The first of the big teams has been eliminated.
For the second straight year Russia topped the United States in the quarterfinals, edging out a close 3-2 victory.
Penalties were the story of the game, with Russia scoring on twice on the powerplay, including the game-winner. The United States actually outshot Russia 41-25 overall, but could never fully find their groove because of eight minor penalties taken throughout the game.
"If you have to kill off that many penalties in a row you spend a lot of energy," said Mark Osiecki, head coach for Team USA. "That caught up to us. We were very disciplined before and for some reason it didn’t work out today."
"Before the game everyone said we are underdogs," said Russian coach Valeri Bragin. "I agree with that because the American team has a lot of skilled players and is well organized, but we capitalized on our chances in the beginning of the game, and we had solid goaltending. Our team showed real team spirit."
The other marquee matchup from the afternoon was Sweden against Finland in a rematch of the 2014 gold medal game. The Swedes would get their revenge, knocking out the defending champion Finns in a 6-3 game that was more thrilling than the score might suggest.
The teams were tied 3-3 heading into the third, but Sweden scored less than two minutes in, added some insurance at 13:52, and then iced things with an empty netter in the dying seconds.
Elsewhere, Canada kept rolling with an 8-0 domination over Denmark, while Slovakia upset the Czech Republic with a 3-0 blanking.
Here's how the day's events unfolded:
Russia 3, United States 2
All good teams are prone to mental breakdowns at some point, but for the United States it couldn't have come at a worse time.
The U.S.A. spent half of the first period on the penalty kill, and as a result found themselves in a 2-0 hole by the end of the frame.
They would mount a fierce comeback, peppering the Russian net with shots, but couldn't find enough ways to solve goalie Igor Shestyorkin, who was stellar in making 39 saves. Carolina Hurricanes prospect Sergei Tolchinski scored the eventual game-winner in the third period.
"It’s tough to swallow," said American defenseman Anthony DeAngelo. "We thought we were just as good as their team in this tournament. I still do, but we’re not going to have a chance to show it. It is what it is now."
Sweden 6, Finland 3
It was another classic match between two storied international rivals, but in the end, the Swedes were just far too much for Finland to handle.
Sweden's offense has been flourishing all tournament long, and yesterday Finnish goalie Ville Husso was the victim. Oskar Lindblom and William Nylander each scored two points, putting them into a tie with Canada's Sam Reinhart for the tournament lead in scoring with 9 points. Three of Sweden's goals came on the powerplay, which has been all but unstoppable so far.
"Our power play is working really well," quipped Nylander. "We have a lot of confidence now. We beat Russia last time, so we just have to refresh the bodies and get ready for the game against Russia."
Goalie Linus Soderstrom continues his phenomenal performance this year in net, stopping 30 out of 33 shots to preserve the win and keep his record perfect.
For Finland, a frustrating tournament comes to an equally frustrating end, never quite looking like the composed team that won gold just last year. They struggled to score goals in each game, and when they did finally score three goals in a game they were unable to hold the fort down at the other end of the ice.
Slovakia 3, Czech Republic 0
Not only is Denis Godla emerging as the best player on the Slovakian team, but he's also making a strong case as the best goalie at this year's world juniors.
He was the hero for them again yesterday, making 34 saves to help his team shut out the Czech Republic 3-0.
An underdog team heading into the tournament, Slovakia is now on a surprisingly little roll, making the quarterfinals for the first time in six years. Peter Cehlarik and Martin Reway, two of the team's three players drafted by NHL clubs, scored goals.
For the Czech Republic, it marks the tenth straight year that the nation has exited the tournament without taking home a medal.
Canada 8, Denmark 0
The Canadians continue to roll with machine-like efficiency, crushing the Cinderella hopes of Denmark with a decisive 8-0 victory.
Captain Curtis Lazar scored twice, while six other players scored goals. 13 different Canadian players have three or more points so far, while seven of those have five or more, showcasing the immense depth that the team has with them this year. Zach Fucale made his third start and recorded his second shutout, and has only allowed one goal in total.
In a stat that tells the whole tale, Canada outshot Denmark 50-14 in the game.
Despite the loss, Denmark deserves a ton of credit for making it as far as they did in the first year back in the top tier for the world juniors after moving up from the lower division. Nikolaj Ehlers and Oliver Bjorkstrand had great tournaments, but were heavily outgunned against Canada.
What's Up Next:
The semifinals begin on Sunday (all times listed in Central Time):
- Sweden versus Russia at 3:00 PM: Both of this teams have had comparable success at the world juniors over the past few years, but Sweden definitely comes into this matchup as a heavy favorite, having blown through all of their games so far, including a 3-2 win over Russia in the preliminary round. None of Russia's many talented forwards have truly taken over any games this year, but they might need that to happen if they hope to outscore an explosive Swedish offense.
- Canada versus Slovakia at 7:00 PM: Much like Denmark tried to do, Slovakia will have to hold on for dear life and rely heavily on their goalie if they hope to have a chance against a Canada team that is riding a tidal wave of momentum. While Canada comes in as a heavy favorite and is expected to glide to victory, strange things have happened at this tournament before, so you never know.