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World Junior Championship notebook: Preliminary round ends strong for Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, Russia

The quarterfinal matchups are set after the final day of preliminary round action, with a trio of powerhouses grabbing wins on Tuesday. Plus, Switzerland pulled off an upset over the defending champions.

Canada downs Czech Republic on strength of big first period, wins Group B
A record-setting first period for Canada put the game far out of reach, with the Canadians finishing first in Group B thanks to a 6-2 win over the Czech Republic.

It all started when Okatar Sik took a high-sticking penalty at 4:14, with Joe Veleno scoring abound 30 seconds after Barrett Hayton found him all alone. With just two seconds remaining on the next man advantage, Nolan Foote did what he does best by unleashing a hard wrist shot over Lukas Parik to make it 2-0.

But a game misconduct to Sik for slashing Bowen Byram allowed Canada to have a five-minute power play, where Barrett Hayton and Connor McMichael combined to make it 4-0. Things got worse when Lukas Parik – filling in for an injured Lukas Dostal – was injured himself on the fourth goal, leading to 2020 draft prospect Nick Malik to take over in net.

After a quiet 10 minutes to start the second, the two teams combined for the quickest three goals scored between two different nations with a trio in just 24 seconds. Vojtech Strondala, added to the Czech Republic roster earlier in the day due to an injury to Jan Jenik, scored on the power play, with Libor Zabransky adding another 14 seconds later to make it 4-2. But all the momentum was lost 10 seconds after that when Liam Foudy scored on an empty net after Malik misplayed the puck behind the net. Dylan Cozens scored a minute after that to make it 6-2, a lead the Czech Republic could never regroup from. Jared McIsaac ended the game a late goal from the point.

With Canada winning the group, they are set to face Slovakia in the quarterfinal. The Czech Republic will look to stun the perfect Swedish squad in front of Czech fans, but be forced to attempt to do so with a battered lineup.

Swiss finish preliminary round with win over defending champion Finns
Switzerland finished the round robin with a 3-0-0-1 record after pulling off a surprising 5-2 victory over Finland.

The back-and-forth affair began with Anttoni Honka's first-period goal – a power-play marker – that put the Finns ahead, but the lead changed hands on two occasions in the second. First, it was the Swiss who took over thanks to Fabian Berri's tally just 19 seconds into the middle stanza and a Gaetan Jobin goal that made it 2-1 Switzerland only minutes later. But following plenty of Finnish chances as the period wore on, Joonas Oden sent Lassi Thomson's pass behind Stephane Charlin to knot the game at two. Before the frame was out, however, Berri scored his second of the game, giving Switzerland the lead again. In the third, Simon Knak and Valentin Nussbaumer added late goals to put a bow on the upset win.

Switzerland had one of the best round robins of any club, posting big wins against Slovakia and Finland, and finished second in Group A with nine points, punching their ticket to a quarterfinal battle against Russia. Finland finished third in the group and will meet the United States in a rematch of the 2019 final.

Russia shuts out Germany, avoids relegation scare
It wasn't always pretty, but Russia has avoided the relegation round and secured a spot in the quarterfinals by downing Germany in the final day of round robin play.

Kirill Marchenko, expected to be one of Russia's top scorers after his showing in exhibition action, found the scoresheet for the first time in the tournament when he struck six minutes in, wiring one top shelf past German netminder Hendrik Hane to give Russia a 1-0 lead. Several minutes later, Marchenko's second padded the lead, and Russia was off to the races from there.

In the middle frame, Russia finally scored its first power play goal in 16 attempts, and it was a somewhat comical goal. Grigori Denisenko attempted to give the puck to the Germans on a delayed penalty, but they didn't bite. As a result, the puck eventually made its way back to Denisenko, who blasted the puck over Hane to make it 3-0. Pavel Dorofeyev scored a pair, including Russia's second power-play goal, to make it 5-0 before the end of the period. Dmitri Voronkov added one on Russia's first shot of the third period to cap off Russia's night. Nino Kinder scored the lone goal for Germany in the final few minutes of action.

The win secured third spot in Group B for Russia. Germany will face Kazakhstan in the best-of-three relegation series. The Germans look like favorites after a strong round robin.

Slovakia no match for Sweden
Make it 52 consecutive round robin victories for Sweden, who downed Slovakia 5-2 to close out the preliminary round.

While it was a contest that meant little for Slovakia's knockout stage hopes – they had already locked up a spot in the quarterfinals two days ago – the start of Tuesday's game couldn't have gone much worse. Approaching the midway mark of the first, Sweden struck twice in succession, Alexander Holtz and Albin Eriksson striking 15 seconds apart to propel their club to a 2-0 lead. Before the first was out, too, Philip Broberg made it 3-0 Sweden with a shorthanded marker.

Allowing the three goals in the first made for another tough outing for Slovakian keeper Samuel Hlavaj, who allowed three goals on 11 shots before he was pulled from Monday's game against Switzerland. This time around, he surrendered the three against on 10 shots, but once again he was given little support. Slovakia didn't record a single shot during either stretch of three goals against.

The first was a sign of what was to come. Though Slovakia scored two in the third, the 6-2 final belied the on-ice performances of the two teams. Holtz, Oskar Back and Samuel Fagemo added additional goals for Sweden, while Kristian Kovacik and Robert Dzugan tallied for Slovakia.

Draft Watch
The love for Sweden's Holtz won't be stopping anytime soon. He continued his impressive tournament with two goals in a dominating victory for Sweden and showcased strong two-way play all outing. With five points in the tournament, he's doing everything asked of him.

Three Stars

  1. Kirill Marchenko, Russia (2G, 3A, 5P) – One of the best performances of the tournament. Nice to get on the scoresheet after struggling in the past three games.
  2. Barrett Hayton, Canada (1G, 3A, 4P) – Hayton led Canada's dominant power play to an incredible first period run.
  3. Fabian Berri, Switzerland (2G, 0A, 2P) – The biggest game of his U-20 career helps Finland to a surprise victory over the 2019 tournament champions.

On Tap

Thursday – Jan. 2, 2019
Germany vs. Kazakhstan, 4 a.m. ET
USA vs. Finland, 6:30 a.m. ET
Canada vs. Slovakia, 9 a.m. ET
Switzerland vs. Russia, 11:30 a.m. ET
Sweden vs. Czech Republic, 2 p.m. ET

Saturday – Jan. 4, 2019
Relegation, Game 2 5 a.m. ET
Semifinal 1, 9 a.m. ET
Semifinal 2, 1 p.m. ET

Sunday – Jan. 5, 2019
Relegation, Game 3 (if needed), 5 a.m. ET
Third-place game, 9 a.m. ET
Championship game, 1 p.m. ET

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