World Juniors Semi-Finals Preview

The quarter-finals of the 2017 World Junior Championship are over and that means we are one step closer to the medal round. We are down to four teams that you would expect to be here at this stage of the tournament. The tournament Cinderella Denmark has been eliminated. Switzerland put up a valiant fight but couldn’t make it. We have the four hockey powers left: Canada, Sweden, Russia and the USA.

Let’s take a look at the semi-final match-ups.

Sweden vs. Canada

Quarter-Final Results: Sweden- 8-3 over Slovakia; Canada- 5-3 over Czech Republic

Sweden has been the best team in this tournament since the beginning. They have only trailed for 15:41 of the WJC and that was oddly enough against Finland. That domination continued in the quarters as they absolutely demolished Slovakia.

By the 13:07 mark of the second period, it was already 5-0 Sweden. They did receive a bit of a scare as the Slovaks managed to score three straight goals to make it 5-3. That was all Slovakia could muster as Sweden went on to score another three goals to ease into a 8-3 victory.

Canada looked good in the preliminary round all the way up to New Year’s Eve when they faced the US. Their offense was shut down almost perfectly and the 3-1 loss resulted in them finishing in second in Group B. They did, however, get an opponent that they had dominated in the pre-tournament in the Czech Republic because of that loss.

The Czechs put up a bit more of a fight in this one, though. They scored the first goal and even when they started trailing, they kept it close for pretty much the rest of the game. It was not enough though as Canada would move on to the semi-finals with the 5-3 victory.

Canada is going to have their work to cut out for them if they want to get to the Gold Medal game. After last year’s disappointing finish, Sweden is not an opponent you want to be facing until the final. This should be a very close game, possibly the best of the tournament.

Prediction: Sweden continues their great run, forcing Canada to play for the Bronze Medal. 5-4 Sweden

USA vs. Russia

Quarter-Final Results: USA- 3-2 victory over Switzerland; Russia: 4-0 Denmark

Jeremy Bracco
Jeremy Bracco [Photo: Tom Sorensen]

We have a age-old rivalry in this match-up as the USA takes on Russia. This will be the second match-up between these two teams in this tournament as the Americans beat Russia 3-2 on December 29.

The US dominated against Latvia and Slovakia but locked it down defensively against Russia and Canada. Knowing that they have already won twice against strong opponents should give them a confidence boost for this game. However, they did just scrape by the Swiss as Nico Hischier single-handedly brought his team back from 2-0 down to tie the game. Unfortunately for the Swiss, they took a bad penalty just after tie the game and Jordan Greenway quickly took advantage and made it 3-2.

The Russians had largely underachieved throughout the tournament, losing to both Canada and the US. They did probably get the easiest opponent in the quarters however as Denmark surprised a lot of people. That run ended against the Russians as they were completely outclassed as Russia cruised to the 4-0 victory.

Russia might have been underachieving, but Kirill Kaprizov has been one of the best players in this tournament. The Russians will need him and his line to be on top of their game to stand a chance against the US.

Prediction: The US scores their second victory over Russia. 4-3 USA