It’s a week later in the World Junior Championships, and today marked the beginning of elimination play as the two quarterfinals were played. Philipp Grubauer’s Germany is in relegation play, with Patrick Wey and team USA receiving a bye to the semifinals. Four of the five Caps prospects are still alive, and Evgeny Kuznetsov blew away the competition, bringing Russia back from the brink.
The first of the bunch to take the ice was Cody Eakin as team Canada faced off against Switzerland at 3:30 pm. The Swiss jumped on the scoreboard first, less than two minutes into the game. However, Canada tied it up by the first intermission, and the structured Swiss defense proved to be no match as Canada went on to win 4-1. Eakin finished with an assist on Louis Leblanc’s third period goal. He has continued his strong play showing off his speed and work ethic, even if he isn’t in the top 30 of the tournament in points, goals, assists, or plus/minus. He’s showing Hockey Canada what they missed out on by cutting him last year.
Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov played in the 7:30 pm game between Russia and Finland. Russia drew first blood, but Finland scored three straight to take a 3-1 lead in the third. Kuznetsov’s frustration boiled over as his pushed a Finn’s head into the glass with his fist during the second. He also came into a play after the whistle to throw a punch, though he wasn’t penalized on that play.
Despite these setbacks, Kuznetsov single-handedly took the game over and brought the Russians back. He scored a dirty goal in the third period to pull Russia within one, then dangled his way to a semi breakaway. Maxime Kitsyn scored on the rebound of that breakaway to tie up the game at 3, then returned the favor by setting up Kuznetsov’s goal to win the game in OT.
Orlov had yet another strong game. He is currently third in the tournament in points, and he leads team Russia. He was defensively sound yet again while generating more offense. We saw much more of his booming point shot this game, and the rebounds it generated provided several chances for Russia. Orlov was named Russia's Player of the Game. His maturity and leadership has also shown through this tournament, as he has been one of the most consistent players for Russia. With the win, the Russians will play Sweden tomorrow in the semifinals.
Germany played its first game of relegation play today, losing to the Czech Republic 3-2. Philipp Grubauer stopped 37 shots, but it wasn’t enough as the Czechs took the 3-2 lead for the win with less than a minute remaining in the third. This tournament has been a learning experience for both Grubauer and the German team. It wasn’t the best of tournaments, but they will get to continue their learning in the relegation round.
Tomorrow, the Gold Medal re-match everyone has been waiting for will take place…just a little sooner than everyone expected. Canada will take on the US, who are working off of two days of rest. That game starts at 7:30 pm, while Russia will take on Sweden in the other semifinal at 3:30 pm. At least one more of the Caps prospects will lose their dream of World Junior Gold tomorrow. Who will it be?