MONTREAL, QC. — And just like that, December 25th gives way to the best part of the Christmas season.
The 2012 World Junior Hockey Championships.
In their last pre-tournament game, Team Canada met their first defeat in three games at the hands of Team Sweden, in what was a rather wild affair that saw Canada’s attempt to rally back from a 4-1 deficit fall just short and the Swedes win 5-3. Mark Stone, Brendan Gallagher and Jaden Schwartz got on the board for the Canadians, but three goals by Sweden spread out over the dying moments of the first period and opening minutes of the second took the momentum over to their side and Canada never fully recovered.
Meanwhile, Jarred Tinordi scored in a winning cause as Team USA triumphed over Slovakia 5-0. Tinordi also picked up an assist in the game, and he and fellow Canadiens’ prospect Daniel Přibyl of the Czech Republic were each named assistant-captains of their respective teams. Both rosters were finalized just before the end of exhibition action.
This afternoon at 3:30 p.m. Eastern, Canada takes on a Finnish squad that contains names familiar to a few in the CHL: netminder Christopher Gibson, who plays for Chicoutimi in the QMJHL and Olli Maatta of the OHL’s London Knights. Then there are the Granlund brothers, Markus and Mikael, the latter of whom’s claim to fame includes this highlight-reel marker. Fans may also remember Teemu Pulkkinen, leader of last year’s tournament for the Finns with nine points. Finland’s team is a high-powered offensive one who is looking to tighten up their defense in order to rebound from a sixth place finish from last year.
But whether Canada triumphs or not today, here’s hoping for a familiar sight for the grand majority of the tournament:
Meanwhile, the United States take on Denmark at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. For the Danes, Nicklas Jensen of the Oshawa Generals was drafted 29th overall by the Vancouver Canucks in 2011, and Mads Eller is the not-so-little (6’0″ and born in ’95!) brother of the Habs’ Lars Eller.
Team Czech, who counts on a whopping nine CHLers including five from the QMJHL alone, only begins their tournament action tomorrow, as they take on those same Danes starting at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.