Results from Monday, December 26
Denmark at Sweden: 6-1 Sweden
Carl Grundström started this game off with a breakaway for the first scoring chance. It didn’t go in, but it wasn’t the last time he had the puck on his stick either.
Most people will remember this game for the first WJC points for 16 year old phenomenon Rasmus Dahlin, but for fans of the Leafs, Grundström was the story. He banged, he crashed, he owned that spot in front of the goalie, and he dug pucks out of corners like he thought he was Zach Hyman or something.
He showed some rough edges at first, the whole team did, and it’s not a surprise that Felix Sandström, Sweden’s goalie, was named player of the game. Once they settled down, they played a fast-paced skating game and scored goal after goal against a Danish team that looked like they were just a few key players away from being competitive.
Alex Nylander and Joel Eriksson Ek were the offensive force on the team, accounting for three of the goals, while Grundström’s third line had one, and he got a beautiful short-handed breakaway goal on the penalty kill. (The Zack Hyman special again, only this one went in.)
Finland at Czech Republic: 2-1 Czechs
This game was the clash of systems. The Finns use geometry, the Czechs a fusillade of shots. The game stayed tied at one goal a piece not even half way into the first period, and it was closely fought until the third period which was all Czech shooting all the time.
Finland had one of last year’s best goalies in net in Veini Vehvilainen, and he was strong all game. There a lot of teams here who would love Olli Juolevi to run their breakout. The Leafs would love him. And he was the backbone of everything good Finland did.
The Finns put on a bit of a push in the third, but it was the Czechs who finally broke the tie with only a minute and a half left. Michael Spacek, a Jets prospect, had the winner and the Czechs’ 17 year old goalie Jakub Skarek had the win. That might well be a name to remember for the future.
This was a huge win for the Czechs and virtually guarantees them a spot in the quarterfinals, given the pool setup. The Finns need to regroup and move on to the next game.
Latvia at USA: 6-1 USA
Unlike the Swedish blowout of Denmark, this game managed to be very dull for most of its run. USA played as well as they needed to for two periods against a Latvian team that just rode the promotion elevator up, and look to be heading right back down via relegation.
The Leafs Jeremy Bracco had only two shots on goal in some decent third-line minutes, but he got the fifth goal on the power play while Latvia defended very poorly. Clayton Keller was the star of the game, and tied Nylander for the scoring lead early on with two goals.
Martins Dzierkals, the other Leafs prospect in the game, was the class of the Latvian offence even coming off an injury, but he didn’t get a point and looked frustrated and out of his depth at times.
Leafs prospect Jeremy Bracco goes five-hole to make it 5-1 USA pic.twitter.com/1tyIXaOM67— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) December 26, 2016
Canada at Russia: 5-3 Canada
If you can make Russia, and one of the best young goalies in the world, look like Latvia, you might just be a very good team. Canada did that in the first two periods.
At first, Canada came out very hard, played a brutally fast game and beat the Russians with no mercy:
Matters have taken a turn for the worse, Canada are keeping us on the outside while crashing our net intensely. Something has to change!— Russia Hockey (@russiahockey_en) December 27, 2016
Statistics of the first two periods:— Russia Hockey (@russiahockey_en) December 27, 2016
Shots on target: 27-9
Penalty minutes: 4-8#TeamRussia
With one goal in the third period for Russia to make it 4-2 it seemed like there was still faint hope, but the Russians were again crushed by Dylan Strome on the power play to make it 5-2. The Russians, who played very evenly with Canada in the third, got one back, but it wasn’t enough. The Canadian power play is just too strong.
At the end of the first day, Canada’s Matt Barzal was the player of the game for Canada and is leading the points race, while Dylan Strome looked like a very, very good player and is tied for second with Nylander and Keller. Russia looked like a team you should not count out just yet.