2015 World Juniors Report: Semi-Finals

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While the quarter-finals at the World Juniors were all about the rivalries the Semi-Finals were about rematches as teams got their chance to avenge earlier losses. On one side were the Russians and Swedes who had faced off in what was for the lead in Group B. The game was one of the best in the tournament as the Swedes came out on top 3-2. On the other side of the bracket were the Canadians and Slovaks who had played on the first day of the tournament. That game was nowhere near close as the Canadians took the an 8-0 win against a team that admitted to having some stage fright in front of one of the largest crowds they have played against. Both games gave the losing teams a chance to gain some redemption while earning a spot in the gold medal game. For the Russians it was a chance to show that they could compete with the top teams after finishing third in the group. Going into the game they seemed to be on their typical trajectory as lack luster round robin had given way to a much better playoff team. The Russians had done this before as they have made a habit of only getting hot when the games became important. That is what happened when they played the Americans and got by a team that seemed sluggish after a loss to the Canadians. They went into their game against Sweden as a much more confident team but still had to get by one of the best teams in the tournament. The Swedes had yet to lose in the Juniors and were looking to take another trip to the gold medal game after losing that same game to the Finns in 2014. Both teams started off the game well enough but in the second period the Russians began to take over. They scored two goals in under two minutes with one coming on the power play, the first power play goal allowed by the Swedes all tournament. That set the tone for the rest of the game as the Swedes mounted a comeback attempt but could not catch up as the Russians added three more goals in the third period to get the win and some redemption. With one team already gaining their redemption it was the Slovaks’ turn to attempt the same thing. Their 8-0 loss against the Canadians was attributed to stage fright as many played in front of the biggest crowd they had ever seen. Since that opening game the Slovaks had been much improved and beat Finland in their second game. They went into the semi-final looking to save face from their first game and in a way they did that. They couldn’t get the win as the Canadians took the game 5-1 but they didn’t come by it too easily. They struggled to get going in the first and only had a 1-goal lead heading into the second. After two goals the Slovaks came back with another goal but that is all they could manage. With Denis Godla standing on his head almost all game the Slovaks had a much more respectable showing. They also remain in the hunt for a medal and one of their top finishes. That will be a challenge as they will need to get up for the game and will need another great performance from Godla against a Swedish team that might find it hard to get up for the game. The gold medal, meanwhile, will come down to one of the greatest hockey rivalries ever. The Canadians and Russians have constantly faced off for important games in every major tournament. The World Juniors have been no different as the Russians and Canadians seem to always have an important game and always put together classics. Last year it was the bronze medal game when the Russians beat the Canadians continue a three year streak of the Canadians not earning a medal. Now they face off for the biggest prize of them all with both teams looking to break droughts. The Russians have gone three years without a gold medal while the Canadians have not won a gold in five years. Both are sure to put on one of the best games of the tournament and it will determine who has the best young talent in the game as a classic rivalry highlights and already great tournament.

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