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World Juniors Quarterfinals PREVIEW: The Home Stretch Begins!

Medals are on the line. It’s all led up to this.

Matt Zambonin/HHOF-IIHF Images

The World Juniors’ round robin section has finished, the groups are decided.

Let’s see where everyone matches up today!

Relegation Round: Belarus vs. Denmark Game 1, 2pm EST

Relegation is a best of three series for survival. A Survivor Series, if you will. You win, you survive. You lose, you’re relegated to Division 1a and can’t return to the World Juniors for an entire year.

Life sucks if you’re a championship division team playing in the Relegation game. There’s a chance you’ll be dumped back into a slightly smaller pond, and that’s never good. And if you’re Belarus and Denmark, things have been looking brutal.

Belarus, in spite of being able to score, has only been able to get great individual efforts, and have largely been dismantled by every team they played. Even their highest scoring game, against the Czechs, was mostly because the Czechs got careless and haven’t been much concerned with defense.

Denmark on the other hand...oh lord Denmark, what happened, man.

Blown out in every game, shut out every other, and with a grand total of two players in their entire lineup who have been able to say they registered points. Of the two, Denmark looks awful and probably the one most likely to get bounced from the division. But anything can happen in these games...and they’ll have at least two chances to prove they can hang.

Quarterfinals 1: High-flying Czechs vs. Fine Form Finns, 12pm EST

The Quarters begin with a dimebag full of offense.

The Czechs have been one of the highest scoring teams in the tournament...but won their games by never more than just one goal. They are a team designed to survive off of their offense and little else. Their goaltender has done his thing, but he’s largely on his own. Their sole loss came at the hands of Sweden, who handed them a 3-1 loss.

The Finns on the other hand, after a stumble in running into Canada, have been a real strong team this tourney, but have had some trouble letting teams work their way back into games on the back of some lazy 2nd and 3rd period shifts, most notably in their final game against the US, where they absolutely had the Americans on the ropes for awhile.

Both teams like scoring, neither team has a need to blank each other...If you’re having trouble waking up after your holiday, putting this game on ought to wake you right up.

Bruins Prospects in this Game: Joona Koppanen, Urho Vaakanainen

Quarterfinal Game 2: Canada plays Switzerland. Switzerland remains realistic about their chances.

Upon being asked about facing Team Canada, Switzerland’s head coach Christian Wohlwend had this to say:

Hey, at least he’s being honest.

And quite frankly? It’s the best he can ask for. Canada is a demolition squad that is the complete package in this tournament. Switzerland has had to scrape and struggle for nearly every goal they’ve scored.

This seems like a match made in hell. But who knows? Maybe they’ll catch Canada on an off day.

...Maybe it’ll be 75 and sunny tomorrow. Anything can happen, it’s all a matter of if it will happen. Don’t hold your breath.

Quarterfinal Game 3: Sweden takes on Slovakia, 6pm EST

Congrats on saving face, Slovakia! Your prize a Blue-and-Gold mollywhopping!

I kid, but the Slovaks have had a surprisingly strong tourney, getting their big shocker win against the United States and took care of business against the hapless danes. The problem? They’re facing Sweden.

Sweden is good. One of the highest scoring teams in the tournament, one of the hardest to score on. The closest they’ve been played this entire tournament is against the Russians...and they won that. It’ll take their effort against the US and then some to get something out of this.

Bruins Prospects in this game: Oskar Steen

Quarterfinal Game 4: USA and Russia clash in what will be an absolute heater, 8pm

Your nightcap is two teams that need no introduction.

The USA, fresh off of two back-to-back come-from-behind wins (including one out of doors in the freezing effing cold), will find themselves taking on their old friends the Russians.

The Russians meanwhile, have a problem. They’ve dunked on the bad and mediocre teams no problem, but against nations who have a real strong history of hockey? They’ve not only struggled, but lost pretty brutally.

One side loves coming back at the last minute to win their games, whether or not they intend to. The other side needs to prove they’re on the same level as any other power four nation. This will be a great game to get into.

Bruins Prospects in this game: Trent Frederic, Ryan Lindgren, Jeremy Swayman