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Posted On Tuesday, 01.03.2012 / 7:14 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Sweden evens score with Finland; teams set for OT

CALGARY -- Max Friberg scored off a turnover with just 1:44 remaining in the third period to pull Sweden into a 2-2 tie with Finland in the semifinal round of the 2012 World Junior Championship.

Friberg gained his opportunity from prime position in the slot after teammate Johan Sundstrom leaped to snare an attempted clearing attempt along the glass by Finland goalie Sami Aittokallio

The teams are now headed to a 10-minute overtime with four skaters aside. Sweden holds a 52-21 advantage in shots.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.03.2012 / 6:48 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Sweden cuts deficit to 2-1 early in the third

CALGARY - William Karlsson has pulled Sweden to within 2-1 on a power-play goal just 3:11 into the third period.

Finland's Simo-Pekka Riikola was whistled for hooking at 2:38 and the Swedes would make him pay 49 seconds later when Karlsson drove the slot and had the puck deflect off his leg and behind goalie Sami Aittokallio.

Max Friberg had taken the intial shot.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.03.2012 / 6:19 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Finland opens 2-0 lead over Swedes

CALGARY -- Can the Finnish National Junior Team pull off the first major upset of the medal round in the 2012 World Junior Championship?

The Finns find themselves one defensive period away from elminating Sweden from gold medal contention. Joel Armia scored an unassisted goal with 4:30 remaining in the second period to give the Finns a 2-0 lead. Armia, who has been playing extremely well this year following a below average debut for Finland at the WJC in 2011, connected for his fifth goal.

Armia skated in on Swedish goalie Johan Gustafsson and snapped a shot that hit the iron to the goalie's left before the disk deflected into the net. Finland goalie Sami Aittokallio stopped 20 shots in the second and has 34 saves for the game.

The survivor of the match advances to Thursday's gold medal game to face either Canada or Russia at 6 p.m. ET.

The Finns opened a 1-0 lead with 1:31 left in the first when Alexander Ruuttu converted a great pass from Miro Aaltonen at the right post. The Finns last reached the gold medal game in 2001. 
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.03.2012 / 6:13 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Finns cling to 1-0 lead midway through second period

CALGARY -- The Finnish National Junior Team is clinging to a 1-0 lead over Sweden midway through the second period of their semifinal round match in the 2012 World Junior Championship.

The Swedes are holding a 31-8 advantage in shots but haven't been able to solve goalie Sami Aittokallio. Mika Zibanejad, a first-round draft choice of the Ottawa Senators, had a great opportunity to even the score for for the Swedes with 7:41 left in the second, but was denied by Aittokallio.

Alexander Ruuttu's first-period goal with 1:31 on the clock remains to be the difference so far.
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Posted On Tuesday, 01.03.2012 / 5:45 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Ruuttu gives Finns 1-0 lead over Sweden after one period

CALGARY -- Alexander Ruuttu scored off a perfectly placed pass from Miro Aaltonen with just 1:31 remaining in the first period to give the Finnish National Junior Team a 1-0 lead over favored Sweden after one period of their semifinal round match in the 2012 World Junior Championship at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

Aaltonen appeared as though he was going to curl behind the Sweden net with the puck but, at the last possible second, zipped a pass to Ruuttu, who popped home his third of the tournament to the left of goalie Johan Gustafsson.

The Swedes held a 14-6 advantage in shots in the opening 20 minutes. Sami Aittokallio turned back all 14 shots. Both coaches had no issues having their top lines matched against the other's until late in the frame.

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.03.2012 / 5:13 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Finland-Sweden drop the puck in WJC semifinal

CALGARY -- So the Swedish National Junior Team and Team Finland are on the ice here at Scotiabank Saddledome getting set for the opening faceoff in what should be a pretty entertaining contest in the semifinal round of the 2012 World Junior Championship.

Finland has been led by the top line of Teemu Pulkkinen, Markus Granlund and Mikael Granlund on offense. In goal will be Sami Aittokaillio.

The Swedes have received major contributions from Johan Larsson, Johan Sundstrom and Max Friberg. The trio of Filip Forsberg, Mika Zibanejad and Rickard Rakell has also been sharp throughout the tournament. The Swedes will start Johan Gustafsson between the pipes.

Sweden lineups:

G-Johan Gustafsson
J. Larsson-Sundstrom-Friberg (Klefbom, Brodin)
Nordstrom-Rensfeldt-Thorell (Granberg-Nemeth)
Filip Forsberg-Zibanejad-Rakell (Backman-Claesson)
Collberg-Karlsson-Rask-Boyce Rotevall (Klingberg)

Finland lineups:

G-Sami Aittokallio
Pulkkinen-Ma. Granlund-Mi. Granlund (Makinen-Hakanpaa)
Armia-Salomaki-Donskoi (Hovinen-Pokka)
Ruuttu-Aaltonen-Barkov (Riikola-Ristolainen)
Ma. Hannikaninen-Ro. Hamalainen-Kuronen-Paajanen

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Posted On Tuesday, 01.03.2012 / 2:16 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

U.S. jumps out to 4-0 lead on Latvia

CALGARY -- The U.S. National Junior Team has opened a 4-0 lead on Latvia in the opening period of the relegation round at the 2012 World Junior Championship at Scotabank Saddledome.
 
Austin Watson recorded a natural hat trick and Jason Zucker also connected for the U.S. in the first. A victory and the United States will avoid being relegated. U.S. starting goalie Jack Campbell made nine saves in the opening period.
 
This year, the 10th-place team from the WJC will be relegated to Division I in 2013 and will be replaced by Germany, winner of the Division 1 crown earlier last month. Prior to Tuesday's matchup, the U.S. and Latvia had only met once before in WJC play -- a 12-1 victory by the Americans on Dec. 29, 2009, in Saskatoon, Sask.
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Posted On Monday, 01.02.2012 / 10:42 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Czechs, Russians tied 1-1 after two

CALGARY -- The Czech Republic Junior National Team is giving Russia -- the defending World Junior Championship gold medalist -- all they can handle through two periods of quarterfinal-round action at Scotiabank Saddledome.
 
After being outshot, 16-5, during a scoreless first period, the Czechs earned the territorial advantage for much of the second when each team connected for a goal. The clubs enter the second intermission in a 1-1 tie. The winner will face Team Canada in the WJC semifinal round slated for Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET.
 
Russia, which was outshot, 15-9, in the second, pulled even on its third shot of the period when Danil Apalkov ripped one from the left circle that zipped over Petr Mrazek's right pad at the 12:47 mark.
 
The Czechs had taken a 1-0 lead 7:16 into the second when Tomas Hertl sent a nifty backhand pass across the crease to Jakub Culek, who stuffed his attempt home past goalie Andrei Vailevski.
 
Petr Straka barely missed giving the underdogs a two-goal lead midway through the period when his quick wrist shot from the right hash was denied by Vasilevski. The Russian goalie would then stop Daniel Krejci less than a minute later on another left pad save off a backhander from in close.
 
Mrazek would atone for allowing his 12th goal in five games by stoning Apalkov on the doorstep with 3:18 remaining in the second and then Yaroslav Kosov off a 2-on-1 with an incredible left-pad denial at the post a little over a minute later.
 
Mrazek turned aside 16 shots and survived a pair of breakaway attempts by captain Yevgeni Kuznetsov in the opening period. Mrazek, property of the Detroit Red Wings, has yielded 12 goals on 157 shots in the tournament. He entered Monday's game sporting an impressive 2.75 goals-against average and .917 save percentage.
 
Kuznetsov broke free with 8:40 remaining in the first but Mrazek got a blocker on the shot. The Russian captain and lone returnee from last year's gold medal-winning team was sent in alone less than two minutes later only to have his backhand attempt from in tight skid across the crease with the goalie spread eagle in the paint.
 
The Russians were given the only power-play of the period at the 5:30 mark when Jiri Riha was whistled for slashing, but the Czechs survived unscathed. Russia's Nail Yakupov, who could be selected No. 1 overall in the 2012 Draft, had a good opportunity turned away by Mrazek with less than 15 seconds remaining in the period.
 
Returning to the lineup for Russia following a one-game absence was Mikhail Grigorenko.
 
Grigorenko suffered an ankle injury on Thursday when he collided with Latvian defender Arturs Salija in the early stages of the second period of an eventual 14-0 victory. The 2012 Draft- eligible forward entered the game having scored 2 goals and 4 points in three games for his country.

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Posted On Monday, 01.02.2012 / 9:48 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Mrazek helps keep game scoreless

CALGARY -- Czech Republic goalie Petr Mrazek was up to his old tricks in the first period of his team's quarterfinal-round match in the 2012 World Junior Championship against the favored Russian National Junior on Monday at Scotiabank Saddledome.
 
Mrazek turned aside 16 shots and survived a pair of breakaway attempts by captain Yevgeni Kuznetsov to help his team escape with a 0-0 deadlock after 20 minutes. The winner of the contest will meet Team Canada in the tournament semifinals scheduled Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET.
 
Mrazek, property of the Detroit Red Wings, has yielded just 11 goals on 148 shots in the tournament. He enters Monday's game sporting an impressive 2.75 goals-against average and .917 save percentage.
 
Kuznetsov broke free with 8:40 remaining in the first but was denied by Mrazek's blocker before being sent in alone less than two minutes later only to have his backhand attempt from in tight skid across the crease with the goalie spread eagle in the paint.
 
The Russians were given the only power-play of the period at the 5:30 mark when Jiri Riha was whistled for slashing, but the Czechs survived unscathed. Russia's Nail Yakupov, who could be selected No. 1 overall in the 2012 Draft, had a good opportunity turned away by Mrazek with less than 15 seconds remaining in the period.

Russian goalie Andrei Vasilevski made five saves in the first.
 
Returning to the lineup for Russia following a one-game absence was Mikhail Grigorenko, who suffered an ankle injury on Thursday when he collided with Latvian defender Arturs Salija in the early stages of the second period of an eventual 14-0 victory. The 2012 Draft-eligible forward entered the game having scored 2 goals and 4 points in three games for his country.


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Posted On Monday, 01.02.2012 / 12:20 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Aittokallio to earn start in goal againt Slovakia

CALGARY -- Not surprisingly, Finnish National Junior Team coach Raimo Helminen announced that goalie Sami Aittokaillio will get the start against Slovakia on Monday in quarterfinal-round play in the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Helminen made his decision following the team's brisk morning practice at WinSport's Canada Olympic Park facility.

Aittokaillio is the tournament leader in save percentage (.987) and goals-against average (0.50) in his two victories in the tournament. Fellow Finn Christopher Gibson sports an .865 save percentage and 4.50 goals against average in two starts for the Finns.

Helminen knows his team, winner of three straight, will have to be on the top of its game to have any measure of success against the Slovaks.

"We have to be careful with them, they're a hard-working team and they look very dangerous," Helminen told NHL.com.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter: @mike_morreale

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Quote of the Day

I had one really not-good game. I came back to the hotel and he [his father] was on Skype. My mother called first and said, 'Your father wants to talk to you.' So he moved my mother away, and he yelled at me for like 30 seconds. I understood him, and then he said, 'I'm done.' And he was gone. The next game I got my first shutout.

— Anton Khudobin recalls a fond memory, explains why he was so sharp in the Hurricanes' 3-0 win against the Capitals on Friday
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