0-0)

3. Germany, 5P (1-1-0-2)

4. Slovakia, 3P (1-0-0-3)

5. Switzerland 0P (0-0-0-4)

Group B Standings

1. Russia, 8P (2-1-0-1)

2. Sweden, 7P (2-0-1-0)

3. USA, 6P (2-0-0-1)

4. Czech Republic, 3P (1-0-0-1)

5. Austria, 0P (0-0-0-3)



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