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World Juniors quarterfinal roundup: Sweden sets date with Finland, USA to face Russia

by Emerald Gao / Chicago Blackhawks
Nick Schmaltz earned Player of the Game honors in Team USA's 7-0 victory over the Czech Republic. (Getty Images)

Four Blackhawks prospects were in action on the first elimination day of the 2016 IIHF U20 World Championship, which produced its fair share of excitement en route to settling Monday’s semifinal matchups.

Sweden continued to solidify their status as gold-medal favorites with a commanding 6-0 win over Slovakia. Tre Kronor led 2-0 after 20 minutes and never looked back, eventually compiling a 55-17 shot differential over the Slovaks. Defenseman Gustav Forsling totaled five shots on goal in the contest, but was kept off the scoreboard; he now has 16 SOG in four games, sharing third on the team, to go along with a +3 plus/minus rating. For Slovakia, forward Radovan Bondra took two shots in the loss, and he ended the tournament with one goal on eight shots and two penalty minutes.

Finland vs. Canada, which ended 6-5 for the tournament hosts, delivered one of the most thrilling games of the tournament thus far. Canada dominated early, building a 2-0 lead, only for Finland to storm back in the middle frame to take a 4-3 advantage; a penalty-filled third period offered both teams chances to grab the lead for good, which the Finns did with 6 minutes left, courtesy of 2016 draft-eligible Patrick Laine. Defenseman Joni Tuulola collected a helper—his first point of the tournament—and finished the game with a +3 rating. Finland’s victory means Canada misses out on the semifinals for the first time since 1998.

In the day’s finale, Team USA cruised past the Czech Republic 7-0, and 2014 first-round pick Nick Schmaltz continued to impress with his playmaking abilities, earning Team USA’s Player of the Game for his efforts. He opened the scoring with a smooth backhand finish for his second goal of the tournament, then set up Auston Matthews twice on the power play, helping the top draft-eligible American achieve a hat trick and move atop the tournament goals ranking. Schmaltz now has five points in five games.

Semifinal schedule (Jan. 4 on NHL Network):

Sweden vs. Finland, 8 a.m. CT
Russia vs. USA, 12 p.m. CT

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