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World Juniors daily recap: And we’re off!

Your daily recap of the 2021 World Juniors action.

Germany v Finland: Preliminary Round Group A - 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

Throughout the World Juniors tournament, we’ll be keeping track of all the action and bringing you all of the results in one place.

Switzerland vs Slovakia

World Juniors time is finally upon us, folks! We kicked things off a day early this year, and our first Christmas Day game between Switzerland and Slovakia did well to ease us into the action of the tournament. We didn’t have too much going on in the way of tangible offense in the form of points on the board in this one, but it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying. The scoresheet would tell us that this was a pretty even matchup, but Slovakia seemed to find their legs for better stretches of momentum, and was really giving the Swiss some trouble. Without some key saves (and a little bit of luck) from goaltender Thibault Fatton, this game would have looked a lot uglier.

After Slovakia looked to hold the early edge in momentum (with the help of three power play opportunities in the first period alone), Switzerland got some back with a flurry of chances late in the second period, but still weren’t able to break through. It was anyone’s game heading into the third, but the Slovaks quickly got back on track, and seemed to be just on the verge of breaking through. And then they did! With just under six minutes left in regulation, Faith Roman picked up a goal for Slovakia to put them in the lead. Switzerland tried to rally after that, and got a couple of looks with the goalie pulled at the end of the period, but couldn’t find the equalizer, and so Slovakia skated away with a narrow win.

Final: Slovakia 1, Switzerland 0.

Next game up (SUI): Dec. 27, 2:00 EST vs. FIN.

Next game up (SVK): Dec. 27, 6:00 EST vs. CAN.

Germany vs. Finland

If our first game of the day was a quiet one on the scoring front, the next one was, well, very much the opposite. This matchup was figuring to be an interesting one from the get go, as Germany was coming into it with just nine available forwards and five defensemen (as the rest of the players they brought over were finishing their quarantines). So we had a weird one to work with, to say the least.

If anyone came into this one worrying that, because of that numbers disparity, it might be something like a bloodbath, the fact that Finland got themselves on the board just three and a half minutes into the game (care of Anton Lundell) probably had them feeling validated. Finland certainly held the early edge in this one, and they extended their lead to two in the final minute of the first period with a goal from Aku Raty, and then tacked on another inside the first two minutes of the second from Mikael Pyyhtia. But it certainly wasn’t over, and Germany did well to keep themselves in the mix, waiting for their chance to break through. That came just about two minutes after the Pyyhtia goal, when Germany got a chance on the power play, and ultimately saw Samuel Dude break things open for them. And they weren’t done yet! Just past the midway point of the second period, Tim Stutzle forced a turnover just inside his own blue line, got play moving up ice in transition, and then got back himself to crash the net, taking a pass from John-Jason Peterka and beating Kari Piiroinen with a quick shot to get Germany back within one.

The Germans were able to hang with the Fins through most of this one, but Finland was getting more chances, and they were getting rewarded for it. After Stutzle’s goal, Finland responded with two more in the next four minutes (the first from Topi Niemela and the second from Henri Nikkanen on the power play) and took some wind out of the German sails. They got one back in the third period thanks to Florian Elias, but they just couldn’t complete the comeback. Finland picked up some steam as the game went on, and were able to wrap this one up pretty handily.

It wasn’t a perfect game for Finland, but they did give a depleted German team some trouble—they closed out this game with 48 shots on goal and by the end of this one looked to be shoring up some of their issues, and indeed had stretches where it looked like they were putting on a clinic out there. But the Germans kept their foot on the gas right until the end, and given the tough spot they were put in, their play was certainly commendable.

Final: Finland 5 - Germany 3

Next game up (GER): Dec. 26, 6:00 EST vs. CAN.

Next game up (FIN): Dec. 27, 6:00 EST vs. SUI.

Russia vs. USA

For our final matchup of the day, we two pretty loaded teams in Russia and the United States squaring off, and this was sure to be an interesting one. The US had an early power play to work with, but didn’t really get much going on it, and any momentum that they were building pretty quickly fell away, and Russia was able to get themselves on the board just over two minutes after the penalty expired when a shot by Vasili Ponomaryov beat Spencer Knight. The US was able to tie things up before the first intermission, when a shot through traffic by Cam York from the point found its way past Yaroslav Askarov, and we had a game again.

The second period, though, saw things going south quickly for the US. They had a great chance early in the period from Bobby Brink that just missed, and then at the end of that same shift, a defensive breakdown saw Zakhar Bardakov with a chance one on one with Knight, and Russia got themselves back in the lead. Another defensive breakdown, this time in the defensive zone, earned Russia another chance and subsequent goal for Ponamaryov just past the midway point of the period, and then a pretty disastrous turn of events just over a minute later extended that lead to three, when Knight left his crease and tried to clear a puck off the glass, ended up turning it over, and then was so far out of position he didn’t stand a chance stopping the shot by Ilya Safonov. This also marked the end of Knight’s night, and Dustin Wolf came in in relief.

Russia continued to pretty well dominate possession in the third period, making it an uphill battle for the US to try to tie things up. But they kept their heads down and were able to find some rewards for good work—a nice bit of cycling led to a goal in close for John Farinacci, and the US had life again. Russia tried to play keep away and maintain their own momentum, but an ill-timed penalty gave the US a chance on the power play inside the final five minutes of regulation, and with the goalie pulled for a 6-on-4 chance, the puck found its way to Trevor Zegras at the point, and his shot through traffic beat a screened Askarov, getting the US back within one. From there, back at 5-on-5 they were looking to pull Wolf for another chance with the extra attacker, but Russia kept possession well, until an icing just shy of the final minute of play had them stuck in their own end, and the US with a chance to make something to happen at 6-on-5. This didn’t pan out, though, as they did get a look, but ultimately Russia was able to break out, and Yegor Chinakhov’s empty net goal virtually sealed the win for them.

Final: Russia 5 - USA 3

Next game up (RUS): Dec. 27, 9:30 EST vs. CZE.

Next game up (USA): Dec. 26, 9:30 EST vs. AUT.