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World Juniors Notebook: USA, Russia advance, Switzerland stuns Sweden

A look at the quarterfinals of the 2019 World Junior Championship.

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CANADA FALLS TO FINLAND, FAILS TO MEDAL ON HOME SOIL
Safe is death. That’s an old John Tortorella motto, but it sure holds true today, especially as the game gets faster and more skilled. Canada found that out the hard way in the quarterfinal, losing to Finland in overtime 2-1 in a game that saw the Canadians take just 24 shots on net. [More from Ryan Kennedy]

USA HANDLES BUSINESS AGAINST CZECHS
Two pre-tournament favorites to find spots on the podium clashed Wednesday night with an opportunity to move on to the semifinal round at the 2019 World Junior Championship, and after a disappointing group stage in which they were only able to scrape together one victory, the Czech Republic is heading home with nothing to show for their efforts.

In a meeting between Group B’s second-place squad, USA, and Group A’s third-place bunch, the American side simply overpowered a one-line led Czech team that couldn’t muster much on the attack. And the Americans got off to a great start midway through the first period thanks to Jack Hughes, whose return to the lineup was highlighted by his defensive zone strip-turned-slick offensive zone assist on Noah Cates’ game-opening tally. In the second, Josh Norris would add an insurance marker on a breakaway. And while Martin Kaut put a temporary scare into the U.S., Alexander Chmelevski buried an empty-netter to seal the game in the third.

With the victory, USA advances to the semifinal, where they stare down Group A top seed Russia, who have yet to taste defeat at the tournament.

SWISS WIN STUNNER OVER SWEDEN
There was a certain close-but-no-cigar feeling to Switzerland’s round robin play. They had given the Czechs, Canadians and Russians scares during the group stage, but after picking up their lone win against the Danes and entering the knockout rounds with a meeting against the powerful Swedes, it felt as though the Swiss were set to see their tournament come to a close.

But not so fast.

In what will undoubtedly stand as the upset of the tournament — and quite possibly an upset for the ages, given the Swedes had just finished continuing its remarkable, years-long undefeated run in the round robin — Switzerland shocked Sweden and stunned onlookers in Wednesday’s quarterfinal. In the first, it was Yannick Bruschweiler’s end-to-end rush that was finished with a pinpoint accurate wrister for the opening Swiss goal, followed in the second by Luca Wyss’ net-front tally that put Switzerland ahead 2-0 heading into the third.

In the final frame, as Sweden outshot the Swiss 19-9, it was keeper Luca Hollenstein that took over for Switzerland. He turned aside every shot that came his way en route to a 41-save shutout, and as the final horn sounded, the Swiss leapt from their bench to celebrate. They advance to a semifinal meeting against Finland, while Sweden will head home empty-handed.

RUSSIA RUNS THROUGH SLOVAKIA
On a night that had some surprises — Canada’s defeat at the hands of Finland, Sweden’s loss to Switzerland — Russia appeared to have little interest in adding any extra spice to the tournament. The Russians made as much clear over a roughly two-minute stretch in the opening frame of the quarterfinal meeting with Slovakia on Wednesday. From the 5:36 mark of the first to mere seconds before the eighth-minute ticked off the clock, Russia’s Grigori Denisenko, Stepan Starkov and Alexander Alexeyev filled the net to bury Slovakia’s hopes of advancing before they could really begin, and the 3-0 lead became a commanding 7-0 advantage before the two teams headed into the second intermission.

Try as they might to stage an improbable third-period comeback, Slovakia’s three-goal outburst in the final frame was nowhere near enough. Russia put the finishing touches on an 8-3 victory to advance to a semifinal meeting against Team USA.

KAZAKHSTAN STARTS OFF RELEGATION WITH WIN
Denmark failed to score throughout the entire round robin, ending the group stage with an ugly zero goals for and 26 goals against, and while they were finally able to celebrate their first goal of the tournament — as well as a couple more — in the first of the best-of-three relegation set against Kazakhstan, the offense couldn’t muster enough in a battle of winless squads.

In Game 1 of the relegation round, Kazakhstan’s Oleg Boiko tallied just 96 seconds into the proceedings, and after Denmark’s Jonas Rondbjerg answered back at the nine-minute mark of the first, Yernar Musabayev was able to put Kazakhstan ahead minutes later and sent his team to the dressing room with a 2-1 lead. In the second, Sayan Daniyar’s mid-period tally extended the Kazakh lead before Andreas Grundtvig drew the Danes back within one early in the third. An insurance tally from Artur Gatiyatov minutes later would pay dividends for Kazakhstan, however, as they hung on for a 4-3 victory.

THREE STARS
1. Luca Hollenstein (RUS):
A 41-save shutout to help Switzerland advance to semifinal.
2. Toni Utunen (FIN): Deflected shot found the back of the net to send Finland past Canada.
3. Artur Gatiyatov (KAZ): Two points, including game-winning goal, in relegation series opener.

MUST-SEE PLAY

Jack Hughes with the steal and the slick feed to Noah Cates:

ON TAP

Friday — Jan. 4, 2019
Kazakhstan vs. Denmark, 12 p.m.
Russia vs. USA
Switzerland vs. Finland

Saturday — Jan. 5, 2019
Kazakhstan vs. Denmark, 12 p.m.*
Bronze-Medal Game, 4 p.m.
Gold-Medal Game, 8 p.m.

All times Eastern.

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