The medal round of the World Junior Hockey Championship is a triumphant but often bittersweet time. Every game can be someone’s last at the event, which makes the event both exhilarating and a bit scary at times.
Tuesday’s action in Buffalo featured Calgary Flames prospects in every single quarterfinal match-up. Three of them survived to compete in Thursday’s semi-finals.
Czech Republic beat Finland 4-3 (SO)
Finland’s tournament came to what could be classified as a premature end thanks to the efforts of Czech goalie Josef Korenar, who stopped 51 of 54 shots en route to forcing a shootout, where he surrendered just one goal. With the loss, Flames prospects Juuso Valimaki and Eetu Tuulola’s tournaments have come to an end.
Valimaki played 25:35, the most out of all of the Finns, including 3:48 in overtime, wherein he was the third most active Finnish defenceman. He went pointless with two shots on net, both in the first period, and was on the ice for the Czech’s third goal, which came with just under two and a half minutes to go before the Finns would have been off to the semifinals. He was behind Filip Zadina, who had the tip on the game-winner.
Despite that, Valimaki still had some strong defensive moments, including stripping opposing players of pucks and chasing them down when they entered the Finnish zone, and continued to appear calm and poised when jumping into the rush, never putting himself out of position for a scoring chance.
Eetu Tuulola played just 11:25, ninth in Finnish forward ice time, and did not have any shifts in overtime. He had three shots on net and was on the ice for two Czech goals against: the second, in which he was caught up in the offensive zone when his teammate was burned in the neutral zone by Kristian Reichel, and the final game-tying goal.
Tuulola worked to create offence throughout the game, and was perhaps most noticeable along the boards and in the corner, not shying away from contact in an effort to get the puck to a teammate or make a play, with varying degrees of success throughout the game.
Valimaki finished the tournament tied for third in Finnish scoring with four points – one goal and three assists – over five games. He was eighth with 11 shots on net. Tuulola, meanwhile, was one of five Finns to go pointless over the tournament, though he played two fewer games than everyone else. He finished with five shots on net.
Canada beat Switzerland 8-2
If only Switzerland’s coach hadn’t publicly been a realist, his team surely wouldn’t have lost by six goals. Right? It’s no surprise Canada handily took this one.
Dillon Dube was one of six Canadians to score in the win, a powerplay goal he blasted into the net from the high slot. He led the way with seven shots on net, and the 14:18 he played was fifth out of all Canadian forwards. There’s very little to read into a game like this – as has been customary with this team, the scoring has been very spread around; the only other goal he was on the ice for was Canada’s fifth, in which he had no real involvement on the play – but Dube was his typical, speedy, tenacious self.
Sweden beat Slovakia 3-2
(This wrapup brought to you by Ryan.)
The Swedes survived a late surge from Slovakia to qualify for the semi-finals. As has been the case throughout the tournament, Sweden’s Linus Lindstrom was a picture of steadiness. He didn’t provide his usual excellent at the faceoff dot – winning eight of 20 draws he took – but he had three shots and played 20:15, and only Rasmus Dahlin and Erik Brannstrom had more ice time. Long story short, he’s been reliable and relied-upon by Sweden.
On the flip side, Adam Ruzicka didn’t have a great game. He had a turnover inside the offensive zone which directly led to Fabian Zetterlund’s end to end rush (and the 2-0 goal) in the middle of the second period. While he was on the ice for awhile, as the first forward back on the rush is supposed to back-check. Ruzicka? He’s seen coasting after he hits the red line and was caught watching as Zetterlund beat his goaltender. Apparently Slovakia head coach Ernest Bokros wasn’t impressed, as Ruzicka didn’t see a single second of ice after that goal.
Ruzicka finishes his second World Juniors with two assists in five games – and he’s still young enough to play in next year’s event.
United States beat Russia 4-2
(This wrapup brought to you by Ryan.)
Stop me if you’ve heard this before during this tournament. Adam Fox played a ton of hockey, seeing 20:55 of ice time – only Brady Tkachuk, Joey Anderson, Casey Mittelstadt and Scott Peruovich saw more. He had eight shots on goal, the most of any player in the game, and he had an assist on the first American goal. He was briefly turnstiled on Russia’s second goal, but check out the level of effort it took to blow past him:
Andrei Altybarmakayan beats Adam Fox and ties it for Russia pic.twitter.com/fy5yXYEBwI
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) January 3, 2018
He made up for that gaffe with some nice offensive some plays as the Americans tried to break the third period deadlock. Once again, as he’s done often this tournament, Fox played a lot and he played very well.
It’s time for the semi-finals, which go on Thursday:
- At 2 p.m. MT: United States (Fox) plays Sweden (Lindstrom)
- At 6 p.m. MT: Canada (Dube) plays Czech Republic
Three Flames prospects have bowed out of the tournament. Three more can still capture medals.