World Junior Championship 2019: Team USA-Finland to meet in gold medal game, Russia wins bronze
The 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship has cruised through its preliminary round robin stage and now it’s time for the elimination stage. Eight of the tournament’s 10 teams qualified for the medal stage, while the last-place team in each group (Denmark and Kazakhstan) will duke it out in a three-game series to determine which country will be relegated to a lower division for next year’s tournament.
Here’s what you need to know about the elimination stage.
Wednesday, Jan. 2
- Relegation Game 1: Kazakhstan 4, Denmark 3
- Quarterfinal: Switzerland 2, Sweden 0
- Quarterfinal: Finland 2, Canada 1 (OT)
- Quarterfinal: United States 3, Czech Republic 1
- Quarterfinal: Russia 8, Slovakia 3
Friday, Jan. 4
- Relegation Game 2: Kazakhstan 4, Denmark 0
- Semifinal: USA 2, Russia 1
- Semifinal: Finland 6, Switzerland 1
Saturday, Jan. 5
- Bronze-medal game: Russia 5, Switzerland 2
- Gold-medal game: USA vs. Finland (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)
Bronze: Russia powers past Switzerland
Russia has improved to 8-0 all time in the WJC bronze medal game. The Russians pushed past Switzerland with a 5-2 win on Saturday afternoon to keep that perfect record alive on Saturday afternoon.
The Swiss put up a good fight but just weren’t able to muster enough offense to match the strong Russian attack and, as a result, they’ll go home having just missed out on their second medal in tournament history. (They won bronze in 1998.)
Kirill Slepets led the Russians to victory with a hat trick (including an empty netter that put the win on ice) and was named player of the game. Russian captain Klim Kostin also added a goal and had a bit of animosity left in the tank for the Canadian crowd in Vancouver.
The bronze is a solid cap to a good tournament for a Russian squad that won Group A. It serves as a commendable bounce-back tournament after not medaling for the first time in eight years last year.
Semis: Finland routs Switzerland
Well, that’s that. Finland punched their ticket to meet the United States in the gold medal game, and they did so in emphatic fashion.
After a stunning victory against Sweden in the quarters, Switzerland wasn’t able to double down on the upsets. Instead, Finland crushed the Swiss in a 6-1 rout during their semifinal meeting on Friday night. The Finns scored 40 seconds into the game and kept pouring it on, holding a 4-0 lead at one point.
Finland will head to the final to face USA on Saturday night in Vancouver. The two teams already met in the preliminary round, with the United States taking that initial matchup with a decisive 4-1 win. Finland has medaled just twice in the past 13 years but both medals have been of the gold variety. They’ll have a chance to add a third this year.
Meanwhile, the Swiss will take on Russia in the bronze medal game on Saturday. Switzerland and Russia also played during the prelims, with the Russians taking a 7-4 win in that game.
Semis: United States edges out Russia
The United States is heading back to the gold medal stage. The Americans topped Russia with a 2-1 win in the semifinal stage on Friday afternoon, booking their ticket to play for gold.
It looked like Russia had jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the first period, but the goal was taken off the board after it was determined that the puck had been intentionally directed into the net by a Russian player’s skate. The United States took advantage of that good fortune by turning around and scoring the next two.
Russia was able to get one back at the end of the second period when Grigori Denisenkov, who has had a great tournament, made a strong play at the defensive end and then carried the puck end-to-end before unleashing a nasty snipe to put Russia on the board.
Russia kept the pressure on down the stretch and they’d ultimately outshoot the United States by a 35-27 margin, but that 2-1 scoreline would hold until the final buzzer. The Americans edged out a victory on the strength of a great performance from goaltender Cayden Primeau (34 saves)…and also a little bit of luck.
The win ensures that the United States will medal at the tournament for the fourth straight year, and they’ll be playing for gold for the second time in three years. Meanwhile, Russia will await the loser of Finland-Switzerland in the bronze medal game on Saturday.
Quarters: Russia dominates Slovakia
After securing the top spot in Group A during the prelims, Russia delivered a whoopin’ on the Slovaks to open the elimination stage. The Russians ripped off four quick goals in the first period and eventually got out to a 7-0 lead at one point. They didn’t let off the gas until the final 10 minutes of the game, but by then it was too late for Slovakia.
Russian captain and Blues prospect Klim Kostin scored twice (his first two goals of the tournament) in the 8-3 win. Russia moves on to face the United States in the semis.
Quarters: USA holds off Czechs
The United States saw the return of Jack Hughes after a three-game absence due to an undisclosed injury suffered in the preliminary round, and he was a difference-maker for USA in his first game back on the ice. The consensus top pick in the ’19 NHL Draft helped get the Americans on the board first in the opening frame when he made a strong play to gain possession in his own end before taking it coast-to-coast and assisting on Noah Cates’ slick goal.
USA would add another goal in the second period and they held a two-score advantage until halfway through the third period, when the Czech Republic were finally able to get on the board. The rest of that final frame became a nail-biting survival quest for the Americans, but they managed to hold off the Czechs and ice the game with an empty-netter in the final minute.
After a quarterfinal exit last year, the United States will move on to the semis and have a chance to medal in 2019.
Quarters: Canada stunned by Finland in OT
The opening day of the elimination round featured two stunning upsets, but the biggest one came when Canada fell to Finland in overtime of their quarterfinal matchup. It’s the first time that the Canadians have not medaled when hosting the tournament on home ice, and just the second time in 21 years that they will not play for a medal at all.
After going 3-0-0-1 with a tournament-best plus-18 goal differential in the preliminary stage, the Canadians appeared to be in strong position to make a push to defend their gold medal from last year. However, their hopes were dashed in absolutely heartbreaking fashion, as this is the overtime sequence that won it for Finland.
An insanely unlucky broken stick at one end promptly led to the game-winner at the other end, and that’s just how things go sometimes. This all came after Finland was able to force overtime with a game-tying goal in the final minute of regulation thanks to an Eeli Tolvanen shot that deflected off an ankle and redirected into the back of Canada’s net.
For Finland, it’s one of the biggest upsets in WJC history and it helps them bounce back from a heartbreaking shootout loss to the Czech Republic in last year’s quarterfinals. They move on to face Switzerland in the semis.
Quarters: Sweden upset by Switzerland
We didn’t have to wait long for unexpected dramatics, as the first game of the elimination round featured an unexpected upset. Sweden finished the preliminary round undefeated (again, as they now have a record of 47 straight victories in round-robin play) and entered the quarterfinals as a one-seed, but Switzerland sent the Swedes packing with a stunning 2-0 victory.
Swiss goalie Luca Hollenstein had an incredible showing in the shutout performance, stopping all 41 shots he faced from Sweden and taking home player of the game honors. Sweden, who entered this year’s tournament as reigning silver medallists, will head home without a chance to medal.
Meanwhile, Switzerland will move on to the semifinals and, at the very least, get a chance to match their best-ever finish at the WJC — a bronze medal in 1998.
Source: Read Full Article