WJC Quarterfinals Storylines – Grudges & Rematches

VANCOUVER — Round-robin play has wrapped up at this year’s world junior hockey championship, and teams and fans alike are now turning their attention to the quarterfinals.

Here’s a look at what to expect in the tournament’s next phase.

Sweden (3-1-0-0) vs. Switzerland (1-0-1-2)

The Swedes have been a powerhouse in round-robin play for years.

This time around, they extended their winning streak to 48 games, despite a stomach flu keeping five players from suiting up against Khazakstan on Monday.

But Sweden has struggled in playoffs at the tournament. Last year, they took home silver after losing to Canada in the championship game.

This year’s Swedish squad is once again stacked with talent, including Anaheim Ducks forward Isac Lundestrom and Vegas Golden Knights prospect Erik Brannstrom, who was taken 15th overall at the 2017 draft.

Switzerland may have trouble getting past the big blue line.

The Swiss squad put up 11 goals in round-robin play and notched a single win, beating Denmark 4-0. They also gave Canada a scare, clawing out two power play points in a 3-2 loss.

Canada's Barrett Hayton Switzerland goalie Akira Schmid
Canada’s Barrett Hayton jumps in front of Switzerland goalie Akira Schmid (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

Switzerland may have been seeking a bit of revenge from the Canadians, who beat them 8-2 in the quarterfinals last year.

Canada (3-0-0-1) vs. Finland (2-0-0-2)

Don’t count Finland out against the defending champions.

The team was ousted from the quarterfinals last year after losing 4-3 to the Czech Republic in a shootout. But that was last year.

This time around, the Finns have posted a pair of wins in the group phase, beating both Slovakia and Khazakstan. They also beat Canada 5-2 in pre-tournament play.

Team USA's Mattias Samuelsson Finland Santeri Virtanen United States Cayden Primeau
Team USA’s Mattias Samuelsson, Finland’s Santeri Virtanen and United States goaltender Cayden Primeau (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

A trio of NHLers suit up for the Finnish team and the roster also includes 17-year-old Kaapo Kakko, who’s expected to go high in this year’s draft.

The Canadians know they’ll need to shutdown some skilled scorers in order to make it to the medal round.

But Canada has talent, too, including the tournament’s No. 2 and No. 3 scorers.

Philadelphia Flyers prospect Morgan Frost has four goals and three assists while Canada’s captain, Maxime Comtois, has six points.

Team Canada players celebrate
Team Canada players celebrates Morgan Frost’s goal against team Finland during first period IIHF exhibition hockey action at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

The Canadians also lead the tournament in goals for with 23, thanks in large part to their 14-0 blowout over Denmark on Dec. 26.

U.S. (3-0-1-0) vs. Czech Republic (1-1-0-2)

Watch out for this rematch of last year’s bronze medal game.

The U.S. took third place with a 9-3 win and the Czechs may be looking to even the score.

But beating the Americans will be a tall order, even if star centre Jack Hughes remains out of the lineup. The 17-year-old who’s expected to be taken first overall at this year’s draft has missed three games with an undisclosed injury.

U.S. forward Ryan Poehling leads the tournament in scoring with five goals and three assists.

Ryan Poehling Canadiens
Ryan Poehling, Canadiens draftee (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Americans also have the special-teams edge so far, killing 100 per cent of their penalties and scoring on six of their 17 power-play chances.

The Czechs won a single game in the round-robin, but they forced overtime in their loss to the Swiss.

Russia (4-0-0-0) vs. Slovakia (1-0-0-3)

Russia is the only team in the tournament to post a perfect record in the group phase this year, winning all four games in regulation.

Undrafted goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov has been key to their success, allowing just two goals and posting a .964 save percentage.

It’s a big performance from a Russian team that was booted from contention by the U.S. in the quarterfinals last year.

Team Russia celebrates
Team Russia celebrates (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

Slovakia didn’t make it to the medal round either, after Sweden beat them 3-2. It was the third year in a row that Slovakia failed to get past the quarterfinals.

The team struggled to score in the group phase this year, save for an 11-2 win over Khazakstan.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press