January 1, 2018
By Alec Gearty
Here’s an overview of the quarterfinal World Junior games set for Tuesday, January 2. All times EASTERN.
Finland vs. Czech Republic
Noon at KeyBank Center
Finland wasn’t able to grasp a higher seed in its group so they’ll have to face the Czech Republic in the first quarterfinal game of the 2018 World Junior Championship.
The Finns suffered a tough loss to the United States to close out the preliminary round, where after a mighty comeback, Finland became a bystander to the United States’ last minute goal. Now they must rid themselves of that loss to focus on the Czech Republic, who enters the quarterfinal round with two straight wins and its momentum en tow.
The play from the Czech Republic top line consisting of Martin Necas, Filip Zadina and Albert Michnac has been consistent throughout the tournament and remains a significant factor for their team’s success. Finishing the preliminary round with a combined 12 points — Necas (2+4) Zadina (3+1) and Michnac (0+2) have been relied upon heavily to get them in the position they are in.
“Those guys scored a couple of important goals for us,” Pesan said. “I’m glad those guys are getting closer to each other.”
The Czechs have to figure out who will be their starting goaltender going forward against Finland. After making goalie changes in the past two games, Pesan said he would have to review the tape and discuss with the other coaches who will get the net. While he has an idea of who will get the cage, he’s playing it close to his chest.
“I’m pretty sure who’s gonna start for the quarterfinal but I’m going to keep it,” said Pesan.
Finland, on the other hand, will likely start Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen on Tuesday. Luukkonen’s been the steady workhorse behind the strong Finnish defense as he holds a 3.04 goals-against average, but allowed 12 goals on 72 shots.
Canada vs. Switzerland
4 p.m. at KeyBank Center
In each tournament, there is a typical David vs. Goliath matchup, In this case, Switzerland, who is often dubbed the underdog more times than now, is embracing the role when they have the unenviable task of facing Canada in the World Junior Championship quarterfinals.
After playing them in pre-tournament play, the Swiss got to see the speed and skill the Canadians bring and how much of a challenge they will be, something that head coach Christian Wohlwend does not take lightly.
“We’re far away from them,” Wohlwend said. “They’re faster, they’re bigger they’re stronger they can shoot better they can pass better they can do everything better.”
Bigger upsets have happened in the history of the World Junior Championships so Switzerland won’t count themselves out. If they stick to their game plan and dictate the play, the Swiss could end up having a chance.
“We have to score when we have chances and we have to stay in our defense and block shots,” Switzerland captain Nando Eggenberger said.
Marco Miranda led Switzerland with four points in the preliminary round. The forward was one of three Swiss to record at least two goals en route to their fourth place finish in Group B. Still, the Swiss’ 10 goals are miniscule compared to the 21 that Canada scored to stay perfect in regulation.
Five players lead Canada — the tournament’s highest scoring team — with four points. Forwards Brady Katchouk, Jordan Kyrou, Sam Steel, Taylor Raddysh and defenseman Victor Mete averaged a point through each game in the preliminary round. It’s Canada’s offensive success that could lead them straight to the semifinals.
During tournament play, the Swiss have typically come close to an upset but hadn’t been able to successfully finish the job. At the 2016 tournament, Canada narrowly defeated Switzerland in a game that called for a shootout. It was the same year the Swiss faced relegation, proving that when it comes to the World Juniors, each game can go either way.
Sweden vs. Slovakia
6 p.m. at HarborCenter
For 11 years, Sweden maintained its dominance in the preliminary round. The last time Sweden lost a game in that stage was in 2006, when Canada defeated the Swedes 2-0. Since then, Sweden remained in control as its success allowed the team to hold possession of the first seed in Group B.
Sweden’s 11 standings points set up a quarterfinal matchup with Slovakia, who finished with a 2-2 record in Group A. When the two teams meet, it will be a battle between one of the most efficient offenses, against one of the most inefficient.
Led by forward Lias Andersson, Sweden scored 20 goals through its first four games. Sweden is tied with the United States and trails Canada by one goal in the same category. Andersson (5+1) and Elias Pettersson (4+2) make up for 45 percent of the team’s scoring. With those two at the forefront, Sweden’s offense sees a surplus of scoring.
Despite its upset win over the United States, the Slovak offense has been rather inconsistent. Slovakia went from scoring two goals against the Finns to a five-goal explosion against Denmark.
If Slovakia were to advance, it would be based off of goaltender Roman Durny, who appeared in three games for Slovakia.
Durny has carried much of the workload in the tournament’s short span. He made 100 saves thus far and holds a 2.67 goals-against average. Forward Samuel Bucek dubbed the goaltender as “one of the best players” for Slovakia.
The winner between Sweden and Slovakia will face the winner of Tuesday night’s matchup between the United States and Russia.
USA vs. Russia
8 p.m. at KeyBank Center
United States head coach Bob Motzko is torn on who will mind the net against Russia. Motzko could either go with Joe Woll, who started in three games and led the Americans to a 2-1 record, or Jake Oettinger, whose 22 saves led the United States past Canada.
Motzko isn’t ready to unveil his team’s starter for Tuesday.
“Honestly, we have to talk about who starts in the quarterfinal,” Motzko said. “We’ll watch film and decipher things. It’s a fair conversation to have because Jake [Oettinger] played really well the other night.”
For Motzko, a decision to start one over the other isn’t due to an underwhelming performance. It relates to the worst of a good situation, knowing the United States possesses two goaltenders that are available on a moment’s whim but that means someone will be forced to sit.
Whoever Motzko decides to start in net, that player must face a Russian offense that ranks fifth in shots on goal. Don’t let Russia’s 2-1-1 record fool you, the Russians make it a fairly even matchup for the Americans.
Forward Klim Kostin leads Russia, who totaled 17 goals in the preliminary stage, into the matchup with the United States. Kostin led Russian skaters with six points and trails Casey Mittelstadt for the tournament lead in scoring.
Like the United States, Russia thrives on its scoring depth. Along with Kostin, three other Russian skaters reside amongst the top-20 point leaders, all from different lines — Artur Kayumov, Andrei Svechnikov and Alexei Polodyan. Each led Russia to claim Group B’s third seed.
In what may be the highest scoring quarterfinal matchup, the Russians will look to spoil the host nation’s chance at repeating. Puck drop is set for 8 p.m. and will be the final quarterfinal matchup at the KeyBank Center.