Quick goals give USA lead in Group B
After entering the day in a five-way tie for first place in the World Junior Championship's so-called Group of Death, the United States has taken control of top spot thanks to a 3-1 victory over Russia.
The story of the game early was Russia's inability to score on the man advantage. Through two periods, the Americans took five minor penalties, but the Russians were unable to capitalize. The inability to score on the power play has been a persistent issue for Russia, too, as they are the tournament's only team without a goal on the man advantage.
The powerless power play ended up hurting the Russians, who gave up two quick goals and found themselves down heading into the second intermission. With minutes remaining in the second, Arthur Kaliyev connected on a pass from Trevor Zegras, only for Nicholas Robertson to score six seconds after the ensuing faceoff. The pair of goals tied the tournament record for the two quickest goals, a mark last accomplished, coincidentally, by Russia, when Evgeni Malkin and Nikolai Lemtyugov scored bang-bang goals during the 2005 event. Latvia's Mika Helkearo and Pekka Arbelius also notched a six-second pair in 1979.
The American offense didn't end with the pair of quick tallies, however. Roughly one minute into the third, Kaliyev put an end to Amir Miftakhov's night in the Russian net. That tally by Kaliyev was the result of a harmless-looking wrist shot that squeaked underneath Miftakhov's pads and in. Fortunately for the Russians, the goaltending change gave them some life, as Alexander Romanov sent a blast from the point to make it 3-1 with plenty of time remaining. USA netminder Spencer Knight stood tall through the remainder of the third, however, stop the next eight shots he faced to secure the 3-1 victory.
Russia will look to rebound and improve to 2-2 when they meet Germany Tuesday to close out the round-robin. Meanwhile, USA will close out group play Monday against the host Czech Republic.
Finland eliminates Kazakhstan from contention
In spite of the fact the game was tied early, there wasn't much doubt as to who would ultimately take Finland's meeting with Kazakhstan, and the heavy-favorite Finns made good on the pre-game predictions with a convincing 7-1 victory over the Kazakhs Sunday.
As has been the case often in this tournament, special teams played a starring role in the contest. Patrik Puistola started the fun for the Finns when his deflection of a Ville Heinola shot found twine six minutes in. Kazakhstan answered back with a power-play goal of their own when Andrei Buyalski sent a quick wrist shot under the glove of Kari Piiroinen to tie it up. Kristian Tanus scored the first 5-on-5 goal of the contest when a puck struck his pants and into the Kazakhstan net, and Matias Maccelli fired up the man-advantage party once again when he made it 3-1 for Finland early in the second.
Through the remainder of the contest, Kazakhstan struggled to keep up with the Finns and a host of penalties for both teams started to slow the game. Midway through the contest, Finland's dominant fourth line connected again when Aatu Raty, left all alone in front, tapped in a feed from his brother, Aku. Kazakhstan looked defeated, mustering only three shots over the next 10 minutes and failing to take advantage of four power-play chances in the second. Before the game was through, Puistsola scored another goal and Mikko Kokkonen and Kim Nousiainen grabbed one each to secure the 7-1 victory for Finland.
With the loss, Kazakhstan has officially been eliminated from playoff contention and will be forced to play in the relegation round later in the week. Kazakhstan's opponent is still unclear due to the five-way tie in Group B. Meanwhile, the Finns regained first place in Group A with a 2-0-1-0 record.
While his status is still unclear, Alexis Lafreniere's knee injury may not be as bad as originally thought. Projected to go No. 1 in the 2020 draft, Lafreniere fell awkwardly in Canada's 6-1 loss to Russia, needing help to get off the ice. Canadian assistant coach Andre Tourigny said that the MRI on Lafreniere’s left knee did not reveal any fractures or torn ligaments, but he was ruled out for Monday's game against Germany.
- Patrik Puistola, Finland (2G, 1A, 3P) – Scored the first and final goals for Finland. The Hurricanes prospect loves spending time near the net.
- Arthur Kaliyev, USA (2G, 0A, 2P) – After averaging just 9:08 heading into Sunday's contest, Kaliyev's two goals proved to be the difference for the Americans.
- Ville Heinola, Finland (0G, 2A, 2P) – Perhaps Finland's best player today. He's really improved his decision making with the puck.
Monday – Dec. 30, 2019
Canada vs. Germany, 9 a.m. ET
Kazakhstan vs. Sweden, 9 a.m. ET
Czech Republic vs. U.S., 1 p.m. ET
Slovakia vs. Switzerland, 1 p.m. ET
Tuesday – Dec. 31, 2019
Slovakia vs. Sweden, 9 a.m. ET
Russia vs. Germany, 9 a.m. ET
Czech Republic vs. Canada, 1 p.m. ET
Finland vs. Switzerland, 1 p.m. ET
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