We've got just one day of preliminary round play to go, folks.
Finland dominated Slovakia in an easy-going 9-3 win which put Slovakia on the hot seat. Relying on Czechia to beat Latvia to stay alive, the Slovaks lost control of their own destiny.
In the next game, disaster struck for Slovakia. The Latvians secured their first-ever preliminary win at the world juniors and punched their ticket to the quarter-finals for the first time ever. Upsetting the Czech squad with a number of well-regarded NHL prospects, Latvia created one of the best feel-good moments of the championship.
In the final game of the day, first place in Group B was on the line as the Americans and Sweden went head to head in what was a dramatic finish resulting in a 3-2 USA victory to take the group.
Check out Steven Ellis's report from Rogers Place if you need a full recap. There were plenty of impressive performances throughout the day, but these three stood out among the rest:
First Star: D Ralfs Bergmanis, Latvia
They don’t ask how, they ask how many and Ralfs Bergmanis had a hat trick en route to securing Latvia’s historic win at the World Junior Championship. The Latvian captain scored what wound up being the game-winner on a bit of a scramble play as the puck was failed to be cleared and the Latvian defender feathered a shot through traffic to beat Czech netminder Jan Bednar. His second came on the power play, faking a one-time shot before skating forward into space and firing a puck into the back of the net for the insurance marker.
His final goal was an empty netter but it was an impressive full length of the ice empty netter. Defending the lead late, Bergamnis collected a loose puck from below the goal line in his own end and fired a shot the length of the ice to secure the win. It wasn’t just that Bergamis had the hat trick, it was the timing of the goals, the gravity of the game, and the way that he led the Latvians to their first victory. What a moment for Latvian hockey.
Second Star: W Kasper Simontaival, Finland
There were a number of Finns who could have received this honor in yet another impressive performance for the U20 squad, but Kasper Simontaival’s excellence stood out above the pack. He scored the game’s opening goal 35 seconds in on a great play where captain Roni Hirvonen attacked on the forecheck to turn the puck over and then found Simontaival streaking to the net, who took the pass and put it effortlessly over the netminder’s shoulder.
His assist likely should have been a goal as he put the puck towards the awning cage and it went off Hirvonen’s stick in the crease. It didn’t matter though as Simontaival nabbed that second goal later in the game on the power play. He ultimately finished with three points in a huge outing for the Finnish forward. The big prize was grabbing the win, setting the Finns up for a pivotal matchup against Canada for top spot in Group A.
Third Star: Logan Cooley, USA
After calling the Swedes out in the pre-game for not wanting to get to the hard areas, Cooley helped the Americans secure the big win and the top spot in group B. The Swedes weren’t too happy with his remarks but Cooley backed it up by having himself a big game on top of the victory. Collecting two assists on the night, including setting up the eventual game-winner on an impressive defensive takeaway, showing his ability to turn defense into offense.
Cooley’s first assist came in the second period as the Americans controlled the puck on the cycle with Cooley working the cycle along the wall before spinning and firing the puck towards the net, creating a rebound for Matthew Coronato to jam in at the side of the net. The second assist was an outstanding job of pressuring the Swedish squad on their breakout, knocking a pass down, and then finding his teammates streaking into the zone after him. Cooley’s quick thinking and anticipation led to the game’s winning goal. If you’re going to talk the talk, you better walk the walk. Cooley did just that.