“While there may be clear favorites in each matchup, no one is going to be an easy opponent.” That’s how our Day 8 preview of the quarterfinal round wrapped up, warning of the possibility of upsets in the first stage of the knockout round. And that’s exactly what Czechia delivered, sending the United States home after a shocking defeat. Now, in the semifinals, they’ll face another seeming juggernaut in Canada. On the other side of the bracket, a more predictable matchup between Sweden and Finland is set to unfold. The two teams that win are guaranteed no worse than silver as they advance to the gold medal games. The two teams that lose are guaranteed one more game as they fight for bronze. Both medal games will unfold on Saturday. Let’s take a look at the semifinal action.
Czechia vs. Canada (4:00 PM ET)
Czechia: Team Preview
Canada: Team Preview
As we already mentioned, Czechia is only here after a shocking victory over the United States. Jiri Kulich, the 28th overall pick of the Buffalo Sabres from 2022, was all over the ice, adding a goal and two assists in the 4-2 win. Tomas Suchanek, an undrafted 19-year-old goaltender, also played a major role, stopping 28 of 30 shots by the powerful U.S. offense.
The Czechians had a fairly rough qualifying round but have obviously bounced back in a major way with the huge upset. Jan Myšák remains the team’s top scorer. The Montreal Canadiens forward will need to play a significant role if they stand any chance of upsetting Canada. It’s a big ask to find a path to victory over the host nation, but they’ve already slayed Goliath once, so anything is possible.
The Canadians reached the semifinal by skating past Switzerland fairly comfortably, 6-3. Logan Stankoven, a 2021 second-round pick by the Dallas Stars, added two goals and an assist, stepping up in a big way while team stars Mason McTavish (one assist) and Connor Bedard (no points) were kept largely quiet. Ronan Seeley, a seventh-round pick by the Carolina Hurricanes, also grabbed two points, both assists. The Canadian offense is as deep as the Mariana Trench, and it’s hard to know how even the resilient Czechians can find a path to victory. Then again, we would have (and did) say that about the United States, so don’t count them out just yet.
Players to Watch: Jiri Kulich, F [BUF]; Tomas Suchanek, G, Jan Myšák, F [MON] (CZE); Logan Stankoven, F [DAL], Ronan Seeley, D [CAR], Connor Bedard, F (CAN)
Sweden vs. Finland (8:00 PM ET)
Sweden: Team Roster
Finland: Team Roster
Sweden had to sweat out a win against this tournament’s previous Cinderella, Latvia. The late replacements for Russia managed to hold Sweden to just two goals. It took a 50th-minute goal from defenseman Emil Andrae to seal the deal and allow the Swedes to advance. The 2020 second-round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers has had an excellent tournament, tied for fifth place in points with eight (four goals, four assists). He is three points ahead of Fabian Lysell (Boston Bruins) and Oskar Olausson (Colorado Avalanche), who each have five. The Swedish defense was stout, allowing just 13 shots against top prospect goaltender Jesper Wallstedt (Minnesota Wild). He’ll likely face a much tougher test against Finland.
Finland has three dominant scorers: Joakim Kemell, a Nashville Predators prospect, has three goals, eight assists, and 11 points, which puts him in second place. Not far behind (and tied for third place) are Roby Järventie (four goals, five assists) — an Ottawa Senators prospect — and Aatu Räty (three goals, six assists; New York Islanders). They have another two players at seven points (Roni Hirvonen and Kaspar Simontaival) and Aleksi Heimosalmi has six. Unsurprisingly, Finland is first in the tournament in scoring efficiency and first on the power play as well. But their weakness is on the penalty kill, where they’ve been the worst team in the tournament so far. But that didn’t stop them from a fairly dominating 5-2 win over Germany in the quarterfinal.
Of all the games in this tournament, this may be one of the toughest to call. But if Finland’s high-powered offense doesn’t slow down, Sweden may have a tough time keeping up. But Sweden’s defense has been stout, and Wallstedt could well be the difference-maker. A statement game from him will give Sweden the chance to win their third gold medal ever. The road isn’t easy for either team.
Favorite: Push (no clear favorite)
Players to Watch: Emil Andrae, D [PHI], Fabian Lysell, F [BOS], Jesper Wallstedt, G [MIN] (SWE); Joakim Kemell, F [NSH], Roby Järventie, F [OTT], Aatu Räty, F [NYI] (FIN)
Who Will Go for Gold?
It all comes down to this: two winners advance to the gold medal game, and two losers are left with the disappointment of fighting for bronze. While we might not get the Canada/United States showdown many fans were hoping for, Czechia earned their place here and won’t be a pushover for the mighty host nation. Sweden and Finland should be one of the closest games of the tournament. It’s a true battle between offensive firepower and defensive solidity. Which team can prevail? Whoever does will be one win away from gold.
|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.