World Junior Championship (Medal Round)

The World Juniors came to an end after another wild year that saw upsets and typical blowouts. This tournament has had it all as we have seen breakout players emerge who may be able to get the attention of the NHL scouts before the draft. There has also been some amazing goalie performances form a number of teams as little known goalies began making a name for themselves. With the relegation round finished the other day the position of many teams was decided. The Danes were relegated as they ended their tournament in 10th place becoming the only team to be relegated under the new rules. The Latvians beat out the Danes for the 9th place spot as they will remain in the top division this year. The Swiss took the 6th spot as the USA finished above them in their worst finish since 1999 taking the 7th place spot. The Slovaks and Czechs battle it out for the 5th place spot with the Czechs taking it forcing the Slovaks to 6th. Now it was time for the Medal rounds as four teams fought for three medals but only two would fight for the gold medal. Two teams that had faced off earlier in the tournament would battle again for World Junior supremacy as the IIHF begins to shift to new powers making everything more even.

 

Bronze Medal Game:

It is not what they wanted when they started the tournament but the Canadians would play for the Bronze Medal. After a great round robin the Canadians played their long time rivals, the Russians in the semi-final game. Going behind late the Canadians launched a comeback scoring 4 unanswered goals in the third period but it was not enough as they lost and were forced into the Bronze Medal Game. Meeting them would be the Finnish team as the somewhat surprising team could not complete their tournament the way they would have liked to. The Finns lost their first game, against Canada, but made sure it did not get them down as they went on to beat everyone else including a surprising win against the Americans. They moved on to face their Scandinavian rivals the Swedes in the Semi-Finals and kept it close but lost the game in a shootout as they would move on to play for Bronze. The Finns would be looking to ruin the Canadian tournament and get revenge for their first game loss in the process. The Canadians were just looking to salvage their tournament and continue a 14 year medal streak. The game saw the Canadians come out and look determined to win a medal no matter what colour it would be. They put major pressure on Finnish goalie Sami Aittokallio but could not find a way through. At the midway point of the game the Canadians finally got their first goal with Tanner Pearson opening the scoring. The Finns looked completely outmatched much like the first game as they played a Canadian type of game against the Canadians. The rough play of the Finns was no match for the Canadians as they were more physical and got the better of the tough plays. The second period continued the domination as the Canadians added two more goals when Mark Scheifele and Quinton Howden put the puck past Aittokallio. The Finns could not keep up as the game seemed out of hand fast. The Canadians added one more in the third when Quinton Howden got his second of the game to put the Canadians up 4-0. That is where the game ended as the Finns missed their chance to get a medal this year while the Canadians salvaged their tournament with a Bronze Medal. It was not all bad for Finland though as they had a good run and became a real challenge in the tournament. If they can build on this performance the Finns could be back stronger next year. The Canadians are expected to win Gold every year and when they don’t a different medal is little consolation for the fans. For the players it is consolation as they were able to walk away with a win and some hardware and although it wasn’t what they wanted it was still a top three finish which is something that 7 other teams cannot say. The Canadians will look to end their Gold drought in next year’s tournament as the expectations will be just as high.

Score:

Canada 4 – 0 Finland

 

Gold Medal Game:

The Gold Medal Game would feature two of the best teams in the tournament as both were not much of a surprise. The Swedes looked like the best team on paper, as they usually do, and this time they proved that the hype was warranted. They were challenged multiple times going to overtime three times in the tournament but they continued to persevere throughout it all. The Russians were considered one of the best team in the tournament before it started and as defending champions they made sure they got back to defend their title. The Russians lost one game all tournament and made it in to the playoffs by fending off a big comeback by the Canadians. Both teams had faced off before in what was considered the best game in the tournament as the Swedes came back from a 2-0 deficit as they scored two goals in the third period and then won the game in overtime. These two teams faced off again as the Russians looked for revenge and looked to defend their title as the best team in the World Juniors. The Swedes were looking for the same result as last time and looking to break a 31 year gold drought that had seen them get close many times but has not been able to capitalize on these chances. The game was highly anticipated as the former game had been the best in the tournament but the scoring in this game was not near the same as the first time around. The first period saw the Swedes coming out strong as they were all over the Russians who seemed to be experiencing an adrenaline dump after their big win against the Canadians. The Russians had many chances but they could not hit the net and when they were locked into the net the Swedes were able to block shots. The defence stood up for the Swedes as they did not allow many shots against Johan Gustafsson. Meanwhile the Russian defence was almost non-existent as they could have been down big early in the game if it were not for their goaltender Andrei Makarov. The Second period continued this way with the Swedes taking control of the game and the Russians getting few chances. The third period was the exact same but the Russians began to push back more getting more chances. Neither team could get the advantage though as the game went to overtime again. At the Midway point of the OT period the stalemate finally ended as Ottawa Senators prospect Mika Zibanejad took a Russian turnover into the Russian end and buried the puck as the Swedes finally broke through the Russian wall after 58 shots. The Swedes finally capitalized on their opportunity to win gold as they broke a 31 year gold drought and won the 2012 tournament. The Russians had an amazing performance by Andrei Makarov but it was one shot too much as the Russians could not defend their title and will go to Russia in 2013 as the Silver Medalists. Although there was little scoring the game still had everything with big chances, great goaltending, lucky bounces, close calls, big hits, and much more. The tournament finished off in a fitting way as the rest of the tournament was great with teams only getting better and making the tournament more even, with three different champions in the last three years.

Score:

Sweden 1 – 0 Russia (OT)

 

 

World Junior Championship Awards:

Tournament MVP:

Yevgeni Kuznetsov, RW (Russia)

6 G

7 A

13 P

+6 +/-

 

Top Defenceman:

Brandon Gormley, D (Canada)

3 G

3 A

6 P

+4 +/-

 

Top Goaltender:

Petr Mrazek, G (Czech Republic)

3-2

2.49 GAA

.928 SV%

1 SO

 

How They Finished:

1. Sweden (Gold)

2. Russia (Silver)

3. Canada (Bronze)

4. Finland

5. Czech Republic

6. Slovakia

7. USA

8. Switzerland

9. Latvia

10. Denmark (Relegation)

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