All hail Latvia! The plucky underdogs of the entire tournament scored a shocking 5-2 victory over Czechia, advancing to the quarterfinal and eliminating Slovakia in the process. Now, on the final day of the qualifying round, attention turns to Canada, Sweden, and Finland, three of the presumed top four teams in the tournament, all of whom have some work to do before the knockout rounds begin. Let’s take a look at the day’s action.
Switzerland vs. Austria (2:00 PM)
Switzerland: Team Roster
Austria: Team Roster
The stakes for this game are as high as it gets. One team advances to the quarterfinals. The other is eliminated. For a winless team, Switzerland has had a decent tournament, losing games to Sweden and Germany 3-2 but being blown out 7-1 by the United States. If they’re going to overcome Austria, they need more from Simon Knak. He’s a 2021 sixth-round draft pick of the Nashville Predators and one of Switzerland’s few NHL-drafted prospects. He has captained his team in five consecutive tournaments, and he needs to step up if he’s going to ensure he plays at least one more WJC game in his career.
Austria enters today after two brutal losses, 6-0 to Sweden and 7-0 to the United States. They’re last in the tournament in scoring efficiency, last on the penalty kill, and ninth on the power play. Only Senna Peeters and Ian Scherzer, both forwards, even have multiple points. Peeters is a 20-year-old undrafted player, but Scherzer might be one to watch in the future. He had a dominant performance in his league’s playoffs last season and is only 17. This game could be his chance to put his nation on his back and really grab the eyes of some NHL talent evaluators. It’s hard to pick a real favorite here, but given the brutal streak Austria has been on, we’ll give a slight nod to Switzerland.
Players to Watch: Simon Knak, F [NSH] (SUI); Ian Scherzer, F (AUS)
Canada vs. Finland (6:00 PM)
Canada: Team Roster
Finland: Team Roster
The must-see matchup of the day comes at dinner-time, with host nation Canada taking on Finland. Both teams enter undefeated, but Finland required overtime for one victory, so they are a point behind. Mason McTavish has been the talk of the tournament so far for Canada. He leads the tournament with 10 points and had a four-goal game against Slovakia. Goaltender Dylan Garand, taken by the New York Rangers in the fourth round of 2020, has also been stellar, with a .957 save percentage and a 1.00 goals-against average (GAA). He’s hoping to add a gold medal to a 2022 trophy case that already includes the Del Wilson Trophy for the Western Hockey League’s top goaltender and the CHL Goaltender of the Year Award.
Even as good as Finland has been, it’s impossible to bet against the Canadians here. They’ve been too strong during the entire first round and will enter as the favorites. But this game will be a must-watch for all hockey fans, and Finland could very well come away with the victory.
Players to Watch: Mason McTavish, F [ANA], Dylan Garand, G [NYR] (CAN); Kasper Simontaival, F [LAK], Aatu Räty, F [NYI] (FIN)
Sweden vs. Germany (10:00 PM)
Sweden: Final Roster
Germany: Final Roster
Sweden has had a great tournament so far. Though they are no longer dominating quite the way they did during their remarkable 52-game winning streak, they’re still one of the teams to beat in the qualifying round, and they gave the United States by far their toughest test in a 3-2 loss on Sunday. Emil Andrae, the 2020 second-round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers, continued his strong performance with a goal and an assist. The defenseman has a team-leading five points, with three goals and two assists so far.
Goaltender Jesper Wallstedt, a Minnesota Wild prospect, looked very strong, stopping 38 of 41 shots. But in his post-game press conference, he was extremely hard on himself, saying, “I’m disappointed in myself. I think I betrayed the whole team.” Considered one of the best goaltending prospects in the world, his team-first attitude is to be lauded. But hopefully, his confidence hasn’t taken a hit entering the knockout round.
Germany has managed two wins in the tournament so far, and they’re sitting pretty entering the quarterfinal. A win over Sweden here would be a huge result for them. Alexander Blank has led the way in scoring with three goals and an assist, but Yannick Proske and Joshua Samanski aren’t far behind with three points. Goaltender Florian Bugl has been the goalie of record in both of Germany’s wins and carries a .905 SV%. He’ll need to come up big to get Germany through here, but anything is possible in this tournament.
Players to Watch: Alexander Blank, F, Florian Bugl, G (GER)
Qualifying Round Complete
By about midnight on Tuesday morning, the qualifying round will be complete. One of Austria and Switzerland will join Slovakia on the long road home. The other eight teams will progress to the quarterfinals. None of Canada, Finland, or Sweden has anything on the line today but final standings positioning, but all three will want a strong showing heading into the knockout round. It’s going to be a fun day of hockey.
|Team Canada||Players to Watch||Roster|
|Team USA||Players to Watch||Roster|
|Team Austria||Players to Watch||Roster|
|Team Czechia||Players to Watch||Roster|
|Team Finland||Players to Watch||Roster|
|Team Germany||Players to Watch||Roster|
|Team Sweden||Players to Watch||Roster|
|Team Switzerland||Players to Watch||Roster|
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Stephen Ground is a veteran of over three years at THW, focusing on the St. Louis Blues, NHL goaltending, and the annual World Junior Championship. He is the co-host of the Two Guys One Cup Podcast, a hockey podcast focused on the Blues.