Saturday's World Junior Championship action had everything from highlight reel goals to dominant performances.
The Americans took down Austria in an overmatched opener to kick of the day. The Canadians were dominant against the Czech squad despite a score that could’ve been much worse. The Germans held on to their lead against Switzerland for an all-important win that clinched a quarterfinals berth.
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: W Kent Johnson, Canada
Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Kent Johnson led the Canadian offensive onslaught against Czechia. Johnson had nine shots against the Czech U-20 squad and collected a late assist on Tyson Foerster’s bomb of a one-timer from the slot. The most impressive highlight of the night, though, was when scored the most impressive goal of the tournament by pulling off “the Michigan”. Johnson has shown off his flashy hands and silky passing ability a number of times throughout the World Junior Championship but he truly led the way for Canada in this one.
The impressive part of the goal that Johnson scored wasn’t that he scored the lacrosse-style goal, but he did it on a whim without much time to dust the puck off behind the net. Logan Stankoven had just been battling for the puck below the goal line, and when it popped free, Johnson collected it and put it where grandma keeps the cookies.
Johnson had so many chances in this game, that one was bound to find the back of the net and with the young Canadian’s video game-like skill level, it makes sense that “the Michigan” is how it happened.
Just for good measure, it also wound up being the game-winning goal.
Second Star: D Wyatt Kaiser, USA
The Americans handled the Austrians about as easily as expected. It all started with a dominant first period in which Wyatt Kaiser scored twice, matching his goal total from his first two years with Minnesota-Duluth in the NCAA. Kaiser has always had the raw tools to impact the game offensively a bit more but uses his agility and edge work in his own end to escape pressure and then funnel pucks up to his forwards. Against Austria, Kaiser used his mobility to affect both ends of the ice. Making several impressive defensive plays, thwarting a 2-on-1 late in the first to prevent a shot on goal as well as establishing body position on a puck retrieval and unleashing a wicked reverse hit on an Austrian forechecker later in the game.
His first goal put his ability to walk the offensive blueline on display. Moving laterally along the line while skating backward with the puck in position to shoot, Kaiser found a shooting lane and whipped the puck through traffic to put the Americans on the board for what would eventually be the game-winning goal. His second of the night came on a more innocent shot as he got a cross-ice pass, moved into the top of the faceoff circle, and let go of a floating wrister that found its way into the net. What a day for the defender.
Third Star: G Tomas Suchanek, Czechia
The Czech netminder may have lost the game but he was stellar, making 52 saves on 57 shots against a dominant Canadian U-20 squad. His ability to move laterally and keep track of the puck against the Canadians was impressive. He rarely lost his posts and showed incredible athleticism on several sprawling saves.
Suchanek was under siege throughout the game, but his 21 saves through the first 20 minutes were solid, with the two goals he allowed being rather unstoppable.