Flames at 2018 World Juniors: Slovakia’s Miracle on Ice

Four Flames prospects were in action today across three different games, as Juuso Valimaki, Linus Lindstrom, Adam Fox, and Adam Ruzicka all played in the third day of round robin action, with the two Adams facing one another.

The highlight of the night was the nail-biter of a late game between the United States and Slovakia, which will probably end up being known as Slovakia’s version of the Miracle on Ice.

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Finland beat Denmark 4-1

(This Valimaki writeup brought to you by Ari.)

Facing a weaker opponent this time around, it’s no surprise that Finland handily won the game. Specifically watching for Valimaki, though, and there was quite a bit to like, even beyond his goal and assist.

Valimaki had a number of shifts in which he orchestrated play in the offensive zone, leading to extended chances, two of which resulted in goals: the first being Finland’s first of the game, in which his efforts to keep the puck in the zone resulted in a primary assist; the other being his own goal, a wicked shot from the blue line that restored Finland’s two-goal lead.

Valimaki’s two points tied him for the team lead in the game with two other defencemen (nobody else had more than two points), while his four shots were fourth out of all defencemen. He played 18:57, fourth in defensive ice time. There wasn’t much he could do to stop Denmark’s lone goal, a successful tally 18 seconds into their lone powerplay.

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It’s probably notable that the Finns, despite having seven powerplay opportunities of their own – including two five-on-threes – were unable to score on the man advantage. And that Valimaki didn’t get any powerplay time. Just saying.

Sweden beat Czech Republic 3-1

Lindstrom had a more challenging game against the Czechs than he did against Belarus – though that was probably to be expected. He played a lot, racking up the fifth most ice time of Sweden’s forwards. That’s despite taking two minor penalties in the game. He seemed occasionally overwhelmed by the Czechs’ speed and the tenacity of their attack, as his two minors were for hooking and tripping. He also won just one of his six faceoffs after going perfect against Belarus.

Despite the struggles, Lindstrom wasn’t on for any goals against (nor did his penalties lead to Czech goals), so hopefully his gaffes in this game can be things he learns from as Sweden chugs along toward the medal round.

Slovakia beat United States 3-2

Fox was all over the game, though he didn’t end up hitting the scoresheet. He was very active in the play and created a ton of scoring chances for his teammates. (He had a lot of shifts with Brady Tkachuk, and it was fairly cool to hear “Fox” and “Tkachuk” a lot from the commentators.) Fox led the entire team in ice time by about a minute and a half, a testament to his poise, patience, and ability to play a ton of mistake-free hockey. The American alternate captain had his usual strong game.

But tonight belonged to Slovakia. A lot of praise is going to be rained upon goalie Roman Durny, and he was superb, but Ruzicka was excellent in this game. He led Slovakia in shots. He led their forwards in ice time. He was plus-3 and on the ice for all three Slovakia goals. On their second goal, his back-pressure on their dump into the zone drew two Americans to him and caused some sloppy puck work by the defenders that led to the goal.

While Fox is a picture of poise, Ruzicka plays a game that involves a bit more rambunctiousness. Stuff just happens for Slovakia when Ruzicka’s on the ice and he was very unlucky to not make it onto the scoresheet. Considering he’s on a Slovakian team that probably won’t need to buy a drink in their homeland after beating the USA, I’m sure he won’t be too upset about it.

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  • Hockeyfan6778

    I said the same thing when Finland played Canada. Why isn’t valamaki on pp. He has a wicked point shot and showed it. Finland pp has been terrible all tournament.

  • stuhfan

    This was my first time watching Ruzicka and I thought he looked soft – his wingers drove the play and his shots were lobs from just inside the blue line. His “F U” to the US fans after the game was his biggest highlight… Otherwise he looked tired, disinterested, or both. But wow does Fox look awesome. BT better make room to sign him.