There were only two games and no marquee teams during Day 5 of the 2017 World Juniors, but both contests carried considerable significance nonetheless. Switzerland rallied, Slovakia shone, and Finland made history for all the wrong reasons.
Let’s take a look.
Switzerland 5, Denmark 4 (SO)
It took a major rally (and an opponent blowing a huge lead), but Switzerland secured its place in the quarterfinals with a shootout victory over Denmark in Montréal.
Forward Yannick Zehnder scored twice for the Swiss in regulation, while rising star Nico Hischier grabbed one goal and blueliner Jonas Siegenthaler earned two assists. Marco Miranda got the game-winner with the only goal in the shootout.
Denmark had already locked up a final-eight berth with its own OT victory over the Czech Republic yesterday. Perhaps they were playing with a little less urgency than the hungry Swiss squad. But they didn’t close the deal tonight after striking first (a rebound tally by captain Alexander True just 20 seconds into the first period) and building not one, but two three-point leads. That’s the sort of thing the team will need to improve upon if they want to progress to the semifinals.
Yet even in defeat, Danish goalie Kasper Krog earned applause from the Centre Bell crowd; he stopped 48 of 53 shots through regulation and both OT periods.
For the record, Denmark’s loss was also Finland’s: The reigning gold medalists are now officially relegated. It’s the first time in WJC history that the defending champions have gone to the relegation round. The consequences have been as swift as they are predictable.
Drama in Team Finland. Coach Jukka Rautakorpi and 3 assistant coaches fired just now. Jussi Ahokas is the new head coach starting from now.— Sami Hoffrén (@shoffren) December 31, 2016
Slovakia 4, Latvia 2
Slovakia staved off relegation with their best game of the tournament so far, as an outstanding individual performance by forward Milos Roman drove their 4-2 victory over Latvia in Air Canada Centre.
Karlis Cukste got Latvia on the board at the 3:40 mark of the first period with the team’s first shot on goal, but that early lead wouldn’t last. Milos Roman scored the equalizer less than five minutes later.
Slovakia never looked back. The team took the lead in the last two minutes of the period on another Milos Roman goal, this one assisted by his brother, blueliner Michal Roman. The Slovaks also generated 36 shots on goal – twice that of their opponent.
Defender Andrej Hatala beat Latvian goalie Mareks Mitens for the game-winner 41 seconds into the third period; Milos Roman earned the insurance goal off a deflection by a Latvian player in front of the net. Forward Filips Buncis would get Latvia onto the board one more time during a 5-on-3 power play late in the game.
Latvia has no wins or points in the preliminaries and will now face Finland in the best-of-three relegation round.
What’s Up Next
There’s one more day of tournament play before the New Year’s Day break and the upcoming quarterfinals. The final preliminary games are scheduled for Saturday, December 31, and you can watch them live on the NHL Network and TSN:
- Sweden vs. Czech Republic, noon Central time
- Canada vs. USA, 2:30 p.m. Central time
- Finland vs. Switzerland, 4:30 p.m. Central time
- Russia vs. Slovakia, 7 p.m. Central time
And here’s a preview of the battle between the undefeated U.S. and Canadian squads with Team USA head coach Bob Motzko.