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World Juniors Notebook: Russia survives Swiss scare, Slovakia blows out Kazakhstan

A look at the fifth day of the 2019 World Junior Championship.

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RUSSIA SURVIVES PESKY SWISS
First, it was the Czechs who were only narrowly able to squeak by the Swiss. Then it was Canada who were given fits by Switzerland. And after winning their first game of the tournament, downing Denmark 4-0, the Swiss were back at it again giving one of the tournament’s top teams all it could handle and then some.

In a contest that was expected to set up a New Years’ Eve battle for top spot in Group A between Canada and Russia, Switzerland appeared to have designs on throwing a wrench into the schedule makers’ plans. Within 49 seconds of the opening faceoff, Switzerland’s Marco Lehmann found twine, followed up several minutes later by a Valentin Nussbaumer goal that gave the Swiss a stunning 2-0 lead before the midway mark of the frame.

The two-goal lead would be trimmed late in the first by Russia’s Kirill Marchenko, restored briefly early in the second when Lehmann scored his second of the night but then entirely nullified by Dmitri Samorukov and Grigori Denisenko goals before the 12-minute mark of the second.

And it was before the second frame was out that one of the strangest moments of the tournament — and maybe one in the history of the World Junior Championship — occurred. Off on a breakaway late in the period, Lehmann was tripped up not once, but twice, and the result was back-to-back penalty shots. With two prime opportunities to pull ahead, the first penalty shot, taken by Lehmann, was denied by Danil Tarasov. Philipp Kurashev narrowly missed the net with the second.

The two missed attempts would prove incredibly costly, as would Switzerland’s inability to capitalize on a five-minute man advantage. Early in the third, Kirill Slepets gave Russia their first lead of the contest. Alexander Alexeyev extended the lead minutes later. And while Switzerland would briefly flirt with a comeback of their own, the Russians rattled off another pair of goals to put a bow on a 7-4 victory.

SLOVAKIA WALLOPS KAZAKHSTAN
Within 30 seconds of puck drop in the contest between Group B’s two worst teams, it became clear that there was a chasm between Slovakia and Kazakhstan. While both had failed to win a game through to Sunday’s game, the former had suffered narrow defeats while the latter was on the receiving end of a pair of blowouts. And Sunday’s game highlighted the difference between a tournament fixture that is simply struggling and a tournament interloper who could be on its way back to the second division.

It took all of half a minute for Adam Liska and Adam Ruzicka to put Kazakhstan in a 2-0 hole early in the first frame of Sunday’s contest, and Slovakia’s lead only escalated from there. By the time the opening period was over, the Slovaks lead was six. After 40 minutes, Kazakhstan trailed by 9-1. And when the contest — almost mercifully — drew to a close, Andrej Kollar completed a hat trick to send Slovakia to a convincing 11-2 victory in which they outshot Kazakhstan 46-18.

THREE STARS
1. Marco Lehmann (SUI):
Two goals in an excellent effort against medal-contending Russians.
2. Andrej Kollar (SVK): Three against Kazakhstan in Slovakia’s convincing win.
3. Danil Tarasov (RUS): Allowed four goals but turned aside two penalty shots to keep Russia alive.

MUST-SEE PLAY

Switzerland’s back-to-back penalty shots:

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Monday — Dec. 31, 2018
Denmark vs. Czech Republic, 4 p.m.
Sweden vs. Kazakhstan, 6:30 p.m.
Russia vs. Canada, 8 p.m.
USA vs. Finland, 10:30 p.m.

Wednesday — Jan. 2, 2019
Knockout stage begins

All times Eastern.

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