The 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship kicked off on Friday, and like most years, the first day of games did not disappoint.
The four main contending nations - the United States, Canada, Sweden and Russia - all took home their first wins of the tournament, but it didn't come easily for all, as Russia and the United States both needed the shootout to secure their victories.
Here's how the day's events unfolded:
Russia 3, Denmark 2 (SO)
The very first game of the 2015 world juniors looked like it could have become the upset of the tournament, but it wasn't meant to be as Russia scored a third period goal to tie the game before beating Denmark 3-2 in the shootout.
The underdog Denmark team stunned the Russians by jumping out to an early 2-0 lead in the first period thanks to powerplay goals by NHL draftees Nikolaj Ehlers and Oliver Bjorkstrand. The overmatched Danes, however, were unable to repel the strong Russian comeback, yielding two gritty goals in the final two periods.
Denmark goaltender George Sorensen was phenomenal throughout regulation and overtime, making 37 saves, but allowed both goals he faced in the shootout, to Sergey Tolchinski and Nikolay Goldobin.
"I think we were a little bit surprised by how well they played," Tolchinski said about the Denmark team. "They have a really good team. They were proud and skilled; we didn't expect that kind of hockey."
USA 2, Finland 1 (SO)
The much talked-about American forward Jack Eichel certainly lived up to the hype in his opening game for the United States, scoring their lone regulation goal and then adding another in the shootout as Team USA edged out a tight 2-1 victory over defending-champion Finland.
"We knew it was going to be a tough game," said Eichel. "They’re the defending champs, and you’ve got to give them a lot of credit. They played a very close-checking game. It’s really good for us to get the win. Hopefully we can build off that and get some confidence."
Eichel was noticeable and dynamic nearly every time that he touched the ice, but was often kept in check by Finnish defenseman and Dallas Stars 2014 1st round pick Julius Honka, who went head-to-head with Eichel all game long. The two even got physical with each other after a whistle in the third period, taking matching roughing minors.
Finnish goalie Ville Husso, making a surprise start over 2014 gold medal-winning goalie Juuse Saros, made 36 saves in regulation, but much like Denmark's Sorensen, yielded two goals in the shootout. American goalie Thatcher Demko had a shaky start to the game but eventually rounded into form, making 28 stops for the win.
Sweden 5, Czech Republic 2
Los Angeles Kings 2014 1st round pick Adrian Kempe scored twice, while other NHL draftees William Nylander, Jacob De La Rose, Oskar Lindblom and Gustav Forsling also chipped in offensively in Sweden's 5-2 win over the Czech Republic.
Washington Capitals 2014 1st round pick Jakub Vrana, playing in his third world juniors, scored both goals for the Czechs.
The convincing win was an ideal start for Sweden, who will be missing two key players all tournament: goaltender Jonas Johansson and projected 2015 1st round draft choice Oliver Kylington. They'll need the momentum going forward.
Canada 8, Slovakia 0
Canada jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the first period and never let their foot off the gas, throttling a helpless Slovakian team by a final score of 8-0.
Robby Fabbri scored twice, while Anthony Duclair, Nick Paul, Brayden Point, Max Domi, Nic Petan and Jake Virtanen also converted on many of Canada's numerous chances.
Despite Slovakia being one of the weaker teams this year, Canada looked downright scary all game long, showcasing a wealth of talent that could make them almost impossible to stop if they are able to fire on all cylinders for the remainder of the tournament.
What's Up Next:
The schedule for Saturday's games is as follows (all times listed as Central Time):
- Sweden versus Denmark at 12:00 PM
- Finland versus Slovakia at 3:00 PM
- Switzerland versus Czech Republic at 4:00 PM
- Canada versus Germany at 7:00 PM