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World Juniors daily recap: Czechs bend but don’t break

Your daily recap of the 2021 World Juniors action.

Russia v Czech Republic: Preliminary Round Group B - 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.

Finland vs. Switzerland

This game saw us dipping into the real action early—Switzerland opened up the scoring just 3:44 into the period with a goal on the power play from Attilio Biasca, but that lead was short lived as Finland stormed right back and Anton Lundell got them the equalizer just 36 seconds later with a pretty nifty goal on the rush. And we were back to it being anyone’s game.

Switzerland did well to stay in this one, and even when Finland pulled into the lead on a goal by Juuso Parssinen on the power play, the Swiss didn’t let things out out of hand. They couldn’t find an equalizer—they were shut down on each of their three power play chances in the middle frame—but their defensive game and goaltending kept them in the mix and they were able to head into the second intermission with it still a one-goal game. Finland held the edge in chances, but Switzerland was able to do well in keeping them off the board.

Despite this, it felt like only a matter of time before Finland was able break through again, and the third period brought exactly that. Finland picked up a pair of power play goals in the third from Aku Raty and Kasper Simontaival, and two goaltender interference penalties ended up effectively forcing this one out of reach for the Swiss.

Final: Finland 4 - Switzerland 1

Next game up (FIN): Dec. 30, 2:00 EST vs. SVK.

Next game up (SUI): Dec. 29, 6:00 EST vs. CAN.

Slovakia vs. Canada

After putting up a blowout win over Germany on Saturday, Canada was back at it again last night, facing off against Slovakia and looking to keep that offensive momentum rolling. They would come into this one a bit depleted, though, as they would be without defenseman Braden Schneider (serving a suspension for an illegal check to the head) and forward Dylan Holloway (upper body injury), so that depth that they’ve been lauded for was going to have its first test. They had a pretty good start to the game at least, as they picked up an early lead with a goal from Jordan Spence just after the four minute mark.

But as things continued to settle in, in some ways Slovakia gained an edge and found a way to dictate play, or at least come close to it. They weren’t dominating offensively, but rather settling into their tighter, more defensive style, working well to limit the chances Canada was generating. It was much like their style of play against Switzerland in their first game of the preliminary round—they sat back, defended, and waited for their opponent to make a mistake before they exploited it and found their own. It was a model that was starting to feel like it might work, but it didn’t completely.

The end of the third period saw things finally breaking open again. With just over five and a half minutes remaining in regulation, Canada extended their lead to two with a goal from Philip Tomasino. But the Slovaks weren’t going to go away quietly—they got a chance on the power play just 20 seconds after the Tomasino goal, and once they established some sustained zone time, they pulled their goalie, and then Martin Chromiak got them back within one with a chance on that 6-on-4. Slovakia tried again to pull their goalie and tie things up in the final minutes of the period, but this time they couldn’t break through, and when Jack Quinn picked up a loose puck for a breakout and scored the empty net goal, Canada’s win was sealed.

Final: Canada 3 - Slovakia 1

Next game up (CAN): Dec. 29, 6:00 EST vs. SUI.

Next game up (SVK): Dec. 28, 9:30 EST vs. GER.

Czech Republic vs. Russia

If the second game of the day between Canada and Slovakia at times felt a little sleepy, the next one between Russia and the Czech Republic served as something of a nice palate cleanser, at least to a degree. This one started out with some pace and both sides had a couple of looks in the first frame, but neither were able to break through.

The second period, though, saw Russia looking like they were building some serious momentum, and had the Czechs back on their heels, and it all seemed to be coming to a head as we hit the final five minutes of the period. With Russia sustaining a nice bit of zone time, hemming the Czechs into their own end for well over a minute, and the announcers and our brains alike telling us that it sure felt like we were building towards something, just like that the Czechs forced a turnover at the blue line, broke out and got moving on the rush, and Filip Koffer positively ripped a shot past Yaroslav Askarov to push the Czechs into the lead. Just as we all predicted.

By the third period, the Russians were looking to find another gear and get themselves back into this game, but their job got that much harder when the Czechs made the best of a lucky bounce—Martin Lang blocked a shot in the defensive zone, collected the puck, and sprung himself on a breakaway, and Askarov was beaten on the rush again. The Russians got some chances as the period went on, but even with a power play to work with, they couldn’t break through, the Czechs bent but never broke. They dialed things up in the final minutes of the period, first on a 6-on-5 with the goalie pulled, and then on a 6-on-4 after Vasili Podkolzin drew a tripping penalty, but still they couldn’t convert, and the Czechs came away from this one with a hard fought win. It was their first shutout against the Russians since the gold medal game in 2000.

Final: Czech Republic 2 - Russia 0

Next game up (CZE): Dec. 29, 2:00 EST vs. USA.

Next game up (RUS): Dec. 29, 9:30 EST vs. AUT