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2015 World Junior Championships – Semi-Final Day

First, a recap of the quarterfinals from Friday:

USA vs. Russia

The Americans were considered one of, if not the top favorite to win this tournament. After coasting through the preliminary round until they faced Canada on New Year’s Eve, the Americans were there own worst enemy in the quarter finals against Russia. They committed eight minor penalties, including five alone in the first period. Russia scored two goals in the first, while Anthony DeAngelo scored midway through the second to cut the lead in half. Sergei Tolchinsky scored shortly into the third period with CBJ prospect Sonny Milano in the box to give Russia a 3-1 lead. Zach Werenski scored a few minutes later to pull the Americans within a goal, but the Russians held on for the 3-2 win.

A few takeaways from this game- Milano with the puck was very good in this tournament. He finished with 2-2-4 in five games. His play without the puck needs work. Jack Eichel was very good for most of the tournament, but in the game against Russia he became a bit selfish with the puck, trying too hard to get his team back in it. Ryan Collins wasn’t noticeable throughout the tournament, finishing with a pair of minor penalties and was the only American skater not to record a shot on net. Dylan Larkin, Hudson Fasching and Will Butcher were named the top three US players in the tournament, and I couldn’t agree more.

This result will of course be considered a massive disappointment for USA Hockey, but they should again be strong next year in Finland, when the team will be led by Auston Matthews.

Sweden vs. Finland

In a rematch of last year’s final, the Swedes blasted Finland 6-3. Finland was a major disappointment, a year after winning it all and a year before taking a turn as tournament host. Perhaps the most glaring weakness for Finland was the powerplay- they failed to score a single goal while on the man advantage. William Nylander and Oskar Lindblom continued their terrific play at the tournament, while Gustav Forsling has been arguably the tournament’s top offensive defender with 3-5-8 in five games. He’s a Canucks prospect. Kasperi Kapanen, a Pens first rounder, was held to a single goal in five games. It was a complete power outage for the Finns.

Slovakia vs. Czech Repiblic

The Czechs pulled off an upset of Russia on the final day of the preliminary round, but it seems they ran out of gas in doing so. In their quarterfinal matchup with Slovakia, the potent Czech attack was unable to beat Denis Godla, who pitched a shutout. The upstart Slovaks potted three opportunistic goals to pull of the surprising win.

Canada vs. Denmark

Unsurprisingly, the Cinderella run for Oliver Bjorkstrand and the Danes ended when they faced Canada in the quarters. The final was 8-0, but Denmark played hard, with Bjorkstrand, Nikolaj Ehlers and Mads Eller dangerous every time they touched the puck. Goalie Georg Sorensen was great all tournament, despite the constant onslaught by the opposition. He, along with Bjorkstrand and Ehlers were named the top three players in the tournament for Denmark. In a show of class, the Canadian crowd cheered Denmark heartily at the end of the game. Unfortunately for Canada, Robby Fabbri left the game with a high ankle sprain, ending his tournament. The combo of Connor McDavid and Curtis Lazar was terrific, finishing with three points each. Zach Fucale pitched the shutout.

Relegation Round

The Swiss won game two of the relegation series 5-2 to relegate the Germans. Next year’s tournament will officially feature Canada, Sweden, Russia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, USA, Finland, Denmark, Switzerland and Belarus.

Today’s semifinals:

Sweden vs. Russia

Sweden and Russia faced each other on December 29th, in what was one of the more exciting games in the preliminary round. The Swedes have a high powered offense, and have had the Russian’s number over the past few years. Also working against the Russians are the excellent special teams of Sweden. Russia will need strong goaltending and opportunistic scoring to steal this one from Sweden.

Canada vs. Slovakia

In the opening game of the tournament for either team, Canada smoked Slovakia 8-0. Since that point though, the Slovaks have righted the ship and will give Canada a much tougher test tonight. Denis Godla and Zach Fucale will duke it out between the pipes. Canada’s top snipers will have to continue to put the puck in the net, and if they can shut down Martin Reway, Slovakia will face a steep uphill climb.

The winners of these games will face each other tomorrow for Gold.