Wednesday, January 4, 2017

2017 World Junior Tournament Update

The 2017 World Junior Championship Quarterfinals will be held today in Montreal at the Bell Centre. The tournament began back on Boxing Day, December 26th.

2017 WJC Logo English

The United States opened with a 6-1 win in Group B over Latvia while Canada delighted the home fans in Toronto with a 5-3 victory over Russia. All Group B games were held at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, home of the Maple Leafs.

Russia rebounded with a 9-1 hammering of Latvia on the 27th and Canada took over the top spot in Group B with a 5-0 shutout over Slovakia in their first game. The lone game on the 28th saw the United States equal the Canadians with a 5-2 win over the Slovaks.

The marquee game on the 29th saw the Americans defeat the Russians 3-2 to move to 3 wins while Canada kept pace with a dominant 10-2 win over the winless Latvians.

In a key game to determine who would survive for the 2018 edition and who would drop into the Relegation playoff, Latvia scored first, but Slovakia scored the next four goals until Latvia added a power play goal late in the third period for a final score of 4-2 for Slovakia.

The loss left Latvia at 0-4 and in last place, forcing them to compete against the last place team in Group A to determine who would be relegated to Division I Group A for 2018.

The final placings came down to two games on December 31st, with the United States claiming the top spot in Group B with a 3-1 victory over Canada, ending a lengthy loosing streak to their Northern neighbors on their nearly annual New Year's Eve meetings. Russia then claimed third place in the group with a 2-0 shutout over Slovakia.

The final placings in Group B were the United States 4-0 with 12 points, Canada 3-1 with 9, Russia 2-2 good for 6 points, Slovakia 1-3 for 3 points and Latvia at 0-4 in a very straightforward table with no games going to overtime and seeing the three points split or any ties in the placings.

Group A on the other hand...

With all games being played at the Bell Centre in Montreal, home of the Canadiens, action got underway on December 26th and gave little indication as to what was to follow when Sweden pounded relegation favorites Denmark 6-1. Eyebrows were raised when the lightly regarded Czech Republic, behind a third period goal from Michael Spacek held up as the winner in a 2-1 victory over last year's gold medalist Finland.

The Finns did not have the NHL ready talent they boasted last year, Jesse Puljujarvi (5 goals, 12 assists and 17 points), Sebastian Aho (5G 9A, 14 Pts) and Patrik Laine (7G 6A, 13 Pts), finished 1-2-3 in tournament scoring in the tournament held in Helsinki in front of the partisan home fans to boot. But still, the loss to the Czechs was seen as an upset.

Play on December 27th saw Switzerland open play with a 4-3 win over the Czech Republic thanks to an overtime just 23 seconds into the extra 3-on-3 on a goal my Nico Hischier.

Eyebrows were raised when Denmark got out to a 3-0 lead over Finland after 36 minutes. While the Finns came back with two goals in the third period, Denmark held strong for the last four and a half minutes to earn what many called the biggest upset in World Junior history.

Sweden won the only game on December 28th with a 4-2 win over Switzerland. On the 29th, the Danes again made headlines when they not only earned a point by getting to overtime against the Czechs, but won the game 47 seconds into the extra period on a beautiful goal by Mathias From.

Desperately needing a win, Finland fell for the third time when Sweden remained undefeated with a 3-1 victory thanks to two third period goals by Alexander Nylander.

That result left Finland hoping for a win by Denmark in their next game over Switzerland, which would still afford the Finns an escape route from relegation with a regulation win over the Swiss in their final game. The Swiss had other intentions though, and in their game on December 30th, Switzerland prevailed in a 5-4 shootout win over the Danes. The loss doomed Finland to a last place finish and a spot in the relegation playoffs against Latvia.

On the final day of group play, Sweden finished their schedule undefeated and first place in Group A with 12 points after a 5-2 win over the Czechs. Finland, meanwhile, preserved some dignity with a 2-0 shutout win over Switzerland in a meaningless game.

The loss by the Czechs allowed Denmark to finish second in Group A with a win, an overtime win, a shootout win and a loss, good for 6 points the hard way. The Czech Republic finished third with 5 points and Switzerland was fourth at 4 points while a stunned Finland was last with 3 points.

After the traditional day off on New Year's Day, the Quarterfinals were held on January 2nd. The format called for the first place team in each group to play the fourth place finisher from the opposite group, while the second place teams were paired with the other group's third place finisher.

The Danes reward for second place was Russia, who put a quick and decisive end to Demark's dreams of a medal with a 4-0 shutout in Toronto. In Montreal, Sweden had an easy time of it with an 8-3 win over Slovakia. The second game in Toronto saw the United States prevail in a close battle. Hischier tied the game at 2-2 with a goal for Switzerland, but Jordan Greenway restored the Americans lead 18 seconds later as the US held on for a 3-2 win and a place in the Semifinals. In the final game of the day, held in Montreal, Canada outlasted the Czech Republic 5-3.

Meanwhile, in the Relegation Round, Finland won the first game on January 2nd by a narrow 2-1 score. They then ensured their continued participation at the top level with a 4-1 win in the second game in the best-of-three series 4-1 to send Latvia down to Division I Group A for 2018.

Today's semifinals will both be held in Montreal, with the first game at 1 PM Eastern seeing the United States facing Russia for a second time after the US won their first meeting 3-2 on December 29th. The second game at 5:30 PM sees a heavyweight battle between Sweden and Canada that will surely have the Canadian fans creating a fantastic atmosphere with a spot in the gold medal game tomorrow on the line.

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