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Stanley Cup Final
Posted On Saturday, 12.31.2011 / 4:04 PM

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

Czech Republic and Finland prepare for puck drop

EDMONTON - The Czech Republic and Finland are prepared to do battle in what is a pretty big hockey game today at Rexall Place.

The winner will earn the second seed in the Group B pool. Finland currently has two wins and one loss for 6 points and Czech has two victories and one loss with 6 points. The Czech Republic scratches for the game include Vancouver Giants defenseman David Musil.

Finland lineups
G-Samie Aittolkallio
Mikael Granlund-Markus Granlund-Pulkkinen (Hakanpaa-Makinen)
Donskoi-Salomaki-Armia (Pokka-Hovinen)
Barkov-Aaltonen-Ruuttu (Ristolainen-Riikola)

Czech lineups
G-Petr Mrazek
Sekac-Jaskin-Holik (Riha-Krejci)
Uher-Filippi-Nosek (Mozik-Jank)
Straka-Hertl-Pribyl (Hrbas-Zamorsky)

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Posted On Saturday, 12.31.2011 / 2:51 PM

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

Canadian defenseman Murray proving he belongs

As the youngest player on the Canadian National Junior Team roster, Everett Silvertips captain Ryan Murray has certainly had a lot on his mind the last month.

Despite that fact, the 2012 draft eligible defenseman just so happens to be playing like a seasoned veteran alongside Scott Harrington for the unbeaten Canadians. Murray told NHL.com that he believes his role along the blueline for Canada coach Don Hay has changed a bit.

"I think so," Murray said. "They want me to be a shutdown guy here, which I kind of what I do in Everett too. They want me to keep things extremely simple. If I can chip in offensively, that's great, but that's not my job. My job is to shut down other teams' top line."

Murray has two assists and is tied for the team lead with a sizzling plus-8 rating in three games for the Team Canada.
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Posted On Saturday, 12.31.2011 / 2:08 PM

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

U.S. capt. Jason Zucker clarifies 'guarantee' win

EDMONTON -- There are times when your emotions get the best of you.

That might have been the case with U.S. National Junior Team captain Jason Zucker following his team's disheartening 5-2 loss to the Czech Republic on Friday at Rexall Place.

Zucker was one of the first players available to the media after the loss. The U.S. would later learn that they would be eliminated from medal contention for the first time since 1999.

When asked about his team's chances against Team Canada in the New Year's Eve clash on Saturday, Zucker responded:

"We're going to beat them," he said. "That's what we're going to do. We're going to try our best and we're going to go out there and we're not going to change anything we do. We're going to play."

Zucker was again asked about his comment Saturday morning:

"There is no guarantee, you can't guarantee a win in this tournament, but we're going to come out and play like we're going to win and that's what I was saying," Zucker said. "We're going to give it everything we have and, in our mind, we're going to win this game.

"It's a huge rivalry and you have to come out and give a good fight."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Saturday, 12.31.2011 / 1:46 PM

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

U.S. coach Dean Blais mum on starter in net

U.S. National Junior Team coach Dean Blais didn't reveal his starter in goal for his team's final Group B preliminary-round matchup against Team Canada during his morning conference with the media here at Rexall Place.

Jack Campbell, who was manning the cage during Friday night's 5-2 loss to the Czech Republic, is 1-1 with a 3.52 goals-against average and .867 save percentage. John Gibson suffered a 4-1 loss to Team Finland in his only start of the tournament on Wednesday, yielding four goals on 27 shots.

Canada coach Don Hay announced at his morning conference that Scott Wedgewood would be starting between the pipes. Wedgewood earned a 26-save shutout over the Czech Republic on Wednesday.

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Posted On Saturday, 12.31.2011 / 1:05 AM

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

Denmark suspends five players for post-game incident

EDMONTON -- The last thing Danish National Junior Team coach Todd Bjorkstrand needed to see on television following a 10-2 loss to Team Canada on Thursday were five of his players hamming it up for cameras, photographers and journalists during an impromptu gathering at the coaches' press conference table within the media area of Rexall Place.
 
But that's exactly what Bjorkstrand witnessed on TSN after his team suffered their third straight loss. Those players would pay the consequences, too, as Bjorkstrand decided to suspend all five for Friday's final Group B preliminary-round match against Finland -- a 10-1 loss.
 
"Obviously it's not the way we want our players acting after we lose a hockey game 10-2 against Team Canada," Bjorkstrand said. "It's the wrong way, and that's it. It was my decision [and I got no feedback from the Danish Ice Hockey Association]."
 
The loss officially knocked the U.S. from medal contention. The Americans dropped a 5-2 decision to Czech Republic earlier in the day. Bjorkstrand was asked if suspending the five players helped compromise a game that would ultimately doom the United States.
 
"We're going out every game to win and we had three lines and that was it," Bjorkstrand said. "Playing back-to-back games was difficult, especially since we were playing Finland, but I thought the guys did well. You have to go through those things, but it was the wrong message.
 
"I'm responsible for Team Denmark and not for Team USA."
 
Bjorkstrand remains undecided whether the suspended players will be allowed to return to the lineup for the relegation round beginning on Jan. 2 at Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary.
 
"I don't want my players goofing around after a game we lose 10-2, even if it's Canada … it's absolutely the wrong message," Bjorkstrand said. "It's unfortunate. They're kids and they were fooling around, but the hockey in Denmark has come a long way. We have players in the NHL and the senior national team has been in the A Group for many years now. We're here to do well, compete and stay in the A Group."
 
Denmark, which has allowed 38 goals in the preliminary round, was playing without the services of forwards Mathias Bau-Hansen, Jonas Sass-Jensen, Nicki Kisum, Anders Thode and Anders Schultz. Bau-Hansen had 2 goals and 3 points in three previous games.
 
The problem began when the five players departed their locker room and congregated at the coaches' press conference table in the media area. They then began holding a pretend press conference, with each player taking a turn behind the microphone, which was turned off at the time. All the while, each of them began posing for pictures and shaking hands among themselves.
 
It didn't take long before several news outlets and journalists began taking pictures and video of the session.
 
"You always feel afterwards that you could have done something different," the coach said. "They feel bad about it, and we just have to get through it. The guys we had on the ice [Friday] played hard. We want to play good hockey and represent the hockey community in the right way."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale


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Posted On Friday, 12.30.2011 / 11:40 PM

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

Pulkkinen scores four as Finland routs Denmark

EDMONTON -- Teemu Pulkkinen scored 4 goals and Miikka Salomaki had 2 goals and 2 assists to lead Finland to a 10-1 victory over Denmark in Group B preliminary-round action of the 2012 World Junior Championship on Friday at Rexall Place.
 
The victory officially knocked the U.S. National Junior Team from medal contention for the first time since 1999. The U.S., which suffered a 5-2 loss to the Czech Republic earlier in the day, needed winless Denmark to defeat Finland if it was to have any hope at advancing into the medal round.
 
Salomaki, Jani Hakanpaa and Ville Pokka scored goals in the first period when Finland opened a 3-0 lead on 22 shots. Pulkkinen, a 2010 fourth-round draft choice (No. 111) of the Detroit Red Wings, scored four consecutive goals to close out the scoring in the third period. He took 13 of Finland's 59 shots on goal for the game. All of Pulkkinen's goals were assisted by Mikael Granlund.
 
The line of Pulkkinen-Markus Granlund-Mikael Granlund actually finished with 11 points, including 7 assists. Finland goalie Christopher Gibson stopped 24 of 25 shots. Head coach Raimo Helminen said after the game that Sami Aittokallio, who earned the victory against the U.S. on Wednesday, would be his likely starter against the Czech Republic on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET.
 
Denmark, which has allowed 38 goals in five preliminary-round games, was playing without the services of five suspended players -- including forwards Mathias Bau-Hansen, Jonas Sass-Jensen, Nicki Kisum, Anders Thode and Anders Schultz.
 
All five suspended skaters were part of a joke at the conclusion of Thursday's 10-2 setback to Canada. Upon conclusion of the usual post-game press conference, the guilty players approached the press conference media riser where coaches hold their post-game talks and began pretending to answer questions from the media. All the while posing for pictures and shaking hands.
 
It didn't take long before several news outlets and journalists began taking pictures and video of the impromptu session among friends. After seeing what those players had done while watching TSN, Denmark coach Todd Bjorkstrand decided to suspend them for the game against Finland.
 
"Obviously it's not the way we want our players acting after we lose a hockey game 10-2 against Team Canada," Bjorkstrand said. "It's the wrong way and that's it. It was my decision [and I got no feedback from the Danish Ice Hockey Association]."


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Posted On Friday, 12.30.2011 / 5:16 PM

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

Mrazek standing tall for Czechs in 2-2 tie

EDMONTON -- Two periods in the books here at Rexall Place and Czech Republic goalie Petr Mrazek is standing tall.
 
The U.S., which needs to win in regulation if it is to have any chance at reaching the medal round, is currently in a 2-2 tie with the Czech Republic after two periods.
 
Despite allowing the United States six power-play opportunities, the Czechs can thank their lucky stars that the Detroit Red Wings prospect is manning the cage. Mrazek has turned aside 31 shots as the Czechs, while attempting to play a physical game, are getting penalized time and again for being overly aggressive.

The U.S. opened a 2-1 lead on its second power-play goal of the game in the second period when Bill Arnold cleaned up a rebound to Mrazek's right at the 11:50 mark. Jason Zucker took the initial shot from the low in the right circle that deflected off the pads of Mrazek and onto the stick of a well-positioned Arnold.

The lead was short-lived, however, as U.S. forward T.J. Tynan made an ill-advised pass from the his own corner towards the middle of the ice that was easily picked off by Tomas Hertl. Goalie Jack Campbell had retrieved the puck and fed to Tynan to begin a transition. After intercepting the pass, Hertl skated in and deposited a nifty backhand to goalie Jack Campbell's long side.

The Czechs survived an offensive barrage by the U.S. in the first to enter the intermission in a 1-1 deadlock.

U.S. goalie Jack Campbell, making his first start since the tournament opener against Denmark, has stopped 17 shots.

The U.S. was given an extended power-play just 2:21 into the game when Czech forward Petr Straka was issued a five-minute boarding penalty and game misconduct. Straka leveled U.S. defenseman Derek Forbort along the boards at center ice. Forbort remained on the ice for several minutes before being helped off the ice by teammates. He did not receive another shift in the period -- shortening the U.S. blue line to six players.

T.J. Tynan made the Czechs pay when he converted a picturesque feed from J.T. Miller from in tight at the 5:14 mark to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead. The Czechs did a marvelous job killing off the remainder of the penalty, however, and even killed off a later two-minor minor before Tomas Filippi knotted the score at the 12:05 mark. Filippi's initial shot from low in the right circle was initially stopped by Campbell, before he jammed in the rebound when the goalie couldn't control the rebound while opened the five-hole.

The U.S. closed out the period with a four-minute power-play after Petr Zamorsky was whistled for a double minor for high sticking. Mrazek was his usual sharp self between the pipes, making several big stop, including a juicy rebound off the stick of Miller with 38.9 seconds remaining.


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Posted On Friday, 12.30.2011 / 4:37 PM

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

USA, Czechs tied after one period

EDMONTON - The Czech Republic survived an offensive barrage by the U.S. National Junior Team in the first period on Friday in Group B preliminary round play at the 2012 World Junior Championship to enter the intermission in a 1-1 stalemate.
 
Despite allowing the American nine minutes in power-play time, Czech goalie Petr Mrazek was able to turn aside 17 shots to keep his team even. U.S. goalie Jack Campbell, making his first start since the tournament opener against Denmark, needed to make just five saves.
 
The U.S. was given an extended power-play just 2:21 into the game when Czech forward Petr Straka was issued a five-minute boarding penalty and game misconduct. Straka leveled U.S. defenseman Derek Forbort along the boards at center ice. Forbort remained on the ice for several minutes before being helped off the ice by teammates. He did not receive another shift in the period -- leaving the United States with just six defensemen.
 
T.J. Tynan made the Czechs pay when he converted a picturesque feed from J.T. Miller from in tight at the 5:14 mark to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead. The Czechs did a marvelous job killing off the remainder of the penalty, however, and even killed off a two-minor minor that followed before Tomas Filippi knotted the score at the 12:05 mark. Filippi's initial shot from low in the right circle was stopped by Campbell, but the rebound was jammed home.
 
The U.S. closed out the period with a four-minute power-play after Petr Zamorsky was whistled for a double minor for high sticking. Mrazek was his usual sharp self between the pipes, making several big stops, including a juicy rebound off the stick of Miller with 38.9 seconds remaining.
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Posted On Friday, 12.30.2011 / 1:52 PM

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

Campbell gets pivotal start for Team USA vs. Czechs

EDMONTON - If the U.S. National Junior Team seeks to remain in contention for a gold medal at the 2012 World Junior Championship, a victory over the feisty Czech Republic is in order on Friday at 3:30 p.m. ET at Rexall Place.

That being the case, U.S. coach Dean Blais will have Jack Campbell back between the pipes with so much at stake. If the U.S. falls to the Czech Republic in regulation, and should Finland defeat Denmark in regulation on Friday night, the Americans would be destined for the relegation round regardless of the outcome of its New Year's Eve clash against rival Canada.

If the United States defeats the Czech Republic, however, it would not only remain in medal contention, but in a position to capture first place in Group B so long as the Czech Republic avoids a regulation loss to Finland and Team USA defeats Canada.

Campbell is certainly no stranger to the big international stage, particularly under the tutelage of Blais.



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Posted On Thursday, 12.29.2011 / 9:42 PM

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

Canada extends lead to 7-0 over Danes

EDMONTON - Mark Stone, Scott Harrington and Freddie Hamilton scored goals in the second period to help the Canadian National Junior Team extend its sizeable lead to 7-0 over Denmark in preliminary round action of the 2011 World Junior Championship.
 
Harrington's blast from the point gave Canada a 5-0 advantage just 25 seconds into the second. Stone's second of the game and team-leading sixth of the tournament came off a tip from in front. Hamilton's goal also came off a well-placed redirect off a shot by Harrington.
 
Harrington, a second-round pick (No. 54) of the Pittsburgh Penguins last June, has a goal and three assists through two periods. Canada has outshot the Danes, 37-15.   
 
Quinton Howden, Brett Connolly, Stone and Ryan Strome each connected in the first when the Canadians outshot Denmark, 19-3, and built a 4-0 lead.

The line of Jonathan Huberdeau-Mark Stone-Ryan Strome clicked for four points in the first, including 2 goals and 2 assists.
 
Denmark goalie Sebastian Feuk, who entered the game having made 57 saves on 71 shots, has made 30 saves through 40 minutes.
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Quote of the Day

I look forward to the process, the battle, the pain, the fun, the journey.  It's going to be a long one but it's going to be a lot of fun. If you think there is no pain coming, there is pain coming.

— Mike Babcock, introduced as coach of the Toronto on Thursday, had a warning for fans