As the year drew to a close last night, so did the 2021 World Juniors group play. After an impressive 4-1 win versus Finland, Canada closed out Group A on top; likewise, the United States also ended 2020 with a win, topping Group B after a 4-0 win versus Sweden. After a week of play, four teams from each group advanced: Canada, Finland, Germany, and Slovakia from Group A and the United States, Russia, Sweden, and the Czech Republic from Group B.
Round Robin Recap:
Group A was Canada’s to lose. They started off the tournament with a dominating 16-2 win versus Germany and followed that up with a surprisingly close 3-1 finish against Slovakia. From there, they crushed Switzerland 10-0 and defeated Finland 4-1, more than doubling the shots on net against the Finns (40-19).
Finland wasn’t as dominating as Canada, but still managed to snag second place in a weak Group A. Their only loss was the most recent game to Canada.
Germany was the surprise team of the tournament. Promoted from last year’s Division 1-A tournament, many expected them to be at the bottom of their group, especially after a 16-2 loss to Canada. However, they rallied from that, beating both Slovakia (4-3) and Switzerland (5-4) and snagging a third place spot in the group and first ever quarterfinal berth. Slovakia follows at fourth, with a single win over Switzerland.
Going into the tournament, Group B looked like a bloodbath. The United States, Russia, and Sweden all had opportunities to win the group, and with the Czech’s 2-0 win over Russia, it was anyone’s guess who would come out on top. After a 5-3 loss to Russia, which saw goaltender Spencer Knight falter, the United States seemed out of sorts. However, a dominating 11-0 win versus Austria was followed up by another dominating 7-0 win over the Czech Republic, and the United States found themselves with an opportunity to win Group B. They closed it out, with a win over Sweden on New Years Eve.
Russia, the second place team, has looked great in spots but also fell victim to a perfectly coached game by the Czech Republic (final score 2-0). They followed up a tough loss with a 7-1 win versus Austria, then broke Sweden’s 54 game round robin win streak with a 4-3 overtime win. Sweden, after their loss to the United States, has slotted in at third in the group, after wins versus Austria and the Czechs. Finally, the Czech Republic grabs the last spot with wins over Russia and Austria.
First, Russia and Germany will start the day off at 12:00 p.m. Russia should win this game, but don’t count out Germany’s tenacity. If they follow the Czech Republic’s model, they could make this game a lot closer. Keep an eye out for German forward Tim Stutzle, the third overall pick in 2020 who’s also third overall in tournament scoring.
A historic hockey rivalry follows the opening game: Finland versus Sweden at 3:30. Sweden on paper should have the upper hand, especially when it comes to their back end. Finland doesn’t have a signature win in the round robin but will certainly be eager to play their arch rivals.
Canada and the Czech Republic will clash at 7:00 p.m., in a game that could go the way of a blow out or be a surprising upset. Canada has dominated this tournament, so look for them to continue to do so. The Czech Republic, however, did create a great game plan versus Russia, so they could have some tricks up their sleeves.
Lastly, the United States and Slovakia cap off the night at 10:30 p.m. The United States has hit their stride, and after a solid 4-0 win versus Sweden, should continue their stellar play. Slovakia, however, did play team Canada fairly close, so they know how to hang with the top teams.
The quarterfinals will begin on January 2nd.
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