MONTREAL, QC–Much has happened in the dying moments of 2011 at the World Junior Hockey Championship, including Team Canada topping Denmark 10-2 in a game that included a goal by Canadiens’ prospect Brendan Gallagher, Canada moving on to the New Year’s Eve classic game against the United States and beating them 3-2, earning a bye to the semifinal…
But perhaps no game was more thrilling and with startling consequence than the one that essentially gave them that bye, a game that had nothing to do with Canada but rather everything to do with the Czech and USA squads.
Two Habs’ prospects would face off in this game: Daniel Přibyl and Jarred Tinordi. It was supposed to be a game that the States would win rather handily–and it began this way–with TJ Tynan opening the scoring for the US. But Baie-Comeau Drakkar forward Tomáš Filippi soon tied things up and from there, another story unfolded.
Petr Mrázek, goaltender of the Czech squad and the Ottawa 67s, turned some heads against Canada (most notably with his in-game celebration tactics), but his team eventually fell 5-0 in that game. Here, he made 52 saves and probably not too many friends from our neighbours to the south.
The last goal he would give up was to Bill Arnold. Then Tomáš Hertl got the equalizer a short time later and his mates turned up their game in the third period. Petr Holik got on the board, leading to a very tense five minutes for the States. Despite their efforts, Filippi scored his second of the game followed by Holik putting in an empty-netter, and with that Team USA’s hopes were dashed.
Daniel Přibyl finished with a +3 rating and two shots on goal. Jarred Tinordi, for his part, had two shots in the third period and was -2, but was given high praise from TSN commentators as the “best American player in the tournament.” His team, however, was eliminated from further competition with the regulation loss and the Finns’ thrashing of Denmark later on by a score of 10-1.
The Czechs moved on to the quarterfinal round against many expectations. They held par with the Russians and Mrázek was a focal point of their play once again in an emotional game that saw both goaltenders make many key saves. The game headed into overtime tied at one goal apiece, and the Czechs’ power play from the third period overlapped into the ten-minute sudden death. Once the man-advantage had expired, however, the Russians forced a turnover and the puck soon found its way from Grigori Zheldakov’s stick into the back of Mrázek’s net. The Russians now move on to face Canada in the semi-final tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern.
Russia hasn’t made many shock waves this year, but has only lost once in the tournament thus far. All but one, captain Yevgeni Kuznetsov, are new faces to the team. Several familiar, draft-eligible names such as Nail Yakupov of the Sarnia Sting and Mikhail Grigorenko of the Quebec Remparts, highlight their lineup. It’s a matchup that at first glance, doesn’t match up to the Eberle-esque moments of the past, but the Russians have a hot goaltender in Andrei Vasilevski, and Canadians remember what it was like taking the Russians too lightly last year…