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Posted On Friday, 12.31.2010 / 4:59 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 World Junior Championship Blog

Canada opens 3-2 lead over Sweden in wild first period

If the finish is anything like the start, Canada and Sweden will provide the capacity crowd here at HSBC Arena quite a show in the final preliminary-round game for both teams before playoffs in the World Junior Championship begin on Sunday.

The opening 20 minutes produced plenty of excitement, including five goals, bit hits and some suspect goaltending.

Team Canada took its second lead of the first, 3-2, with 0.5 seconds remaining on one of the strangest goals of the tournament. Following some great defensive work by Jared Cowen in his own end, Brayden Schenn fed Ryan Johansen down right wing. Johansen entered the zone and ripped a shot that hit the glass to goalie Robin Lehner's right. The puck bounced out in front to Curtis Hamilton, who jammed the attempt past the stunned goalie.

Canada had pulled into a 2-2 tie when Quinton Howden scored off a harmless-looking shot from the top of the left circle that was misplayed by Lehner. Howden's shot clipped the left catching glove of Lehner before trickling over the goal line at 15:38. The Swedes had taken their first lead just 43 seconds earlier when Carl Klingberg connected.

Team Canada opened a 1-0 lead just 58 seconds into the game when Sean Couturier's blast down his right wing deflected off the left leg of Swedish defenseman Klas Dahlbeck past goalie Robin Lehner. Canada's Marcus Foligno was crashing the crease at the time of the goal, forcing Dahlbeck to skate hard into the paint and interfere with the puck. It was the first goal allowed by Lehner, a prospect of the Ottawa Senators, in two games in the tournament -- he shut out Russia on Tuesday on 30 saves.

Sweden answered Canada's early goal at the 2:14 mark when Max Friberg showcased some fine hand-eye coordination by batting in a shot from the right hashmark. The first also featured a huge hit by Columbus Blue Jackets' Johansen on top 2011 draft-eligible defenseman Adam Larsson, who was literally thrown into his own goal post immediately after Sweden's first goal.

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Posted On Friday, 12.31.2010 / 3:13 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 World Junior Championship Blog

Finland blasts Slovakia, 6-0

Eric Haula scored a pair of goals and goalies Joni Ortio and Sami Aittokallio combined for 17 saves when Finland soared to a 6-0 victory over undermanned Slovakia on Friday in the fourth and final game for both countries in preliminary round action of the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Finland's third straight victory catapulted them into first place, 2 points ahead of the U.S. National Junior Team, in the Group A standings for the time being. The puck is now in Team USA's end -- a victory over Switzerland (8 p.m. ET, NHLN-US) later today will solidify an automatic bye into the tournament semifinals slated for Monday at HSBC Arena.

Finland opened a 3-0 lead in the first period as Miikka Salomaki connected just 1:40 into the game before a pair of power-play goals by Jyrki Jokipakka and Haula extended the advantage. Joonas Donskoi scored a power-play goal of his own 6:45 into the second before Haula scored a shorthanded goal just 1:55 later. Valtteri Virkkunen also struck to close out the second-period barrage.

Slovakia, forced to play without the services of suspended defensemen Peter Hrasko and Martin Marincin, appeared disinterested and beaten from the early part of the contest.

Teemu Pulkkinen chipped in with two assists for Finland, which finished with a 43-17 shot advantage. Ortio made 10 saves in two periods of play before Aittokallio turned aside seven shots in 20 minutes of work in the third.

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Posted On Friday, 12.31.2010 / 11:54 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 World Junior Championship Blog

Sweden ready for Canada; U.S.set for Swiss

The matchup to determine who'll earn the automatic bye into the semifinal round of the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship will take center stage on Friday (NHLN-US, TSN, 4 p.m. ET) when Sweden faces Canada in the final preliminary-round game for both teams in Group B.

Canada (3-0-0) and Sweden (3-0-0) enter Friday's clash with nine points apiece so there's certainly plenty at stake.

"Canada's strength is in the power play," Sweden coach Roger Ronnberg told NHL.com. "They have good guys who can really shoot and share the puck with the man advantage. We can't throw too many penalties today, we have to stay disciplined and hard and play the same physical game we did the last time we met them in Toronto (in an exhibition loss to the Canadians earlier this month). We have to play with more disciplined."

Ronnberg had some great things to say about the game and its importance in a story on NHL.com. Read it here.

The U.S. National Junior Team (2 wins, 1 OT win), meanwhile, will look to take care of business on Friday night (NHLN-US, 8 p.m. ET) against Switzerland (2-1-0). If Finland losses to Slovakia, in a game scheduled to start 12:30 p.m., the U.S. would automatically finish first in Group A. Otherwise, a wins by the Finns would require the U.S. to come out victorious in order to earn that two-day layoff into the tournament semifinal round.

"I feel like one thing we needed to do, and we are, is getting better and better each game," U.S. defenseman Brian Dumoulin said. "I feel like we've done that since the Finland game (a 3-2 overtime victory) and the German game, we've been getting better and better and getting closer as a team."

U.S. coach Keith Allain said goalie Jack Campbell would make his fourth straight start between the pipes.

Needless to say, the Americans will have to pay close attention to New York Islanders prospect Nino Niederreiter. Niederreiter has 2 goals, 3 points and a plus-1 rating in three games for the Swiss in the tournament. He's also take a team-leading 13 shots on net.

"He's a dangerous player; I've played against him in the Western Hockey League and he's a threat out there so that's one guy we're going to have to watch," U.S. forward Mitch Callahan said. "He can certainly make plays."

Dumoulin also feels Niederreiter is a proven game-changer.

"They have one guy who can take over the game and control how they play and dictate the score of the game so we'll definitely be keying on him and making sure to shut him down," Dumoulin said. "As a full team, we can't really focus on one guy, we have to take care of business and worry about ourselves."

Allain knows that while Niederreiter has impressed in the tournament, it's a recipe for disaster to focus on just one player.

"He's their key offensive guys and it appears he's doing it all by himself right now," Allain said. "But, as a team, you never play one guy in hockey. Our impressions of Switzerland are they appear to more aggressive, more of a forechecking team, than Swiss teams of the past. We'll be ready for that."

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Posted On Thursday, 12.30.2010 / 7:54 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 World Junior Championship Blog

U.S. opens 2-0 lead on Germans in first

Charlie Coyle scored a power-play goal and Jerry D'Amigo notched his first of the tournament when the U.S. National Junior Team opened a 2-0 first-period lead over Germany in preliminary-round action in Group A of the World Junior Championship at HSBC Arena.

Coyle took a pass from Jon Merrill along the left-wing half boards and skated toward the left post before lofting a shot that beat German goalie Niklas Treutle under his arm at the 12:37 mark. D'Amigo's unassisted tally came 48 seconds later at 13:25.

U.S. goalie Jack Campbell needed to make just two saves while Treutle was kept busy with 21 stops. U.S. forward Jeremy Morin, who missed the previous game due to injury, had a team-leading four shots on net.

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Posted On Thursday, 12.30.2010 / 7:46 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 World Junior Championship Blog

Switzerland, Sweden win preliminary round matches

Switzerland scored a 6-4 victory over Slovakia in Group A while Sweden remained unbeaten in Group B with a 6-3 triumph over the Czech Republic during Thursday's preliminary-round action in the World Junior Championship.

Switzerland's triumph automatically ensures Team USA a quarterfinal round berth even before their games against Germany on Thursday and Switzerland on New Year's Eve.

Samuel Walser scored the game-winner 14:06 into the third period to give Switzerland a 5-4 lead at HSBC Arena. Inti Pestoni then scored into an empty net to close out the scoring. Slovakia, which played with just five defensemen as two others were serving suspensions, rallied from a 4-2 deficit on third-period goals by Andrej Stastny and Richard Panik.

Swiss captain Nino Niederreiter scored his second of the tournament and 2011 draft-eligible prospect Sven Baertschi notched his first in the victory. Dario Trutmann chipped in with two assists for Switzerland and Michael Vandas had three assists for the Slovaks.

"Everyone played well, and this was a huge win for us," Niederreiter said. "It was a fun game to play, but not so much in the third period, when we let them back into the game."

The Swiss, United States, and Finland battle it out for first place -- and subsequent bye to the semifinals -- tomorrow while Slovakia will go into the relegation round with two points.

Meanwhile, over at Dwyer Arena on the campus of Niagara University, Sweden struck for five straight goals after spotting Czech Republic a 1-0 lead 3:09 into the game.

Johan Larsson and Max Friberg scored power-play goals to give Sweden a 2-1 lead before Jesper Fasth made it 3-1 at 17:09 into the first. Sebastian Wannstrom and Fasth connected in the opening 5:42 of the second before the Czechs pulled to within 5-3 on a pair of goals by 2012 draft-eligible standout Martin Frk.

Sweden will play Canada on New Year's Eve with the winner earning first place in Group B. The Czech Republic and Russia will play at Dwyer Arena the same day, with the loser heading to relegation.

If Russia ends up among the four last teams of the championship, it will be a first, and a major disappointment. If the Czechs miss the playoff round, it will be a continuation of a trend which has been in place since the Czech Republic won a bronze medal in 2005.

"We lost something when we led 5-1," said Sweden's Fasth. "We lost focus or humbleness or both. But we came back and won and that was the main thing."

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Posted On Thursday, 12.30.2010 / 4:43 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 World Junior Championship Blog

The loss of Jaden Schwartz is painful

There isn't one reporter covering the 2011 World Junior Championship not saddened by the news Jaden Schwartz won't be able to join his Canadian National Junior Team mates on the ice for another game of this tournament.

Schwartz will be sidelined with a fractured left ankle.

Let's face it, the Schwartz family has courageously been dealing with heartache for a little over two years now -- when Jaden's sister, Mandi, a center on the Yale women's ice hockey team, was first diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia while in the first semester of her junior year at Yale University.

When Jaden had learned he had earned a roster spot for the Canadian Junior team on Dec. 15, his immediate response was to call his ailing sister to relay the good news. At least for a little while, things would be OK. His opportunity to wear the Canadian jersey had finally arrived; there would be some sense of excitement and joy. It was short-lived, of course, when the news of Mandi's latest biopsy on Dec. 17 detailed a grim report that she had suffered a relapse for the third time in 2010.

It hit the family hard, too, mother Carol, father Rick, brothers Jaden and Rylan. But Jaden carried on, just as his sister told him to do. He'd play it out and play hard and, really, do it for Mandi.

"The results of the biopsy caught us off guard, because we had hoped to be done with this part of the battle," said Carol Schwartz. "Mandi remains committed to fighting this disease, and we are going to continue doing everything in our power to help her. We are so grateful for all the support we have received throughout this ordeal. We know how many families have been affected by cancer, and we know that the efforts to raise awareness of this cause that have been made on Mandi's behalf are making a difference for her and for so many other patients in need. That gives us the strength to keep going."

So when Jaden, currently a freshman at Colorado College, hopped on the riser to address the media on Thursday morning with the aid of crutches and a walking cast over his left ankle, it seemed so unfair. Still, despite the disappointment, you got the feeling Schwartz had his priorities in order.

"There's people in the world going through worse things than I am," he told Sean Fitz-Gerald of the National Post. "So I'll keep that in the back of my mind."

Schwartz, who had been playing key minutes alongside center Brayden Schenn and Louis Leblanc, admitted he did contact his parents but hadn't yet called his sister.

"I know they're going to update Mandi," Schwartz said. "I'll give her a call tonight, but I'm sure she knows already."

According to Hockey Canada, Schwartz sustained his injury in a 7-2 win over the Czech Republic on Tuesday. The 18-year-old prospect of the St. Louis Blues had 1 goal and 2 assists in two games for Canada.

"I wanted to be here more than anything and my family wanted me here and especially my sister," Schwartz said. "It was a dream come true to make this team and to not be able to play in it is tough."

Schwartz said he received the bad news Thursday morning after undergoing an MRI on Wednesday.

"The (doctor) took me over there, and (Thursday) morning, told me the news," Schwartz said. "And, obviously, when I found out, I was very, very disappointed. Obviously, I was really looking forward to playing in this tournament, and playing for Canada."

Schwartz, incidentally, was the only player not participating in Canada's practice on Thursday. Zack Kassian, who will sit out the second of a two-game suspension on Friday against Sweden, Calvin de Haan (lower body) and Cody Eakin (undisclosed) all took part in the skate at Buffalo State College.

It's expected that Eakin and de Haan will be in the lineup on Friday while goalie Olivier Roy will make his third start in the tournament for Canada.

"It's really unfortunate timing," Schwartz said. "Sitting here, feeling sorry for myself isn't going to do anyone any good. I'm going to be here to support the guys as much as I can, and I'll be cheering them on every game."

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Posted On Thursday, 12.30.2010 / 9:52 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 World Junior Championship Blog

U.S. prepares for Germany

The U.S. National Junior Team will look to overtake Finland in preliminary-round competition in Group A on Thursday when it faces Germany for the eighth time since the latter's reunification.

The U.S. holds a 6-0-1 lead in the all-time series -- the last meeting coming two years ago, an 8-2 U.S. victory at the 2009 World Junior Championship in Ottawa. The U.S., incidentally, also owns a 10-0-3 record against West Germany.

While the U.S. will have wing Jerry D'Amigo in the lineup, it remains to be seen whether or not Brock Nelson, Jeremy Morin and Jason Zucker are healthy enough to give it a go.

"Regardless who's in the lineup, regardless of who's in the lineup or not, everyone has the same goals in mind," U.S. center Drew Shore told NHL.com. "That's what we're focused on. Hopefully, we get those guys back as soon as they're ready to go."

The U.S. has featured a balanced scoring attack in the tournament as 13 different players have notched a point. Defenseman Brian Dumoulin leads the team with a plus-3 rating and forwards Kyle Palmieri and Nick Bjugstad share the team lead with nine shots apiece.

U.S. goalie Jack Campbell has certainly picked up where he left off last year, notching two wins, a 1.46 goals-against average and .942 save percentage thus far. It's possible U.S. coach Keith Allain will have Campbell suit up against Germany and backup Andy Iles against Switzerland, as the games occur on back-to-back nights.
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Posted On Wednesday, 12.29.2010 / 9:04 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 World Junior Championship Blog

Canada opens 7-1 lead over Norway after two periods

Brayden Schenn scored his third goal of the game, giving him a team-leading five in three games of the World Junior Championship, just 44 seconds into the second period to extend Team Canada's lead to 7-1 over Norway through two periods at HSBC Arena.

Mario Lemieux and Simon Gagne hold the Canadian National Junior Team record for most goals in one game at the WJC with four apiece.

The Canadian National Junior Team entered Wednesday's game against Norway with 10 forwards, six defensemen and a new goalie between the pipes.

For at least one period, it made no difference.

Casey Cizikas and white-hot Brayden Schenn scored goals in the opening 4:50 of the period and goalie Mark Visentin turned aside 15 shots when Team Canada opened a 6-1 lead over winless Norway. In a bizarre twist, Norway outshot Canada, 16-15, in the opening 20 minutes.

Schenn, who scored 5 points on Tuesday to spark Canada to a 7-2 victory over Czech Republic, had 2 goals and one assist, while Marcus Foligno, Louis Leblanc, Erik Gudbranson and Louis Leblanc each had a goal and one assist.

Canada captain Ryan Ellis notched an assist on Gudbranson's blast from the right point at 10:45 -- giving him his 21st point (4 goals, 17 assists) in 15 World Junior Championship contests. Ellis has participated in the last three WJC. That ties him for the all-time lead among defensemen in the tournament with Finland's Reijo Ruotsalainen (9 goals, 21 points in 24 games) from 1977-80.

Norway had pulled within 4-1 when Rasmus Juell connected at 13:35 -- eight seconds after Leblanc had extended the lead for Canada.


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Posted On Wednesday, 12.29.2010 / 8:41 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 World Junior Championship Blog

Canada opens 6-1 lead over Norway

The Canadian National Junior Team entered Wednesday's game against Norway with 10 forwards, six defensemen and a new goalie between the pipes.

For at least one period, it made no difference.
 
Casey Cizikas and white-hot Brayden Schenn scored goals in the opening 4:50 of the period and goalie Mark Visentin turned aside 15 shots when Team Canada opened a 6-1 lead over winless Norway. In a bizarre twist, Norway outshot Canada, 16-15, in the opening 20 minutes.
 
Schenn, who scored 5 points on Tuesday to spark Canada to a 7-2 victory over Czech Republic, had 2 goals and one assist, while Marcus Foligno, Louis Leblanc, Erik Gudbranson and Louis Leblanc each had a goal and one assist.
 
Canada captain Ryan Ellis notched an assist on Gudbranson's blast from the right point at 10:45 -- giving him his 21st point in 15 World Junior Championship contests. That ties him for the all-time lead among defensemen in the tournament with Reijo Ruotsalainen (21 points in 24 games).
 
Norway had pulled within 4-1 when Rasmus Juell connected at 13:35 -- eight seconds after Leblanc had extended the lead for Canada.

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Posted On Wednesday, 12.29.2010 / 6:53 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 World Junior Championship Blog

Finland wins second straight; 5-1 over Germany

An opening-game loss to the U.S. National Junior Team certainly hasn't kept Finland down.

In fact, for at least one night, the Finns are in sole possession of first place in Group A after having quietly strung together two straight triumphs, including Wednesday's 5-1 victory over Germany. Finland, which has played one more game than the U.S. (2-0-0, 5 points), is virtually assured a second-place finish following preliminary-round action in Group A of the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship.

The U.S. scored a 3-2 overtime victory over Finland on Sunday.

Finland, which is 2-0-1 with 6 points through three games, will play Slovakia on Friday before the start of the medal round on Sunday. The U.S., which is scheduled to play Germany (0-2-1) on Thursday, will close out its preliminary-round schedule on Friday against Switzerland (NHLN-US, 8:00 p.m. ET).

Finland received goals from  Joonas Nattinen, Miikka Salomaki, Joonas Donskoi and Jesse Virtanen before Germany finally connected -- a spectacular right-handed dangle 3:28 into the third by 2011 draft eligible prospect Tobias Rieder. Nattinen, who now has a team-leading 3 goals in three tournament games, and Donskoi are both prospects of the Florida Panthers.

"We're getting to know each other a little better every day," Finland captain Sami Vatanen said. "We never played much together before the tournament, but it's starting to come together. We want to win a medal; it's been a long time."

Donskoi's goal at 13:47 of the second was followed by a goal just 1:32 later by Virtanen's tally, forcing Germany to replace starting goaltender Philipp Grubauer (24 saves, 28 shots) for Niklas Treutle (15 saves, 16 shots) for the second time in three games.

Calgary Flames prospect Joni Ortio turned aside 28 shots in making his third straight start in goal for Finland. Minnesota Wild prospect Eric Haula closed out the scoring for Finland 16:07 into the third.

Finland outshot the Germans, 44-29. Detroit Red Wings' future star Teemu Pulkkinen (2 assists), who has 4 points in the tournament, and Haula led the way with six shots apiece. Julius Junttila also chipped in with two assists.

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