The quarterfinals of the 2021 World Junior Championship weren’t short on entertainment as Canada, Russia, Finland and the USA booked their spots in the semifinals.
Germany Fall Short Against Russia
With all the criticism surrounding the high scoring games at the 2021 World Junior Championship, yesterday’s quarterfinal matchups certainly helped silence the critics. The first game of the day saw perennial powerhouse Russia take on everyone’s second favorite team Germany in what was a closer match than many thought it would be. Hurricanes prospect Vasiliy Ponomarev opened the scoring with a beautiful shorthanded effort in the first period. Danil Bashkirov would grab Russia’s second goal of the game midway through the second period.
Germany surprised everyone by grabbing an early third-period goal through undrafted forward Florian Elias, who grabbed his fourth goal and ninth point of the tournament. In fact, Germany’s top line of Tim Stuetzle, John-Jason Peterka and Elias combined for 29 of Germany’s 38 points in the tournament.
The top three players of the tournament for Germany were Stuetzle, defenseman Mario Zimmerman and goaltender Florian Bugl.
Finland Pulls Off Incredible Comeback
The second game of the day saw the renewal of an age-old rivalry between Sweden and Finland. It didn’t disappoint as it was certainly the most entertaining matchup of the day. Detroit Red Wings prospect Lucas Raymond factored into both of Sweden’s goals as they got out to a quick 2-0 lead by the end of the first period. At the start of the second period the game turned on its head and Finland started to take over. Winnipeg Jets prospect Henri Nikkanen cut the deficit to one early in the second period and Finland went into the break down one.
It didn’t take long for Finland to strike again as Florida Panthers prospect Anton Lundell tied the game early in the third on the power play. With the game inching closer to overtime it was Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Roni Hirvonen who emerged as the hero. With 23 seconds remaining the 18-year old center snuck a wraparound past Swedish netminder Hugo Alnefelt to secure their spot in the semifinals.
The top three players of the tournament for Sweden were Vancouver Canucks prospect Arvid Costmar, Los Angeles Kings prospect Tobias Bjornfot and Arizona Coyotes prospect Victor Soderstrom.
Canada Books Spot in Semifinal
The third game of the day saw the tournament’s only remaining undefeated team in Canada take on the Czech Republic. Canada opened to an early 2-0 lead midway through the first period with Buffalo Sabres prospect Dylan Cozens picking up his tournament-leading seventh of the WJC and Colorado Avalanche prospect Bowen Byram scoring his first goal of the tournament just after Canada’s powerplay expired. What looked like it was going to be another dominant victory for Canada turned into a hard-fought battle thanks to the Czech Republic’s resilience.
Czech forwards Adam Raska and Jan Mysak would both come close to getting their team on the board but Dylan Levi continued to shut the door and preserve the shutout. Neither team would get on the scoresheet until Washington Capitals prospect Connor McMichael iced the game with an empty-net goal.
The top three players of the tournament for the Czech Republic were defenseman Radek Kucerik, defenseman David Jiricek and Montreal Canadiens prospect Jan Mysak.
USA Hold Off Resilient Slovakia
The final match of the quarterfinals doesn’t look like a close game when you look at the final score, but Team USA had to hold on for a gritty 5-2 victory over Slovakia. Kings prospect Arthur Kaliyev got the USA on the board halfway through the first period with a powerplay goal. It’s his second of the tournament and Anaheim Ducks prospect Trevor Zegras picked up a secondary assist to regain the tournament scoring lead.
Coyotes prospect John Farinacci and Canadiens prospect Cole Caufield gave the USA a 3-0 lead with goals early in the second period. Slovakia wasn’t going down that easy and grabbed their first of the game two minutes later through Matej Kaslik.
Slovakia cut the deficit to one halfway through the second period with a powerplay goal from Dominik Sojka. That’s as far as the comeback would go however as Farinacci bagged his second of the game with less than five minutes remaining. 2021 draft-eligible prospect Matthew Beniers sealed the victory with an empty-net goal.
The top three players of the tournament for Slovakia were Simon Latkoczy, David Mudrak, and Simon Nemec. The semifinal matchups are now set for Monday with Canada taking on Russia and the USA facing off against Finland.