12.31.2011

2012 IIHF World Junior Championships - Day 4 Recap

Photo via HHOF-IIHF Images

On the penultimate day of preliminary round play, four games were played at the 2012 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships. All four games were very important toward determining which teams would move on to the medal rounds, and which teams would end up in relegation play. Six out of the eight teams that played could have, prior to the action, theoretically qualified for the medal rounds. Here are the standings following Friday's games:

GROUP A

TEAM
GP
W
OTW
OTL
L
GD
PTS
STATUS
1.
RUS
3
3
0
0
0
19
9
MEDAL ROUND
2.
SWE
3
2
1
0
0
14
8
MEDAL ROUND
3.
SUI
3
1
0
1
1
-2
4
RELEGATION / MEDAL ROUND
4.
SVK
3
1
0
0
2
-8
3
RELEGATION / MEDAL ROUND
5,
LAT
4
0
0
0
4
-23
0
RELEGATION

GROUP B

TEAM
GP
W
OTW
OTL
L
GD
PTS
STATUS
1.
CAN
3
3
0
0
0
20
9
MEDAL ROUND
2.
FIN
3
2
0
0
1
5
6
MEDAL ROUND
3.
CZE
3
2
0
0
1
5
6
MEDAL ROUND
4.
USA
3
1
0
0
2
2
3
RELEGATION
5,
DEN
4
0
0
0
4
-32
0
RELEGATION

Now to recap Friday's action.
CZECH REPUBLIC (5) vs. USA (2)
Photo via HHOF-IIHF Images
What was a fairly close and tight game became an embarrassment for Team USA, as their loss at the hands of Petr Mrazek and Team Czech Republic would ultimately cost them any chance of competing for a medal at the 2012 WJC. Early on the Ameircans were given a golden opportunity to put the game out of reach with 11 powerplay minutes in the 1st period, an opportunity which ultimately resulted in just 1 goal. After two close periods, the game was still tied at 2-2, with the Americans looking to finally break through and take over the game. Through 10 minutes of the 3rd, both teams still remained deadlocked, even though the Americans were outshooting the Czechs by a wide margin - Czech goalie Petr Mrazek ended up with 52 saves for the day. Finally, the Americans had a chance to take the lead late, with Josh Archibald being awarded a penalty shot after being tripped on a breakaway. Mrazek stayed calm in net, however, and stoned Archibald, with a celebratory fist pump to go along with it (video). Shortly after, the wheels fell off for Team USA. Petr Holik and Tomas Filippi combined for 3 goals in the final 8 minutes, and Mrazek held on in net for the win, confident enough even to attempt an empty net goal. After 60 minutes, the Czech Republic skated off with a 5-2 victory, leaving Team USA stunned after being upset in back-to-back games. Team USA is now destined for relegation play, regardless of their effort against Canada tomorrow, and Team Czech Republic gets to move on to the medal round as either the 2nd or 3rd seed from Group B.

SWEDEN (9) vs. SLOVAKIA (1)
Coming off a surprisingly close overtime win against the Swiss, the Swedes were more than happy to take advantage of a weaker team and flex their offensive muscle. In yet another massive blowout - hot on the heels of Team Russia's 14-0 drubbing of Team Latvia on Thursday - Team Sweden put up 9 goals against Team Slovakia, including 4 in the third period. With the win, Sweden cemented their position as the 2nd seed from Group A, and will play the loser of tomorrow's Finland/Czech Republic game in the quarterfinals.

FINLAND (10) vs. DENMARK (1)
Photo via HHOF-IIHF Images
After being thoroughly beaten by the Canadians on Monday, and after stunningly upsetting the Americans on Wednesday, Finland needed to get their offense going in preparation for a big game against the Czech Republic on Saturday. After watching Team Czech Republic upset Team USA earlier in the day, Team Finland was already guaranteed a spot in the medal play rounds. The offensive breakthrough ended up coming in the 3rd period, after Team Finland was already up 5-1. Joel Armia, one of two first-round picks on the team (the other being captain Mikael Granlund), scored his 3rd of the tournament (after 2 against the USA), after which Teemu Pulkkinen went to town. Pulkkinen, the 4th round draft choice of the Detroit Red Wings in 2010 and one of the top scorers in Finland's SM-liiga, tied an IIHF WJC record with 4 goals in the 3rd. Pulkkinen nearly got 5, as time expired milliseconds before his shot went into the net. Finland now prepares for their match against the Czechs tomorrow, which will decide the 2nd and 3rd seed in Group A - basically, who has to play Sweden and who has to play either Slovakia or Switzerland. Finland needs their captain Mikael Granlund to get going in the Czech game... but more on that later.

SWITZERLAND (5) vs. LATVIA (3)
Things could not get worse for Latvia after their 14-0 drubbing on Thursday, courtesy of Evgeny Kuznetsov and Team Russia, so a nice, two goal loss to Team Switzerland must be quite the relief. With the win, Switzerland keeps their hopes of playing for a medal alive, as they now have to just get to overtime (or better) against Latvia on Saturday to clinch the 3rd seed in Group A. Latvia, meanwhile, gets to enjoy relegation, and their next game will come against Team USA next week.

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