BRITISH COLUMBIA – It was Boxing Day in Canada, meaning that it was shoppers had the opportunity to spend their Christmas money and purchase whatever they wanted. On the other hand, hockey fans were preparing for the World Juniors, as every year the event begins on Boxing Day.
It was an entertaining first day of competition, and here’s how it played out:
Switzerland vs. Czech Republic
Result: Czech Republic won 2-1 in Overtime
In what was an intense first game of the tournament, many were expecting the Czech Republic to roll through Switzerland. However when it was gametime, both times looked very equal.
Many were excited to finally have a glance at the Czech squad, who are considered one of their best teams they have put out in recent memory, due to the likes of first-round players such as Filip Zadina (Red Wings), Martin Kaut (Colorado Avalanche) and Martin Necas (Carolina Hurricanes).
Switzerland would open the scoring when Oshawa Generals forward Nando Eggenberger scored on the powerplay. The star of the afternoon would be Kaut who would tie the game shortly after the Eddenberger goal and then in overtime would set up defensemen David Kvasnicka for the winner.
The Czech’s will look to stay undefeated as their next opponent is against the Russians, while the Swiss will look to bounce back against Canada.
United States vs. Slovakia
Result: United States won 2-1 in regulation
After an impressive pre-tournament, the United States were looking to once again be a favourite to capture the gold medal come January, and their first step would be beating a Slovak team who were coming off a huge loss in the pre-tournament against Canada.
Slovakia (who upsetted the States in last year’s tournament) looked as if they would repeat their performance in Buffalo, as the States were looking sluggish.
The US dominated, however could not get anything past goaltender Samuel Hlavaj (who had already 21 saves after 2 periods). The upset was suddenly looking more realistic when Marek Korencik scored late into the second period, giving his team the lead after 40 minutes.
It all changed in the third period when the States would come roaring back to take the lead after projected first overall pick in this upcoming year’s draft Jack Hughes would set up captain Mikey Anderson (Kings) from the point followed by Evan Barratt (Blackhawks) shortly after.
Hlavaj was outstanding, stopping 39 of 41 shots, while States goaltender Kyle Keyser (Boston Bruins) saved 12 of 13 shots.
Next up, the US will have a date against Kazakhstan, and the Slovaks will have to play against the mighty Swedes.
Canada vs. Denmark
Result: Canada won 14-0
After a disappointing final pre-tournament game against Finland, last year’s champion Canada were still the presumptive favourite to win the tournament, and back-to-back gold medals.
While not much was expected from the Danes, and the host team manhandled the entire 60 minutes.
Canada would come away with the 14-0 victory, with everyone except for 2 players contributing at least a point and tremendous individual performances from Morgan Frost (Flyers) who had a hat-trick and 2 assists, Maxime Comtois (Ducks) who had 4 goals, Cody Glass (Golden Knights) with 3 helpers and Owen Tippett (Panthers) who had a pair of goals.
Canada goaltender Michael DiPietro (Canucks) also had an assist, but was also sharp when called upon, stopping all 12 shots including a penalty shot early into the third period.
Canada will host the Swiss next, while it doesn’t get any easier for Denmark as their next match-up will be against the Russians.Embed from Getty Images
Finland vs. Sweden
Result: Sweden won 2-1 in regulation
The game that everyone was looking forward to, 2 rival powerhouse nations, squaring off against each other on the first day of competition.
With such immense talent on both sides, it was looking to be an offensive-type contest, but the show was stolen from both goaltenders.
It may look as if anyone of Sweden’s back-end is a favourite to win Top Defensemen, Erik Brannstrom is usually at the top of that list. The Golden Knight prospect wired 2 shots from the point to give Sweden 2-0 lead.
Unable to find the back of the net, the Fins were finally able to squeak one through as project top-3 pick Kappo Kakko made a beautiful pass on a 2-on-1 to Penn State player Aarne Talvitie (Devils) to cut the lead in half. Unfortunately, the scoring would stop for Finland as they would fall to Sweden, continuing to their streak of consecutive round-robin wins to 45.
Ukko-Pekka Luukonen (Sabres) and Samuel Ersson (Flyers) were outstanding disabling any opportunity of a long score-sheet. After allowing 2 power-play goals in the first period, Luukonen stopped all 32 stops after that, while Ersson made 27 saves.
Sweden will look to continue their streak against Slovakia, and Finland have a date against Kazakhstan.
Follow @BringerOfRaine on Twitter for regular updates throughout the World Juniors.