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WJC Day 7: Anxious North Americans and Euphoric Europeans

Americans and Canadians sat on the edges of their seats while unlikely foes fought toe-to-toe.

USA v Switzerland - 2017 IIHF World Junior Championships

Welcome to the medal round! Here, the top 4 in each group match up and fight to advance to the semifinals and medal games. First, we have the quarterfinals, which for any hockey fan, didn’t disappoint. Let’s see how everyone fared!

United States 3 - Switzerland 2

Normally a three goal lead is considered the worst in hockey, but in this case, two goals was all the United States needed to hold and they couldn’t. Despite ending up on top thanks to Jeremy Bracco and Luke Kunin, Nico Hischier took over and proved why he’s worth a look in the first round of the 2017 draft. First, he walked right around B’s hopeful Charlie McAvoy and put the puck past Tyler Parsons on the power play. Then, in a literal sea of humanity, he found the puck, wrapped himself around the net, and tucked the biscuit on his backhand to the back of the net. Luckily for the United States, a trio of its six Boston University Terriers, including McAvoy, combined for the game winner, Wild draft pick Jordan Greenway the scorer on a power play.

With that, Parsons still had to stand on his head to the end, and most certainly did. He denied none other than Nico Hischier a hat trick to keep the United States on top, despite being outshot 21-17.

Sweden 8 - Slovakia 3

The leaders of Group A coming out of group play, the Tre Kronor played hard and got the win over Slovakia. Joel Eriksson Ek showed exactly why he’s NHL ready, scoring two goals, while Sabres prospect and brother of Maple Leafs William, Alex Nylander tallied one of his own. Felix Sandstrom stopped 15 of 18 Slovakian shots and while it seemed like the comeback was on, the Swedish lead of 5-0 late in the second being cut to 5-3 in a matter of just over six minutes, Sweden made sure they got every one of those goals back.

Russia 4 - Denmark 0

In what was the easiest win out of the quarterfinals, the Russians shut out the surprise team from group play, Denmark. Kirill Kaprizov, yet another Wild prospect (does this blog really belong on Hockey Wilderness because of its Wild pick praise?), had two goals in the win, while Ilya Samsonov stopped all 14 shots. The Danes didn’t really put themselves in a position to win, pulling Lasse Petersen in favor of Kasper Krog to start the second period, already down by two, then taking three consecutive penalties, fortunate Russia didn’t score on any of those power plays.

Canada 5 - Czech Republic 3

Canada got just as big a scare as the United States did, actually facing a 1-0 deficit and the Czechs clawing back almost every step of the way en route to a lucky victory. David Kase got the Czechs up late in the first period, but Blake Speers and Mitchell Stephens put the Canadians (not CanadiENS) back on top. After the Czechs tied it up again, Thomas Chabot was there to give Canada the lead once again. Luckily for the Maple Leaf touting country, Carolina Hurricanes prospect Julian Gauthier had two third period goals that thwarted a Czech Republic comeback. Their fate was sealed when Bruins prospect Jakub Zboril took a cross checking penalty with eight seconds left.

Hey let’s not forget about the relegation round too...

Finland 2 - Latvia 1

Maybe a coaching change was exactly what the Suomi needed, as they put themselves in a great position to stay in the WJC with a win over Latvia. Sorry again Marek Mitens, but somehow making 43 saves wasn’t enough to get Latvia in the W column. The game was tied 1-1 for a while, a first period Finnish marker from Villi Saarijarvi and a second period Latvian equalizer from Maksims Ponomarenko, but Kristian Vesalainen’s third period goal combined with a lot of shifting between Mitens and an empty net in the end gave Finland the victory. The relegation round is a best of 3, so it’s crunch time for Latvia if they want to stay alive.


And so, the bracket takes shape. Here's what it looks like going into the semifinals.

The Cold War matchup gets another chapter between the United States and Russia, while Sweden and Canada have just as hard a bout against each other. Finland only needs one more win in the relegation round to stay alive.