On the fourth day of the WJC, the action stayed muted until it was nearly midnight in the east.
Switzerland: 4, Denmark: 0
Switzerland opened the day’s action with an expected win over Denmark. The Swiss have been quietly good without their best junior-aged player in Nico Hischier, and they have a pair of players high up in the points race.
ICYMI: @SwissIceHockey made the quarter-finals thanks to its first win, 4-0 against Denmark with a Kurashev hat trick. Read more: https://t.co/J1HLsQR71U— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) December 30, 2018
En français : https://t.co/SBynF92xqi pic.twitter.com/AhNXj2g0vd
Finland: 5, Slovakia: 1
Finland cruised to a win over the Slovaks, who look more plausible than their results show.
ICYMI: Finland (@leijonat) got its quarter-final ticket last night thanks to a 5-1 against Slovakia. Watch the goals in this #WorldJuniors video!— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) December 30, 2018
Read more: https://t.co/YZuTq5vPaU
En français : https://t.co/HiOQpTl0Ib pic.twitter.com/WSMmbHuYhc
Canada: 5, Czechia: 1
Canada is also winning easily, and the Czechs helped them by having a horrible game and doing everything wrong. First Martin Necas had a skate problem that kept him off the ice, then Martin Kaut discovered the 10-minute misconduct that goes with a boarding minor (this penalty structure is a good and effective idea), and then Necas sat in the box too. The top three (Kaut, Necas and Filip Zadina) played less than 13 minutes combined in the first period.
Canada led 3-1 at the end of one, and the game was over.
Filip Kral, on the third pair, looked totally overwhelmed by the speed of the Canadians at times. At other times, he was just there, not able to generate offence. By the end, Canada had outshot the Czechs 30 to 24 and totally owned the ice.
Michael DiPietro played a good game but wasn’t tested. Expect him to start the next one too.
ICYMI: #WorldJuniors host Canada stays undefeated and on top of Group A with an impressive 5-1 win against the Czechs. Here are the goals of @HC_WJC & @narodnitym.— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) December 30, 2018
Read more: https://t.co/fxbQOy8s8Y
En français : https://t.co/IwhgNHXDGF pic.twitter.com/tEC1dQYvGF
Sweden: 5, USA: 4 (OT)
Sweden kicked the stuffing out of the USA for two periods plus. The second in particular was a scene of total domination by the fast, puck moving Swedes as they laid on the pressure. The only reason the score was only run up to 4-0 two and a half minutes into the third period was Kyle Keyser, the USA goalie. If I tell you he’s a Boston prospect, you might guess what happens next, but first watch this goal:
Mikey Anderson made it 4-1 with ten minutes to go. He was assisted by Ryan Peohling. Poehling, a Habs draft pick they might have got at a bargain price of the 25th overall, has been quiet this tournament with only a couple of points heading into this game. He got loud.
He scored at 53:25 of the game to make it 4-2, and then the Swedes started to work harder to try to get a goal back. Their strategy was definitely not to turtle. The TV timeout rolled around in the last five minutes of the game, and as I’ve seen twice before, the trailing team used that to rest their top lines and to draw up six-player strategies to use with the goalie pulled.
The USA came out of the timeout ready to play, and a few mistakes by Sweden, one of them huge, let to Poehling scoring twice more — a natural hat trick to tie the game with under 30 seconds left. The Swedes totally failed on several clearing attempts and resorted to blocking heroics to keep the damage as low as it was. The whole final frame of this game was a master work by the USA coach and Keyser, who got off fast and effectively. The USA players, who hadn’t covered themselves in glory in the first 50 minutes, took advantage of every mistake. The USA defence was particularly easy to exploit for the Swedes until the final minutes.
OT was three-on-three, and that format heavily favours the Swedes who could roll their worst defender and have the best puck-handler on the ice. They didn’t roll the worst, they rolled out Erik Brännström, Adam Boqvist and Rasmus Sandin. All of them glide so smooth as they wriggle up the ice like bright yellow sunfish deking out the defending Americans with ease. They are all beautiful to watch.
Sandin had a great chance that was broken up by some stellar backchecking by a USA forward when Quinn Hughes was gassed and needed a change. The bench bossing from Sweden in OT was smooth, and the changes didn’t leave any holes. A Swedish goal seemed inevitable, and yet the USA forced Samuel Ersson (Flyers) to make one key save.
In the end it wasn’t the captain and star of the team, Brännström, it wasn’t Sandin, who was thwarted on his best play, it was Adam Boqvist who scored on a sweet give-and-go-and-back-again with Lucas Elvenes to win the game.
HIGHLIGHTS: This #WorldJuniors game had everything a hockey fan could wish for! A huge four-goal comeback, drama, overtime and many goals. @BoqvistAdam scored the OT winner for @Trekronorse, USA's @LilUziPoehlss had a natural hat trick.— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) December 30, 2018
READ MORE: https://t.co/aZBUdCSWdf pic.twitter.com/kfDhQBJnwa
Pontus Holmberg #29 is the net-front annoyance on the second goal.
Since they take out the commentary, here’s the highlights with the excitement added back in:
All times are Toronto time.
Switzerland plays Russia at 8 p.m. and Kazakhstan plays Slovakia in the late game at 10:30.
New Year’s Eve Schedule
Denmark plays Czechia in the early game at 4 p.m.
Sweden plays Kazakhstan in the 6:30 p.m. game.
Russia and Canada face off in what might be the game of the tournament at 8 p.m.
At 10:30, the USA and Finland joust for their positions in Group B.
WJC Standings after Day 4
All teams have played three games except Kazakhstan and Russia. The late game on December 30 between the Kazakhs and Slovakia will decide who is last in Group B. Someone has to win that game, and the loser will almost certainly go winless in the tournament and play Denmark for relegation. Kazakhstan’s final game is against Sweden.
Sweden is going to go undefeated now unless they do something astonishing in their final game. The game between USA and Finland will decide the order of second and third in Group B; no matter how it’s won, the winner takes second place.
The quarterfinals are a crossover format. So 1A plays 4B, 1B plays 4A, 2A plays 3B and so on. For the USA and Finland, coming third in Group B likely means Russia in a quarterfinal instead of Switzerland or Czechia. The reward for the winner of the “not going to relegation bowl” between Slovakia and Kazakhstan is to play Canada (probably) in the quarterfinals.
In Group A, the writing looks like it’s on the wall and Canada will go undefeated and get the easiest quarterfinal going. But Russia hasn’t really been tested yet, and they’ve got two wins and only one goal against. Their game against Switzerland is a must-win to keep them even with Canada in points. If they do that, then the New Year’s Eve game decides all.
Switzerland is in a really tough position where, in order to avoid fourth place, they have to beat the Russians. If they just get one point and finish with five, and Czechia beats Denmark as expected, and they finish with five, Czechia breaks the tie because they beat the Swiss in head-to-head play. The Swiss seem destined for fourth place short of a miracle.
Check out our schedule post for TSN channels for each game. Some games are only online.
See you in the New Year when we get ready for the quarterfinals on January 2.