Czechia Tops Slovakia in Tournament Opener
The opening game of the World Junior Championship saw Czechia come from behind to beat their bitter Slovakian rivals 5-4 on Tuesday.
It was the first meeting between the two nations since 2015, when Czechia shut out the Slovaks 2-0. The two teams have met many times in other minor events, but this was the first important meeting between the two nations in quite some time.
Despite what looked like a better start for Czechia, Slovakia instead was the group that managed to get the damage done. At 3:20, Minnesota Wild prospect Servac Petrovsky broke past two Czech defenders and beat Jan Bednar in close for the 1-0 goal. Two minutes later, Matej Kaslik scored while falling down, with his knucklepuck shot just trickling past Bednar's blocker and in for the 2-0 goal.
The second half, however, was all Czechia. Martin Rysavy scored at 22:22 knocked in a backdoor pass from Matous Mensik to make it 2-1. Eleven minutes after that, Michal Gut was credited with knocking in the disk in a scramble, only for Matyas Sapovaliv to make it 3-2 at 37:35.
Jan Mysak gave the Czechs a two-goal advantage at 47:56 after breaking past a Slovakian defender and surprising goaltender Simon Latkoczy with a surprise wrister in close. The Slovaks weren't ready to back out yet, though, and with 6:04 remaining, captain Rayen Petrovicky converted on a pass from 2023 draft prospect Dalibor Dvorsky and beat Bednar with a blast to make it 4-3.
The Slovaks weren't done pushing, and with a two-man advantage, they tied things up. Matej Kaslik scored with just 3:12 left on the board when he pushed the loose puck through a scramble in front to make it 4-4, making every ensuing second more valuable. Unfortunately for the Slovaks, the reverse comeback didn't play out the way they hoped as Gabriel Szturc scored with 1:50 left in the battle, giving Czechia the 5-4 win.
Finland Stomps on Latvia
Finland improved to 5-0 over Latvia all time after taking a 6-1 victory on Tuesday.
The Finns were in control throughout, while Latvia was looking to get their feet under them after getting promoted to the top division following Russia's dismissal from the event.
Joakim Kemell had both Finnish goals in the first, starting at 8:54 when his pass attempt to Aatu Raty hit a defenseman in front and beat Latvian goaltender Bruno Bruveris. A few minutes later, Kemell knocked in a 2-on-1 from a Roni Hirvonen passes, which ultimately became the winning goal.
A pair of power-play goals bookended the second. Brad Lambert's quick wrister made it 3-0 at 21:52, while Hirvonen got a goal of his own at 38:01 to make it 4-0. Klavs Veinbergs wouldn't let his team go down without a fight. At 41:28 on a power play, Veinbergs took Bogdans Hodass' pass and beat Leevi Merilainen for the 4-1 goal to make it 4-1.
It didn't do much to spark a comeback effort for the underpowered Latvians, with Aatu Raty and Kasper Puutio scoring goals in the final five minutes of play to make it 6-1 for Finland.
USA Dominant Against Germany
The United States started their tournament in the most dominant way possible, beating Germany 5-0 in a convincing effort.
The game wasn't close, with USA outshooting Germany 25-4. Luke Hughes opened the scoring on USA 14th shot at 13:39, with Germany not taking its first shot until the 15th minute. Arizona Coyotes prospect Logan Cooley doubled up the advantage, scoring at 18:01 on the man advantage to close out the first period.
Landon Slaggert and Red Savage scored around 30 seconds apart in the second to put the game far out of reach. Both were arguably easily savable shots, with Slaggert's goal coming from the goal line, but Nikita Quapp struggled after a great opening period for the Germans.
The highlight, or the lowlight, depending on who you are, was the 12-minute delay over a potential fifth goal for the Americans. In a scramble in front of the German net, Matthew Knies' stick made contact with Quapp's head. The play wasn't whistled down, and Matthew Coronato scored. No goal was called on the play, but an eight-minute review resulted in the refs reversing it and calling it a good goal. Then, German head coach Tobias Abstreiter called for a coach's challenge, and after a couple of minutes on the second review, the refs reversed their decision and took away the goal.
Chaos, all of it. USA wouldn't have to wait long to get a fifth goal, though, as Riley Duran scored with just a minute left on a shot that Quapp misread. Quapp played a strong third period, giving him over 50 shots faced in his first game of the tournament.
USA goaltender Kaidan Mbereko looked ready to complete a shutout in his first career start, but Alexander Blank had other plants. Blank pulled off a toe drag on Wyatt Kaiser and beat Mbereko with a wrister, getting Germany on the board. Mbereko stopped all nine other shots he faced, though, to secure the win, while Quapp ended up with an assist on Blank's goal.