Tuesday, December 31, 2013

World Juniors and Spengler Cup Updates

In yesterday's World Juniors, upsets were the story of the day as play opened with Germany shocking the Czech Republic by not just winning, but blanking the Czechs despite Germany entering the game having scored 4 goals and having given up 24 in their previous three games. The 3 points for Germany lifted them out of last place and the relegation spot for the time being.

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That unexpected win was followed by Finland having an easy time of it in their 4-1 upset over favored Russia. When the afternoon session began, the trend continued as feisty Slovakia pulled away to a 3-1 lead over Canada, while in Group B, Norway led after one period 1-0 over Switzerland, making one wonder if this day would finish with four upsets out of four.

Canada dug deep and staged a comeback against Slovakia, closing to within one before the end of the second period and then dominating the third with three goals to pull away for a 5-3 win, giving them a chance to win Group A with a regulation win over the United States today.

Switzerland settled down and scored one in the second period and took a one goal lead early in the third, but plucky Norway tied it at the 9:00 mark, but less than 3 minutes later the Swiss got the game winner on a power play to send Norway to the Relegation Round and ensure their own spot in the playoffs on Thursday.

In today's early games, the Czech Republic rebounded from their loss to Germany with a 4-1 win over Slovakia. That result sent Germany into the Relegation Round against Norway and lifted the Czechs over Slovakia into third place in the final standings with 5 points to Slovakia's 3. Slovakia's win over Germany gave them the tie breaker and puts them into the playoffs against Sweden, who won the early game in Group B with an exciting 3-2 win over Russia, which was not decided until late in the game when Jacob de la Rose (Canadiens) tipped in a shot from the point by Gustav Olofsson (Wild).

In the just completed final games of the Preliminary Round, Canada raised their game against their rivals from the United States with first place in the group on the line and came away with a hard fought 3-2 win to take Group A.

Meanwhile, in Group B, the last game went to overtime as the Swiss got out to a 3-1 lead just before the halfway point of the game, but Finland fought back to tie the game just 35 seconds into the third period. Switzerland held tough to get the game to overtime before it was decided 4-3 in favor of Switzerland in a 6 round shootout, but the point scored by Finland for getting to overtime was enough to clinch second place in the group behind perfect Sweden. Russia placed third and Switzerland advanced from fourth place.

The Quarterfinal matchups are now set. In the first game, the United States loss today sees them now drawing Russia, losers of their last two, and who will no doubt be fired up with elimination now on the line at 6 AM eastern time with each subsequent game starting at 2 1/2 hour intervals. Finland is matched up against the Czech Republic in the second game of the cross-over pairings. By winning Group A, Canada draws Switzerland while Group B winner Sweden faces Slovakia in the late game in Thursday's hockey marathon.

In the United States, all four games will be aired on the NHL Network, while in Canada TSN has all but the Finland vs. Czech Republic game, which will be on TSN2.

In Switzerland, the Spengler Cup has concluded following yesterday's semifinal games where CSKA Moscow disappointed the home fans by defeating HC Davos 5-4 in a shootout. Geneve-Servette kept Swiss hopes alive with a 6-5 win over Team Canada after the Canadians rally from 6-3 fell short.

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That set up today's championship final where Servette led 2-0 after one period and had a 4-0 lead before CSKA got on the board with a goal just before the game's halfway point. The Russians got an early goal in the third period and pulled within one with a third consecutive goal at 16:31 but that was all they could muster as Geneva sealed the win with an empty net goal from former Ottawa Senator Kaspars Daugavins with a minute remaining for the final 5-3 margin and the championship.

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The win for Geneve-Servette was their first in the 91 year history of the tournament. They became only the third Swiss team to win the cup.

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