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2024 WORLD JUNIORS CHAMPIONSHIP – December 29th, 2024 Game Recaps

GOTHENBURG, SWEDEN - DECEMBER 29: Juraj Pekarcik #19 of Slovakia celebrates his first period goal against Norway with teammates, Dalibor Dvorsky #15, Alex Ciernik #22, Milan Pisoja #3 and Luka Radivojevic #11 in Preliminary Round - Group B action at the 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship at Frolundaborg on December 29, 2023 in Gothenburg, Sweden. (Photo by Chris Tanouye/IIHF)

Slovakia 8, Norway 4

With a day off yesterday after beating Switzerland 3-0, Slovakia came into today’s game ready to play. From the drop of the puck, it was clear that they had a speed and skill advantage over Norway. Slovakia was down early with Norway’s Michael Brandsegg-Nygard scoring just over three minutes into the first period. They tied the game up about 10 minutes later with Samuel Honzek evening the score with a power play goal. Juraj Pekarcik would score for Slovakia less than a minute later and they would never look back. They broke the game open in the second period with five goals. Dalibor Dvorsky had a very strong game with four points (two goals and two assists). The aforementioned Brandsegg-Nygard (2024 NHL Draft eligible) had a three-point game (2 goals and one assist) and was Norway’s Player of the Game. Norway would need both their goaltenders in this game. They didn’t dress Markus Stensrud, choosing to save him for tomorrow’s game against Switzerland, as that could be a relegation game.

Finland 4, Latvia 0

Finland needed a better result today after having lost to Germany on Wednesday to avoid any potential relegation scenarios. They got the job done in a must-win game against Latvia. Finland’s Captain, Jere Lassila factored in on all of their goals with a goal and three assists. He wasn’t going to let Finland continue to slide down the standings in Group A. Konsta Helenius, the hyped 2024 NHL Draft eligible player, had another quiet game, only hitting the scoresheet with a penalty in the third period. Latvia’s scoring struggles continued this game and they haven’t scored in any of their three games in the tournament so far. Even combining their two drafted players, forwards Dans Locmelis and Sandis Vilmanis, they still struggled to find consistent offense. Their goaltender, Deivs Rolovs, was the Player of the Game for Latvia despite giving up four goals as he stopped 39 of 43 shots. Without Rolovs, this game would’ve been much worse for Latvia.

USA 4, Czechia 3 (Shootout Win)

The closest game in terms of score today, USA edged Czechia in a shootout to win their game 4-3. Isaac Howard would start the scoring with the first goal of the game, and he ended the game with the Shootout winner in the 7th round. The goals were equal in each period but the play was not. USA had the run of play in the 1st, outshooting Czechia 15-5 and looking more dangerous overall, including a couple of good shorthanded chances. The game favored Czechia more in the 2nd period as they held the shot advantage (12-9) and had the only power play of the period. The 3rd and overtime settled nothing, though USA had the most chances in OT, so the game went to a shootout. USA must win their game against Slovakia in order to win Group B as they only collect 2 points for the win today.

Sweden 2, Canada 0

This was the marquee matchup of the day and it did not disappoint. Sweden and Canada played an intense back and forth game with both teams wanting to show the fans in attendance that they were the best team in Group A. Both goaltenders, Hugo Havelid for Sweden, and Mathis Rousseau for Canada, made tremendous high danger saves. The forward groups showed a lot of skill and speed. The defence for both teams were tenacious and hard hitting. It was the kind of game you hope to see from this tournament.

Swedish defenceman Tom Willander opened the scoring in the second period with a nice rush up the ice and used a Canadian defenceman as a screen to score. Noah Ostlund would score on a rebound from a Jonathan Lekkerimaki shot from the blue line. Canada would have a couple of power play opportunities after those goals, but Havelid shut the door. Rousseau played his best game for Canada so far with some outstanding saves. Sweden has yet to be scored on in the tournament through three games.

Three Stars of the Day

#1 - Dalibor Dvorsky - Forward - Slovakia

The 10th overall selection by the St. Louis Blues in the 2023 NHL Draft finally factored into Slovakia’s scoring with four points today (2 goals, 2 assists). He was a play driver for his line and pushed Norway to their limit. His first goal to make it 3-1 was a rush to the net on the power play where he turned the defenceman and made a move across the crease to open up the goaltender. His second goal was a rush down the middle of the ice with a nice wrist shot after he crossed Norway’s blue line, using the defenceman as a screen. Anytime Dvorsky was on the ice he was beating Norway with speed and strength, and they had no answer for him.

Honorable Mention goes to Servac Petrovsky who also had a four-point game and is now leading the tournament in scoring.

#2 - Jere Lassila - Forward - Finland

The Finnish Captain had his best day in international play to this point in his career today. Factoring in on all four of Finland’s goals in a must-win situation to avoid having to deal with relegation is the best way to lead by example. He would not let Finland lose today. His goal opened the scoring of the game and came on the power play. He was positioned in front of the net and banged home a rebound. Two of his three assists also came on the power play as he was a key factor in that situation. He played 19:06, leading all Finnish forwards in ice time.

#3 - Mathis Rousseau - Goaltender - Canada

Despite losing 2-0, Mathis Rousseau provided Canada with outstanding play in goal today. He made a number of incredible saves and kept Canada in the game. While only seeing 24 shots in the game, an average goaltending performance today would’ve resulted in a 4-0 or 5-0 win for Sweden. It’s hard to blame Rousseau for either of Sweden’s goals. On Tom Willander’s he was screened by his own teammate and didn’t see the shot until it was too late. On the second goal, Rousseau stopped two shots from Jonathan Lekkerimaki, including one where he was by himself in the slot, before giving up a rebound goal to Ostlund. I wouldn’t blame Rousseau for this goal either as Ostlund made a good play to get behind Canada’s defence and wasn’t accounted for when he scored. Rousseau was Canada’s best player today, and he deserves a star despite the loss.