2016 World Juniors Report (Day 5)

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In football there is one player that tends to take a lot of the focus as the quarterback is the one player who touches the ball on every play.

That type of responsibility makes the quarterback a high value position and has given the rise to the QB being the marker in every sport for that all important player.

If there is any one player that is the quarterback of the team it would be the goaltender.

There might not be a place where that is more the case than in major tournaments where every game becomes so much more important.

Goaltenders are the one player that can make a bigger difference than anyone else on the ice.

For one they never leave the ice and don’t get a break facing every shot that comes towards the net.

There are always going to be impactful players on defence that can shut down top scorers and there are always going to be forwards that can put the puck in the net.

They are all important but if the goalie can’t save the puck nobody’s effort is worthwhile as eventually a puck will get to the net.

More likely there will be a time when the goalie comes under fire and he needs to stand on his head to make spectacular save after spectacular save.

If they don’t than the play is over quickly and their team has another goal to make up for.

Over a period of games like in the NHL goaltenders can have an off-day and it is not the end of the season.

String too many of those together and the team is looking for a new goalie to help them get some wins.

In major tournaments there is no bad game for goalies as one bad game can make a world of difference.

So every team needs to come in with a pair of great goaltenders that can win games and sometimes play unbelievably to keep a team in a game.

For the top teams goaltenders are essentially for when they play much better teams and usually find themselves in their own end for an extended period of time, at least for parts of the game.

For the lower level teams goaltending is essential and in the World Juniors that is shown almost every year.

Any time that a team pulls off a surprise tournament and takes a few big games it can be traced back to the goaltender.

Look at the 2015 tournament when Denis Godla almost single handily brought the Slovakians to the medal rounds and took home a bronze.

Godla ended the tournament with a 2.76 GAA and a .925 save percentage as the tournament’s best goaltender.hockey-sidebar

He was the main reason for the success of the Slovakians in the last tournament and continued a pattern of lower level teams having great tournaments because of great goaltending.

This year the lower level teams are staying where many expected them to stay when the Juniors began.

The big reason is that none have had that great goaltending performance that they need to get past those great teams.

In fact the great performances have come from some of the bigger teams in the Juniors and that is trouble for everyone the tournament.

For one the Swedes have been getting a great week from Linus Soderstrom who dominated the Americans in a 1-0 win for the Swedes.

His biggest rival might just be his opponent in that game in Alex Nedeljkovic who has also had a great tournament so far.

The Czechs may have the most surprising performance from a goaltender in Vitek Vanecek who is leading the Juniors with a 0.48 GAA and .974 save percentage that helped the Czechs take a point form the Russians.

The Canadians were hoping to have someone compete for the title but Mackenzie Blackwood, their presumed starter, was suspended for the first two games of the tournament.

He made his debut in Day 3 and might return against the Swedes where he will truly be tested.

Goaltending is essential in the World Juniors and this year some of the biggest programs are reaping the benefits.

It will only get more important as the playoffs approach and the games become win or go home and the team with the best goaltending might just win it all and take home a gold medal.

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Day 4:
Czech Republic 5 – 3 Belarus
– The Czechs kept the fight for Group B alive with a convincing win over the Belarusians who finished their tournament without a win guaranteeing their spot in the relegations series as they fight for their spot in the tip tier

Sweden 5 – 0 Denmark
– The Swedes continued a dominant tournament failing to lose a game so far as they easily went past Denmark who were forced to wait to determine their potential fate as they have one more game left but have only managed one win

Finland 8 – 3 Slovakia
– The host team definitely didn’t start great against the upset kings of the tournament in Slovakia but they weren’t going to back down as they stormed back from a 2-1 first period deficit to take the win

USA 10 – 1 Switzerland
– Switzerland had one shot at staying alive and avoiding relegation but they couldn’t get it done as the Americans showed the power of their offence in scoring 10 goals against the Swiss who will face Belarus to stay in the top tier

Day 5:
Slovakia vs. Russia (Thursday December 31st; 7:00 am ET)
– Slovakia upset Czech Republic earlier in the year and now they will look to pull the biggest upset of the tournament against a very good Russian team looking to clinch first place in Group B with a win

USA vs. Denmark (Thursday December 31st; 9:00 am ET)
– The Americans started the tournament tough with games against their toughest competition but they end with the weakest teams as they hope to take another win and wait to see if they can take first place in Group A

Czech Republic vs. Finland (Thursday December 31st; 11:00 am ET)
– The Finns will face another tough test in their last round robin game taking on Vitek Vanecek and the Czechs who hope to keep their positioning in the group while the Finns try to jump ahead of them

Canada vs. Sweden (Thursday December 31st; 1:00 pm ET)
– Canada has no chance of earning first place but they can get a moral victory in beating one of the best teams in the tournament to show that they are better than their performance against Switzerland in their last game

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