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World Juniors Update: Jan. 5

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
Two Avalanche prospects are representing their home countries at the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship, which runs from Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Buffalo and Niagara, N.Y.

Defenseman Tyson Barrie is playing for Team Canada, while goaltender Sami Aittokallio is suiting up for Team Finland.

Barrie, the reigning WHL Defenseman of the Year, was selected by the Avalanche in the third round (64th overall) in the 2009 Entry Draft. Aittokallio, the No. 1 rated European goaltender in NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings for the 2010 Entry Draft, was tabbed by the Avalanche in the fourth round (107th overall) this past summer.

Sunday, Dec. 26
Both Canada and Finland were in action during the opening day of the tournament. During preliminary round play, Team Canada has been placed in Group B with the Czech Republic, Norway, Russia and Sweden. Team Finland is playing in Group A along with Switzerland, Germany, Slovakia and the United States.

Canada, which won a silver medal at last year’s event, earned a 6-3 victory over Russia on Sunday in a game that saw the teams battle back-and-forth through the first two periods before Canada pulled away with three goals in the final frame. Barrie did not register a shot on goal and was held scoreless in the contest, but did record a +1 plus/minus rating.

Canada’s next challenge will come on Tuesday in the form of the Czech Republic.

Later in the evening, Finland hung tough against the United States – winners of the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championship – but ultimately dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to the Americans. Aittokallio served as the backup to Finland’s starting netminder, Joni Ortio.

Finland returns to action Tuesday against Switzerland.

Tuesday, Dec. 28
Aittokallio again served as Ortio’s backup today as Finland got its first win of the tournament by blanking Switzerland, 4-0. Team Finland (1-0-1-0, W-OTW-OTL-L) will get right back at it tomorrow with a game against Germany. Team Germany is winless through two contests, dropping a 4-3 decision to Switzerland on Sunday and then falling to Slovakia by a 2-1 score in overtime on Monday.

Later in the evening, Canada remained perfect in the preliminary round with a 7-2 victory over the Czech Republic. Barrie scored his first goal of the tournament and then added an assist 23 seconds later, with both of his points coming on a Canada 5-on-3 power play during the second period. The defenseman totaled three shots on goal in the contest.

Team Canada will also be back in action tomorrow night, taking on a Norway squad that has been outscored by a combined 9-1 count in losses to Sweden and the Czech Republic.

Wednesday, Dec. 29
Team Finland recorded its second victory of the tournament, topping Germany tonight by a 5-1 count. Aittokallio once again played the role of backup to Ortio, who stopped 28 of the 29 shots he faced. With victories over Switzerland and Germany, plus an overtime loss to Team USA in their opener, the Finns currently lead Group A with seven points and a +7 goal differential.

Finland’s final game of the preliminary round will come on Friday against Slovakia.

Team Canada remained perfect at the tournament following a 10-1 thumping of Norway on Wednesday evening. Barrie picked up an assist on one of Brayden Schenn’s four goals during the contest. Barrie also had three shots on goal and a +3 plus/minus rating in the victory. In addition to its three wins, Canada has the best goal differential in the tournament (+17).

Canada will conclude preliminary round action on Friday with a contest against Sweden.

Friday, Dec. 31
Sami Aittokallio saw his first action of the tournament, playing the final 20 minutes of Finland’s 6-0 victory over Germany on Friday night. The netminder stopped all seven shots that he faced during the third period.

Finland finished the preliminary round with 10 points courtesy of three victories and one overtime loss, which was good enough for second place in Group A. Finland now moves on to the quarterfinal round, where they will face Russia on Sunday.

Elsewhere, Canada dropped its first game of the tournament on Friday, falling to Sweden by a 6-5 score in a shootout. Tyson Barrie was held without a point but recorded one shot on goal and a +1 plus/minus rating.

Due to the loss, Canada (10 points on three wins and one overtime loss) finished second to Sweden (11 points via three wins and an overtime victory) in Group B. It also means that Team Canada will be forced to play in the quarterfinal round rather than gaining an automatic bye into the semifinals.

The team’s quarterfinal round opponent on Sunday will be Switzerland (two wins, two losses in preliminary round).

Sunday, Jan. 2
Team Canada advanced to the semifinal round courtesy of a 4-1 victory over Switzerland on Sunday. Tyson Barrie fired two shots on goal and held a +1 plus/minus rating in the contest. Through five games, Barrie has totaled three points (1g/2a), a +6 plus/minus rating and nine shots on goal.

In Monday’s semifinals, Canada will face the United States in a rematch of the 2010 gold-medal game. That contest ended in a 6-5 overtime victory for Team USA.

Later in the evening, Team Finland was eliminated from medal contention in the quarterfinal round after Russia staged a miraculous comeback and earned a 4-3 overtime victory. Finland led by a 3-1 score with just under four minutes remaining in regulation, but Russia scored twice in the final 3:41 to force overtime. The Russians would add the winner 6:44 into the extra session to advance to the semifinals.

Sami Aittokallio did not make an appearance in tonight’s game. Finland will have one more “classification game” on Tuesday night.

Monday, Jan. 3
Tyson Barrie and Team Canada advanced to the gold-medal game at the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship following a 4-1 victory over defending champion Team USA on Monday night. The Canadians scored 2:38 into the game and never trailed, allowing only a United States goal midway through the third period. Barrie had two shots on goal and a +1 plus/minus rating.

Barrie and his teammates will go for the gold on Wednesday when they face Team Russia in the tournament’s finale. This marks the 10th straight year that Canada has appeared in the gold-medal game. The United States will face Sweden in the bronze-medal game on Wednesday afternoon.

On Tuesday, Sami Aittokallio and Finland will be back in action, taking on Switzerland in a “classification game” to determine the tournament’s final rankings. If Finland wins, they will earn fifth place in the tournament, while a loss would place them sixth overall.

Tuesday, Jan. 4
Finland played its final game at the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship on Tuesday, dropping a 3-2 shootout decision to Switzerland. The contest was a “classification” game, which helps to determine the tournament’s final rankings. Because of the loss, Team Finland finished sixth overall in the event.

Goaltender Sami Aittokallio did not play in the game, and finished the tournament with 20 minutes of playing time in his one appearance. In that contest, a 6-0 win over Germany on New Year’s Eve, Aittokallio stopped all seven shots he faced while playing the entire third period.

The 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship will wrap up on Wednesday with the tournament’s medal games. The United States will face Sweden in the bronze-medal game at 1:30 p.m. MT, followed by Tyson Barrie and Team Canada taking on Russia in the gold-medal game at 5:30 p.m. MT.

Wednesday, Jan. 5
The 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship came to an end on Wednesday, with Team Canada dropping a 5-3 decision to Team Russia in the gold-medal game.

Canada held a 3-0 lead heading into the third period and appeared to be in complete control of the game, but Russia score five unanswered goals – the first three coming in a span of 4:56 early in the final frame – to claim the gold medal.

Tyson Barrie was held scoreless in the contest and finished the tournament with three points (1g/2a), a +6 plus/minus rating and 13 shots on goal in seven games.
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