Wednesday, January 4, 2012

It's Sweden And Russia For The Gold

The medal games are set for the World junior Championships in Calgary. On Thursday afternoon its Finland and Canada for the bronze and Sweden versus Russia for the gold. The Championship game should be a great one with a few potential first round picks involved in the contest. Sweden and Russia met in the preliminary round with Sweden taking that game 4-3 in overtime. Canada and Finland met on opening night of the tournament with Canada taking it 8-1.

On Wednesday, Latvia beat Denmark 2-1 in overtime. It was a tough loss for the Danes who will be relegated to Division 1 next year while Germany, who won the Division 1, moves up to take part in this tournament. The USA beat Switzerland in the other relegation round game 2-1. The Czech's and Slovakia meet in the fifth place game with the winner finishing fifth and the loser taking sixth spot.

On Tuesday, The USA beat Latvia 12-2 in relegation round play.Austin Watson (Nashville 2010) had a huge game for the US scoring the first three goals of the game and following that up with 4 assists. Nick Bjustad (Florida 2010) has three goals and two assists and Brandon Saad (Chicago 2011) had four assists.

Sweden beat Finland 3-2 in the unpopular shootout to move onto the gold medal game. Alexander Ruutu (Phoenix 2011) opened the scoring to give Finland a 1-0 lead in the first. Joel Armia (Buffalo 2011) would double the lead in the second and Sweden would enter the third having to make a comeback.

William Karlsson (Anaheim 2011) would start the comeback early in the third to cut the lead in half. Max Friberg (Anaheim 2011) would tie it and force overtime with a minute 44 remaining in the game. Unlike the National Hockey League, the teams played a 20 minute overtime before a shootout. Sweden's Johan Gustafsson (Minnesota 2010) faced 21 shots in regulation and 3 more in overtime. Finland's Sami Aittokallio (Colorado 2010) faced 49 shots in regulation and 8 more in overtime.

The teams would chose three shooters each and they would rotate shooting. Sweden's Sebastian Collberg (2012 eligible) would go first and score. Finland would tie it on a goal by Joel Armia. Sweden would go ahead on a goal by Max Friberg. The remaining shooters, Finland's Joonas Donskoi (Florida 2010), and Mikael Granland (Minnesota 2010) and Sweden's Filip Forsberg (2012 eligible) were all stopped.

Russia beat Canada 6-5 in a game that had a little bit of everything. The Russians took a 6-1 lead into the third period but the Canadians started an unbelievable comeback halfway through the third. Yevgeni Kuznetsov (Washington 2011) led the way with 3 goals. Nail Yakupov (2012 eligible) had three assists, and Alexander Khokhlachev (Boston 2011) had a goal and two assists.

In a move that shocked this observer, Russian coach Valeri Bragin pulled starter Andrei Vasilevski (2012 eligible with just over 5 minutes remaining in the second and a 6-1 lead. Now, maybe Bragin thought the game was in hand and thought he'd rest Vasilevski for the final versus Sweden. Vasilevski has had a tremendous tournament for Russia up until that point. Andrei Makarov (2012 eligible) took over.

Canada would start mounting the comeback halfway through the third but fell a goal short in doing so.

The only issue I have with the game is the flack Canadian defenseman and potential top 10 pick in 2012 Ryan Murray took from fans and some media. Before the game ended he was already trending on twitter and it was not all roses.

Yes he made a terrible give away on Russia's first goal but he hustled back and through himself onto the ice to block a cross ice pass that would have almost surely been a goal anyway. Unfortunately, the puck hit him in the wrong spot and went into the net. On another, a shot hit the shaft of his stick and was directed behind goaltender Scott Wedgewood (New Jersey 2010). Really, they were just unlucky bounces. This kid is to talented to have some of the things that were said about him.

Yes, I sound a little irked by it, but I got over it. Until this morning when an OHL player who himself was passed over in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft made a comment on twitter that was totally uncalled for. When I called him out on it he removed his tweet and sent me a message apologizing. I told him that it's Ryan Murray that deserves the apology not me and I hope he did so.

I don't believe that suggestions that the game hurt Murray's draft stock are true. He had a good tournament and it was just a couple of unlucky bounces that could have happened to anyone. Ryan is a real talent. Believe it.

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