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Day 2 of the World Junior Championships featured exciting matches that could end up being major factors in the final standings, especially after a couple of big upsets on Day 1.
The day began with Finland looking for redemption after being upset by the Swiss on Monday. Playing the Slovaks, the Finns found a way to come out hot and weathered the storm as Slovakia went towards the end of the game. Sweden, the only dominant team on Boxing Day, kept up their strong play against a German squad that doesn’t quite have the advanced talent we’ve seen from them in recent years. The biggest question for Sweden today was that the German goalkeeper was outstanding behind a porous defence.
The second half of the day also features a couple of important matchups. Switzerland and Latvia played a tight match and built on their strong Day 1 performances. Switzerland prevailed, putting them in an excellent position in the group in terms of quarter-final matches. Taking on Austria a day after defeating the host Canadians, the Czech Republic continued their strong play, securing a 9-0 win.
Finland wakes up against Slovakia
After being upset by the Swiss on Monday, the Finns were already in must-win territory on Day 2. The reality is that they will likely face a challenging quarterfinal matchup due to their loss on Monday, but a second straight loss could spell disaster for the Finns . Thankfully, the loss hit them like a strong cup of coffee, and the team got their game into gear.
The Finns came out of the gate strong, recording the first eight shots on goal and scoring the first goal on a nice one-time shot from tight as the Finns worked the puck out of the corner. Slovakia woke up after the goal against and found a way to tie the game late in the period.
The second period was where the Finns really capitalized on their chances, scoring on three of their seven shots in the frame. Neither side really dominated the game, but Finland’s talent found ways to find the net. First it was Joakim Kemell with a thunderous one-timer from the high gap who took the lead. Then Oliver Kapanen scored a nice wraparound goal, and then Jani Nyman tied up another power play with a big slam of her own. After 40, the Finns appeared to be in control of the contest despite the shot difference and flow of play appearing to be fairly even.
An early power play in the third period helped the Slovakian team pull within two goals, as Peter Repcik scored his second of the game on a power play. However, the Finns quickly restored the lead. Brad Lambert, a Winnipeg Jets first round pick, stepped in and beat the Slovakian netminder cleanly from a sharp angle to seal the win for the Finns.
Sweden look strong again in a 1-0 win over Germany
The Swedes looked dominant in a win against Austria on Monday, and they came out swinging again against the Germans. By dominating the shot share throughout the match, the Swedes looked strong again in their second opening game.
The first period was competitive, with action at both ends of the ice. The Germans had a few chances of their own, but the only team to find the back of the net were the Swedes. In the last minute of the game, Adam Engström retrieved the puck from his face and threaded a shot through traffic that eventually squeaked over the goal line. Isak Rosen initially thought it would be diverted, but Engström was ultimately credited with the marker.
The second period was when the Swedes took control of the match. They had chance after chance and sometimes bombarded the Germans. The biggest moment of the period came towards the end of the frame when the Germans were down two men in the box and needed to kill off the penalties if they had any hope of coming back from the one-goal deficit. Thanks to some key defensive plays by the German defenders and some big saves by Nikita Quapp in net, the Germans stayed within one.
The Germans pushed back in the third period. Victor Sjoholm took a penalty to give Germany a power play less than 30 seconds into the frame, but the Swedes managed to kill it. Late in the period, the Swedes committed too many men on the ice break, which gave the Germans another power play. The Swedes took care of that too. The Germans outscored the Swedes in the final frame but never found a way to beat Swedish netminder Carl Lindbom, who made 28 saves for the shutout.
Switzerland survives Latvia in Shootout
The matchup between the Swiss – who upset the Finns on Day 1 – and the Latvians, who gave the Americans a scare, was competitive. It ultimately took 14 shooters in the shootout to finish. The Swiss grabbed another win, albeit another that required extra time, in a bid to finish near the top of Group B.
After trading goals in an evenly contested first frame, Switzerland and Latvia looked to gain an edge in the second period. Although the Swiss dictated much of the play in the period, Latvia seemed to find space at times to create chances. A little space was all it took as the Latvians took a one-goal lead midway through the second frame.
Darels Dukurs found the loose puck in front after a point shot created a rebound and managed to chip it around the Swiss netminder in tight. Latvia played the ferocious hockey we’ve seen from them in recent tournaments, and it paid off. Heading into the break 2-1 up, the game went about as well as they could have hoped.
The final 20 minutes was when the Swiss looked to take over. Latvia went into a shell a bit hoping to defend the one-goal lead, and they were unable to generate offense. They only managed one shot on frame, and Switzerland controlled the game in a big way, just as they had for big swings throughout the game.
Lian Bichsel hit a cross halfway through the frame. The Swiss had started to generate plenty of offensive chances. Attilio Biasca created for the Swiss team, and they repeatedly fell short. That was until, with less than two minutes left and the goalie pulled, Rodwin Dionicio sent a shot into the net, beating the goalie and tying the game in the dying minutes.
Overtime solved nothing, so the two squads were off to a penalty shootout. It wasn’t until the 11th goal scorer, Latvia’s Dans Locmelis, that a goalscorer beat a goalkeeper. The only problem was that seconds later Biasca answered for the Swiss. After a Latvian miss, Liekit Reichle tied the game with a shot from just below the hash marks. Switzerland survived the scare and Latvia again came up empty.
The Czech Republic dominates Austria
After upsetting Canada on Day 1, the Czech team got a bit of a break against the Austrians, who look like prime relegation candidates. To say that the Czech Republic kept up the momentum from Monday would be an understatement. They annihilated the Austrians, holding them to eight shots in a 9-0 victory.
The onslaught started and never stopped with a power-play goal from Jakub Brabenec less than five minutes into the game. Jiri Kulich scored his first of three goals on the day. Stanislav Svozil and Matyas Sapovaliv had four assists on the day. Tomas Suchanek made eight saves for the shutout and added two assists for good measure.
The Czech Republic had more goals than Austria had shots. Simply put, it was dominance.
The Czech Republic positions itself as the top team in the group based on goal difference. Their next match will be on December 29 against the equally undefeated Swedes. This matchup is likely to decide the top spot in Group A.
1st Star: Nikita Quapp, G, Germany
It’s not often that the losing keeper of a game gets the first star, but Quapp’s 44-save performance kept Germany in the game from start to finish. The only goal he allowed was a point shot that hit a couple of bodies in front and squeaked past. Quapp made big save after big save, including a key penalty kill from Bruins first-rounder Fabian Lysell in the second period and several key penalty kills. Even though he was saddled with L in this game, he deserved all the love he got after this contest.
2nd star: Carl Lindbom, G, Sweden
With 28 saves, Lindbom recorded his second shutout in two days. The Swedish netminder hasn’t allowed a goal at the world juniors, stopping all 41 shots he’s faced. The Vegas Golden Knights prospect has been sharp and even for Sweden, holding the fort in a tight game against Germany. He hasn’t had to do anything spectacular yet, but sometimes the quietest netminders are the ones who make the biggest difference.
3rd star: Jiri Kulich, C, Czech Republic
The Czech squad has been the most impressive team in the tournament. Jiri Kulich was one of seven players to record a multi-point game, but his three goals led the team. He found the cobwebs once in each period. While the first two goals came on the power play, it was the third goal that really iced the game eight seconds into the third period. Kulich snuck behind the defense from the opening faceoff and beat the Austrian netminder in what felt like salt in the wounds.
World Juniors Day 2: Sweden, Czech Republic and Switzerland continue to roll
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