Goodbye, preliminary round. Hello, elimination games. All four Blackhawks prospects played on Day 6 of the 2016 IIHF U20 World Championship, helping their countries decide the quarterfinal matchups. Slovakia dropped a 2-1 decision to Russia, the United States overcame a spirited Denmark team 4-1, Finland defeated the Czech Republic 5-4 in a seesaw affair, and Sweden posted a 5-2 win over Canada.
Forward Radovan Bondra was kept off the scoresheet for the Slovaks, and ended the game with two penalty minutes. Nick Schmaltz, Chicago’s 2014 first-round pick, had a strong showing for Team USA, buzzing around with the puck and drawing another penalty; he also won three of six faceoffs, but was held without a point.
Finland and the Czech Republic contested one of the quickest periods of hockey at the tournament thus far, completing their opening frame in just 27 minutes while producing end-to-end action. The Finns have been the highest-scoring team at World Juniors, and they needed all of their offense to get past the resilient Czechs. Finland entered the game without two defensemen due to injury and losing another after 20 minutes due to illness, which meant blueline prospect Joni Tuulola saw a plethora of ice time, mostly at even strength and on the penalty kill. The 2015 sixth-round pick logged one shot on goal and was instrumental late in the game with their opponent chasing an equalizer.
Sweden vs. Canada began fast and furious, and for the second consecutive game, defenseman Gustav Forsling found the back of the net while his team enjoyed the man advantage. He added an assist for his first multi-point outing of the tournament, and was once again a staple on Sweden’s power play, which connected three times in the game. Forsling tallied three shots on goal and now has 11 through his first three games, sharing second among tournament defensemen despite playing one fewer game.
Quarterfinal schedule (all games on Saturday, Jan. 2, on NHL Network):
Russia vs. Denmark, 6 a.m. CT
Sweden vs. Slovakia, 8 a.m. CT
Finland vs. Canada, 10 a.m. CT
USA vs. Czech Republic, 12 p.m. CT