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World Juniors

WJC Roundup: Lafreniere return helps Canada reach semifinals

Top 2020 NHL Draft prospect keys win against Slovakia; United States loses to Finland in quarterfinals

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

Thursday is the eighth day of the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship, which is being held in Ostrava and Trinec, Czech Republic.

Quarterfinal schedule/results

Canada 6, Slovakia 1 -- Alexis Lafreniere, the projected No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, had a goal and an assist in his return to the lineup for Canada in the quarterfinals at Ostravar Arena in Ostrava.

Lafreniere had missed the previous two games with an injury to his left knee sustained against Russia on Dec. 28. The 18-year-old left wing has six points (two goals, four assists) in three tournament games.

Canada will play Finland in the semifinals at Ostravar Arena on Saturday (1 p.m. ET; NHLN). Canada finished sixth at the 2019 WJC. Its last tournament championship was 2018. 

Barrett Hayton (Arizona Coyotes) had two goals and an assist and Joel Hofer (St. Louis Blues) made 17 saves for Canada, which advances to the semifinals Saturday.

Canada right wing Nolan Foote (Tampa Bay Lightning) received a major penalty for a check to the head and a game misconduct 53 seconds into the first period for a hit against Slovakia forward Kristian Kovacik (2020 Draft eligible). Slovakia had five shots on the extended power play but could not score.

Dylan Cozens (Buffalo Sabres), who replaced Foote on the top line with Lafreniere and Hayton, had two assists for Canada. Jacob Bernard-Docker (Ottawa Senators), Connor McMichael (Washington Capitals) and Liam Foudy (Columbus Blue Jackets) each scored and Calen Addison (Pittsburgh Penguins) and Jamie Drysdale (2020 Draft eligible) each had two assists.

Hayton scored 6:48 into the first period on a snap shot from the slot after taking a pass from Lafreniere to give Canada a 1-0 lead. McMichael made it 2-0 on a wrist shot from the right face-off circle off a 2-on-1 with Foudy.

Oliver Okuliar (2020 Draft eligible) scored for Slovakia.

Finland 1, United States 0 -- Joonas Oden, a C-rated skater in NHL Central Scouting's preliminary players to watch list for the 2020 NHL Draft, scored a power-play goal and Justus Annunen (Colorado Avalanche) made 30 saves for Finland in the quarterfinals at Werk Arena in Trinec.

Oden beat goalie Spencer Knight (Florida Panthers) on a one-timer from the slot off a pass from Kristian Tanus (2020 Draft eligible) at 4:23 of the third period. United States forward Jack Drury (Carolina Hurricanes), who had been a big part of the top penalty-killing unit, was in the box for hooking at the time.

Tweet from @IIHFHockey: Team Finland's Joonas Oden blasts a shot past USA's Spencer Knight and it's 1-0 Finland! @leijonat #WorldJuniors

Finland, the 2019 WJC champion, will play Canada in the semifinals at Ostravar Arena in Ostrava on Saturday (1 p.m. ET; NHLN). It's looking to become the first team to win consecutive tournament titles since Canada won five straight from 2005-09.

Finland finished 1-for-4 on the power play and the United States was 0-for-2.

The United States went on the power play at 18:45 of the third period and pulled Knight for a 6-on-4 advantage but failed to even the score. U.S. forward Cole Caufield (Montreal Canadiens) had the best opportunity when he took a snap shot from the left face-off circle at 19:07 but Annunen made the save at the left post.

Knight made 28 saves for the United States, which had its run of four straight top-three finishes at the WJC end. The United States finished first in 2017, second in 2019 and third in 2016 and 2018.

The game was a rematch of the 2019 WJC final, won 3-2 by Finland at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.

The United States and Finland have accounted for five of last seven first-place finishes (United States, 2013, 2017; Finland, 2014, 2016, 2019).

Sweden 5, Czech Republic 0 -- Nils Hoglander (Vancouver Canucks) had two goals and an assist, Rasmus Sandin (Toronto Maple Leafs) and Samuel Fagemo (Los Angeles Kings) each had two assists and Hugo Alnefelt (Tampa Bay Lightning) made 23 saves for Sweden in the quarterfinals at Ostravar Arena in Ostrava.

Sweden, which has outscored its opponents 25-8 while winning all five games at the tournament, will play Russia in the semifinals at Ostravar Arena in Ostrava on Saturday (9 a.m. ET; NHLN).

Lukas Dostal (Anaheim Ducks) made 32 saves for Czech Republic.

Russia 3, Switzerland 1 -- Dmitri Voronkov (Columbus Blue Jackets) scored two power-play goals, Alexander Khovanov (Minnesota Wild) had a goal and an assist and Yaroslav Askarov, a top prospect for the 2020 NHL Draft, made 14 saves to lead Russia in a quarterfinal game at Werk Arena in Trinec.

Russia will play Sweden in the semifinals at Ostravar Arena in Ostrava on Saturday (9 a.m. ET; NHLN).

Khovanov scored his second goal of the tournament 14:07 into the second period to give Russia a 2-1 lead. Grigori Denisenko (Florida Panthers) had two assists and has six points (two goals, four assists) in five tournament games.

Gaetan Jobin (2020 draft eligible) scored for Switzerland. Luca Hollenstein (2020 draft eligible) made 33 saves.


What we learned on Day 8

Lafreniere looks strong in return

Alexis Lafreniere appeared as hungry and determined as ever before in his return to the lineup for Canada after missing the previous two games with a left knee injury.

The 18-year-old forward, a favorite to be the top pick of the 2020 NHL Draft, played with speed and physicality throughout in a 6-1 win against Slovakia in the quarterfinals Thursday. He set the tone with a big hit early in the first period before getting the primary assist on a goal by Barrett Hayton (Arizona Coyotes) 6:48 into the first for a 1-0 lead.

Tweet from @IIHFHockey: 🚨 Welcome back Alexis Lafreni��re! @hc_wjc are up 1-0 over Slovakia. #WorldJuniors

"It felt good to and it was fun to be back," Lafreniere said. "I felt better a couple days ago and when I went on the ice (at practice Wednesday), I felt good. I had no worries at all (playing physical). I was just playing my game, trying to be as good as I can like I do every night."

The 18-year-old left wing had a goal and an assist, a plus-2 rating and took four shots on goal in 16:40 of ice time against Slovakia. He has six points (two goals, four assists) in three tournament games.

Tweet from @IIHFHockey: Sometimes goals are better in slo-mo. Watch as Lafreniere sends the puck straight past the pads of Hlava to make it 5-0 for @hc_wjc. #WorldJuniors

"Right away, he's making an impact because he's such a great player," Canada forward Dylan Cozens (Buffalo Sabres) said. "He always has his head up, always looking for the right play. He's always a threat when he has the puck and you saw what he did tonight. He was just unbelievable for us."

Cozens does his part

Dylan Cozens, selected by the Buffalo Sabres with the No. 7 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, moved into a top-line role for Canada on Thursday alongside Hayton and Lafreniere after Nolan Foote (Tampa Bay Lightning) received a major penalty for a check to the head and a game misconduct 53 seconds into the first period.

"We clicked pretty good," Cozens said. "Barrett got that goal right away. I think anyone can play with anyone here, but certainly I think we had good chemistry there."

Cozens had the first of his two assists on Hayton's first goal with an aggressive forecheck behind the Slovakia net, poking the puck to Lafreniere before a pass to Hayton gave Canada a 1-0 lead at 6:48 of the first period.

Cozens is second on Canada with eight points (one goal, seven assists) and his 18 shots on goal are tied with Foote for the Canada lead. He's averaged 15:36 of ice time in five tournament games.

"It was just a feeling (to put Cozens on the line)," coach Dale Hunter said. "I think he's a good skater and can get in on the forecheck, on defensemen. He can keep up with them and he's a net-front guy on our power play."

It remains to be seen if the International Ice Hockey Federation will take further action against Foote for his hit on Slovakia forward Kristian Kovacik (2020 Draft eligible).

United States-born Oden sparks Finland

Joonas Oden was born in Benton City, Washington, but played his youth hockey in Finland while living with his mother. On Thursday he scored the biggest goal of his career, off a one-timer from the slot at 4:23 of the third period to give Finland a 1-0 win against the United States in the quarterfinals of the World Junior Championship.

"They were leaving the middle place open, and we went through it in the intermission that I should be more in the middle," Oden said. "I was wide open, and (Kristian) Tanus gave me a good pass and I just shot it top left corner."

The 19-year-old forward is second for Finland with six points (three goals, three assists) in five games. He's averaging 16:51 of ice time per game, second to Mattias Maccelli (19:28; Arizona Coyotes) among Finland forwards.

Oden (6-foot, 183 pounds) has six points (two goals, four assists) for KooKoo in Liiga, Finland's top professional league, and could be selected as high as the fourth round in the 2020 NHL Draft.

"Oden is a workhorse ... always on the move," NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb said. "He's a strong and fast skater with good balance, excellent winning attitude and wins battles along the boards, and in front of the net."

United States streak ends

The United States missed an opportunity to finish among the top three at the World Junior Championship a fifth straight tournament after losing 1-0 against Finland in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

"We didn't score and you can't win a hockey game if you don't score any goals, so it came down to that," United States captain Mattias Samuelsson (Buffalo Sabres) said.

The United States lost 3-2 against Finland in the championship game at the 2019 WJC. It had finished third in 2018 and 2016 and first in 2017.

Prior to this run, the United States had consecutive top-three finishes at the WJC once before, in 2010 (first) and 2011 (third).

"I thought our group came together through the tournament but unfortunately we didn't get it done today," coach Scott Sandelin said. "I think there's some young guys who will be back. Unfortunately for the older guys it's disappointing ... guys who were in here last year went through the same thing in the [championship] game. It's disappointing we didn't come in here and keep the medal string going because that was the expectation."

The United States outshot Finland 30-29 but couldn't solve goalie Justus Annunen (Colorado Avalanche). U.S. goalie Spencer Knight (Florida Panthers) made 28 saves and finished the tournament with two wins, a 2.49 goals-against average and .913 save percentage in four games.

"I don't think we won enough battles," coach Scott Sandelin said. "We turned the puck over a lot, and obviously you have to score a goal. [Knight] played good but we just couldn't find a goal. I think we needed to bear down a little bit on some opportunities."

Russia power play heating up

Russia has scored five power-play goals in the past two games after not scoring one with the man advantage during its opening three games of the round-robin stage.

While Russia was getting good opportunities and momentum on the power play in games against Czech Republic, Canada and the United States, it finished 0-for-13 in those games. But it went 3-for-5 in a 6-1 win against Germany in the final Group B preliminary-round game Tuesday, and 2-for-7 in the 3-1 victory against Switzerland in the quarterfinals Thursday.

Pavel Dorofeyev (Vegas Golden Knights) scored two power-play goals against Germany, and Dmitri Voronkov (Columbus Blue Jackets) scored two power-play goals against Switzerland.

"The only problem with our power play in the beginning was that we didn't score," Voronkov said. "Other than that we didn't have any issues."

Russia will try to finish in the top three for the ninth time in the past 10 tournaments when it plays in the semifinals Saturday. Russia's last championship was at the 2011 WJC.

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