Today is the last day of the 2017 World Junior Hockey Championships. The medals are decided; teenagers cry; anthems are played; there will be at least one long on-ice celebration, and one team will ostentatiously not care about their bronze medal.
Russia at Sweden
The action starts with the unhappy losers of the semifinals playing off for the bronze medal at 3:30 pm. Last year, Sweden phoned this game in, and to be fair, a bunch of them had the ‘flu. This year, with the best Swedish team possibly ever, they have to be bitterly disappointed in their loss to the Canadians. But it would be nice to see a competitive game today.
The Swedes were reduced to one effective line against a powerhouse team Canada. Leafs fans can be consoled that their man, Carl Grundström, was on that line, making things happen for good and ill. (He took a couple of emotional penalties that weren’t smart.) If you feel like being pessimistic, remember that one of the two really hot properties, Alex Nylander and Joel Eriksson Ek is a Buffalo Sabre.
The Russians are likely even more bitterly disappointed after losing in a shootout they thought they’d won for a brief moment. The IIHF changed the shootout format, sent out some incorrect information to teams, and while the TSN TV crew and the USA team and players knew the deal, the Russians and the on-ice officials were all confused. Not a good moment in shootout history. Not that there is such a thing.
Jeremy Bracco had one secondary assist in the game and scored in the shootout, but his line with Jordan Greenway and Luke Kunin were the best on the ice.
For the bronze medal game today, expect some backup goalies and some players fiercely determined to think even being in the bronze medal game is an unacceptable failure.
Canada at USA
The happy winners of the semifinals face their most hated rival, so this gold medal game at 8 pm should raise the roof. The semifinal came close.
Canada brought a relentless offence and a good enough defence to bear on the Swedes and picked them clean. They’ll want to do that again to the only team that beat them in the round robin.
The Q line of Julien Gauthier (who is not entitled to the goat emoji at all), Pierre-Luc Dubois and Nicolas Roy were on fire against the Swedes. The Tampa line with Anthony Cirelli and Mitchell Stephens were also hot. Dylan Strome got a late goal in the semifinal, but he has cooled right off after a very good start. I think questions are going to be asked about him soon.
Le trio des gros bonhommes (je déteste ce terme mais c'est le cas!) Gauthier-Dubois-Roy dérange beaucoup les Suédois ce soir... #tvasports— Mikaël Lalancette (@MLalancetteTVA) January 5, 2017
So the Q line is being called des gros bonhommes. I’m not sure it’s their size that’s winning them games. Might just be the goals coming off of their sticks, but man, that’s a nickname for the ages.
Expect Carter Hart to play the whole game this time, not just most of it.
Facing the home team, even if they actually have last change, is the USA, who have surprised a lot of people at this tournament. I’ll admit they always look like they need one more capable scoring line, but they’ve gotten the job done and have better goalies to rely on than Canada.
Expect Tyler Parsons to start, not the better performing Joseph Woll. It’s not like Parsons has been bad, so it is plausible to see how his experience and seniority is getting him the starter’s job.
Expect the Bracco line to be good and for Clayton Keller and Colin White to be compared all game to Johnny Gaudreau.
Both of these games are too close to call. But the gold medal game will be the best one ever until the next time.
From yesterday: Grundström puts it in, but it is that future Sabre who is producing the brilliance.
Bracco’s shootout goal: