Monday, January 3, 2011

2011 World Junior Tournament Quarterfinal Report

The quarterfinals of the 2011 World Junior Championship provided some real fireworks on Sunday.

In the first game Canada fell behind by a goal just 1:09 into the contest but did not ignore the wakeup call and came back to score four straight goals from four different players to dispatch Switzerland in the early game, setting up the game everyone in North America was hoping for against the United States, only one round too early thanks to Sweden defeating Canada in a shootout on New Year's Eve.

In the second game, Finland led 3-1 with 3:41 to play when Yevgeni Kuznetsov bashed in a puck that appeared to be covered by Finnish goaltender Joni Ortio on a power play to pull Russia to within one and set up an exciting last few minutes.

Kuznetsov dazzled the crowd when he streaked into the Finland zone with under two minutes to play and danced his way though the defense to get a close range shot on Ortio, who made the save but failed to contain the puck, which was then sent home by Maxim Kitsyn to tie the score and cause the building to erupt.

The game then moved to overtime and Kuznetsov again was at the center of the action when he got the puck in the left faceoff circle from Kitsyn. He then fired passed a Finnish defender and over Ortio and into the top right corner to complete the amazing comeback for Russia.

The Russians (3-2) now advance to play unbeaten Sweden (3 regulation wins and 1 shootout win) Today at 3:30 PM eastern time, followed by the host United States (3 wins and 1 overtime win) taking on rivals Canada (4 wins and 1 shootout loss) at 7:30 PM to determine the gold medal finalists on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, in the Relegation Round, Slovakia had an easy time of Norway 5-0 to ensure Norway's return to Division I next season, while the Czech Republic did the same to Germany with a narrow 3-2 win with a goal with just one minute remaining.

Following today's semifinals, all four clubs will get a day of rest before the bronze and gold medal games, but Tuesday still has three games scheduled, with Germany and Norway and the Czech Republic and Slovakia finishing out the Relegation Round schedule even though both teams in the second game have already had their survival assured, taking away any final drama at the Dwyer Arena.

Finland and Switzerland will meet at the HSBC Arena to determine fifth place only because they have to in order to determine which group each will be placed in for next season's tournament in Edmonton and Calgary.

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