World Juniors roundup: Canada dominate as USA, Sweden and Finland win

Connor Bedard equals team goals record as Canada lights up Austria

Canada will have a chance to win the group after beating Austria 11-0 on Thursday.

With the victory, Canada are third in Group A, but one point behind Czech Republic and two points behind Sweden. A victory for the Czech regulations will give them 10 points, with the Canada/Sweden result helping to finalize the other two places in the top three.

Once again, Connor Bedard was the star of the show. After tying a team record with seven points against Germany, he scored two goals and four assists to give them 14 points in three games. His second goal gave him 14 all-time goals in 12 games, tying him with Jordan Eberle for the team goalscoring record.

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Bedard has 27 all-time tournament points, which puts him four behind Eric Lindros for the team lead.

Canada started off slow, but once they finally found a way past goalkeeper Benedikt Oschgan, it all went well. It all started on the power play at 14:08 when Connor Bedard found Brennan Othmann near the net, who quickly passed the puck between his legs. Dylan Guenther then fired home a point shot to break the ice after a slow start.

A minute later, Zach Dean scored his first goal of the tournament, only for Bedard to set up Shane Wright on Canada’s third goal – another on the power play – at 18:19.

Everything started to fall apart for Austria in the third. Joshua Roy scored 2:37 into the second, and Bedard scored on the very next shift with a snipe that had to be reviewed given how quickly he went in and out. Nolan Allan then scored his first WJC goal two minutes later to make it 6-0.

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With just over five minutes left in the second, Canada needed another review for a goal to count. At 34:32, Logan Stankoven knocked the puck over Austrian goalie Benedikt Oschgan, but there was no goal initially and play continued for another minute. After an Austrian player flipped the puck over the glass, the play was reviewed and eventually scored a good goal, making it 7-0.

Canada didn’t need more goals, but extra insurance in the event of a big goal differential in a tiebreaker situation didn’t hurt. Adam Fantilli’s first goal of the tournament came at 42:15, with Nathan Gaucher scoring his own first nine minutes later.

But the real highlight was at 53:16 when Bedard’s second of the night tied the Canadian team record, doing so with up to four games left on the schedule. Tyson Hinds also scored his first of the tournament to close it out, giving Stankoven his fourth point of the night in the process.

US beats Switzerland to rebound

A day after a crushing loss to Slovakia, the United States are back in the win column with a 5-1 win over Switzerland.

The United States now sit comfortably in second place in Group B with six points. They’ll wrap up action against Finland on Saturday in what could end up being the top spot in the group.

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The loss was Switzerland’s first of the tournament, keeping them to four points. They are still comfortably seated in the Group B play-off race, one point ahead of Slovakia and three ahead of Latvia. Switzerland close out the match with Slovakia on Saturday, who will decide the placement ahead of the playoff crossover.

A goal late in the first period put a smile on USA’s faces in the first period. With both teams playing a close game, Jimmy Snuggerud scored at 18:05 on a Logan Cooley stream to score from close range, making it 1-0.

Cooley then won one on the power play, Rutger McGroarty going between the legs to put Cooley at 25:49. Snuggerud scored his second at 36:40 and Tyler Boucher scored his third of the tournament less than two minutes later to extend the USA lead.

But fortunately for the Swiss, they were able to pocket one at the end of the period to give them something to celebrate. Attilio Biasca scored at 39:32 with a wrist shot that mowed down goalie Trey Augustine and into the 4-1 goal.

The Americans kept up the pressure in the third, but only one goal was scored. This one went to Luke Hughes, who received the puck after some nice moves from Sean Behrens and fired it past Alessio Beglieri for the American goal 5-1.

Sweden edge Czech Republic in Group A thriller

Sweden helped keep things spicy in Group A, beating Czechia 3-2 in extra time on Thursday.

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The victory gives Sweden first place in Group A with eight points, while the defeat of Czechia keeps them second with seven points. The Swedes can clinch the group stage with a win over Canada in the closing round-robin match on December 31, while the Czechs can clinch a top-two spot with a win over Germany on Saturday.

Sweden were left without two key players: Leo Carlsson and Fabian Lysell. Carlsson, one of the top prospects in the 2023 draft, was withdrawn after warm-ups due to suspected illness. Then, after just one period, Lysell, a Boston Bruins prospect, was also removed with no reason given right away.

However, Czechia were full and David Jiricek managed to open the scoring at 23:12. After Petr Hauser battled a defender to create a scoring chance, he found Jiricek – a Columbus Blue Jackets pick – up front, and Jiricek made no mistakes tapping the shot.

The lead only lasted two minutes when Fabian Wagner fired a quick wrist shot past Tomas Suchanek to tie the game at one. Just 90 seconds later, Ludvig Jansson’s point shot passed Suchanek to put Sweden ahead.

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The advantage lasted until the 54th minute of the game. The Swedish group was tired after back-to-back clearances, and the Czechs made their passing games easy. Eventually, defender Jiri Tichacek scored his first goal of any form this season, taking Matyas Sapovaliv’s pass for the 2-2 goal – a huge one late in the game.

The game went into extra time, giving both teams a valuable point. But the extra point went to Sweden after Jansson rushed in and fended off a defensive attempt to beat Suchanek, handing the Czechs their first defeat of the tournament.

Finland excludes Latvia

Finland maintain their points streak in Group B after beating Latvia 3-0 on Thursday.

Finland sit first in Group B with a 2-0-1-0 record and will have a chance to win the group on New Year’s Eve against the United States.

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The Finns did most of their damage in the first half. At 4:43, Jani Nyman sniped Patriks Berzins to make it 1-0, breaking a good start for the Latvians. At 29:34, Nyman set up Niko Huuhtanen from close quarters, the Tampa Bay Lightning prospect sending a backhand on Berzins for the 2-0 goal.

Latvia were looking to create something in the later stages, but failed. After a pass to the blue line as the empty net came out, Niks Fenenko was beaten to the puck by Konsta Kapanen, who fired the puck into the open cage for the 3-0 goal.

The guards were the stars of the show. Finland’s Jani Lampinen was excellent, the undrafted prospect stopping all 31 shots sent. Berzins was also good at the other end, making 26 saves to keep his team in the fight.

Three stars

  1. Connor Bedard, F (Canada, 2023): A somewhat quiet evening for Bedard, who collected only six points after scoring seven the day before.
  2. Logan Stankoven, F (Canada, Dallas): A four-point night for Stankoven puts him second in tournament scoring.
  3. Logan Cooley, F (USA, Arizona): A few players each had two points against USA, but Cooley was excellent as a two-way forward and generated a slew of chances.

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