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World Juniors

5 things learned from Day 3 of World Juniors

Slovakia upsets U.S.; Canada prepares for outdoor game; Sweden remains unbeaten

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

Thursday was the third day of the 2018 World Junior Championship, which is being held in Buffalo. 



Finland 4, Denmark 1

Russia 5, Switzerland 2 

Sweden 3, Czech Republic 1 

Slovakia 3, United States 2 


Five things we learned


Slovakia upsets United States

Forward Samuel Bucek scored off a wraparound with 2:08 remaining in the third period to give Slovakia a stunning 3-2 victory against the United States in the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship Group A preliminary round at KeyBank Center.

"I'm really happy with what we accomplished. We never really thought we could beat the U.S. but we did because we played with patience and stuck with the process," Bucek said. "Our goalie [Roman Durny] was outstanding, so that was the main reason we won."

The victory was Slovakia's fourth in 17 games against the U.S. in WJC competition (4-12-1). Slovakia had lost six straight to the U.S. since a 5-3 win in the quarterfinal round of the 2009 WJC. 

Filip Krivosik scored two goals, and Durny made 43 saves for Slovakia. Casey Mittelstadt (Buffalo Sabres) and Brady Tkachuk (2018 NHL Draft eligible) scored, and Joseph Woll (Toronto Maple Leafs) made 22 saves for the United States.

"We had a flat tire tonight and were trying to pump it, but we just couldn't get her going," U.S. coach Bob Motzko said.

Mittelstadt tied the game 2-2 with 3:11 remaining in the third period.

"You know you're going to have a game or two like this where it's a dog fight and there were some plays you got to make," Mittelstadt said. "I think the main thing we have to work on is having a better start. Especially in a game like this after [Slovakia] lost [6-0 against Canada on Wednesday]. You can't give them hope and I think we came out too slow."

Video: Highlights of the USA vs. Slovakia game


A learning experience

Tkachuk expects the United States to rebound with a strong showing against Canada when the rivals take center stage outdoors at New Era Field in a Group A preliminary-round game Friday (3 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN, RDS).

The loss to Slovakia ended a streak of nine straight wins by the U.S. at the World Juniors, including seven straight to win gold at the 2017 WJC.

"We'll get better as the tournament goes on, and we need to bring our 'A' game against Canada and I think we're going to do it," Tkachuk said.

Said defenseman Adam Fox (Calgary Flames): "You really can't underestimate any team and we were slow from the start and it came back to bite us. We just have to focus on tomorrow. You can't sit on this loss. Obviously it's a tough one to swallow but we have a quick turnaround against Canada and have to be ready."

Motzko said the outdoor game should re-energize his group.

"Young athletes can find enthusiasm in little things and fresh air could do it," he said. "When I watch Canada play, every year it's the same team, and I mean that as a compliment. They have different jersey numbers and different names but they play that same brand of hockey. They're heavy on the forecheck and they take time and space away."


Canada practices at New Era Field

Canada made final preparations for its outdoor game against the United States at a practice at New Era Field, the home of the NFL's Buffalo Bills. 

Coach Dominique Ducharme held a short practice to get his players acclimated to the surroundings.

"We went on the ice only 25 minutes so the guys can feel the environment, feel the ice, see the difference," Ducharme said. "[Friday] we'll focus on the 200-by-85 [foot] rink."

Video: USA, Canada prepare to play outdoors at 2018 WJC

Defensemen Jake Bean (Carolina Hurricanes) and Dante Fabbro (Nashville Predators), each limited in ice time for precautionary reasons during a 6-0 win against Slovakia Wednesday, should be ready to play. 

"I felt great," Fabbro said. "The biggest part was just warming up and making sure I was completely ready to get on the ice. I went through the drills and it was all good."

Defenseman Kale Clague (Los Angeles Kings), who didn't play against Slovakia because of a lower-body injury sustained blocking a shot in a 4-2 win against Finland Tuesday, is questionable.

Nylander excites Buffalo faithful

Center Alexander Nylander, selected by the Buffalo Sabres in the first round (No. 8) of the 2016 NHL Draft, had a goal and an assist to help lead unbeaten Sweden to a 3-1 win against the Czech Republic in a Group B preliminary-round game at KeyBank Center.

Nylander, who had 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in seven games for Sweden in the 2017 WJC, was glad to contribute in a big spot.

"I'm just trying to get into my top form in this tournament and it's helping me a lot," Nylander said. "I feel like I'm getting better every game."

Sweden coach Tomas Monten said he sees a more mature Nylander this year. He has four points (one goal, three assists) in two games.

"He's not more motivated than last year, but you can tell he's matured," Monten said. "He plays a bigger role in Rochester [of the American Hockey League] and we feel he's a go-to guy for us. He can play big minutes 5-on-5, the penalty kill and the power play, and that's a great leader." 


Dahlin continues to impress

Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, projected by many to be the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, is logging big minutes and proving to be a threat each time he's on the ice for Sweden.

Dahlin, who received an A rating on NHL Central Scouting's November players to watch list, has four points, all assists, in two games. He has also led Sweden in ice time each game, playing 20:50 in a 6-1 win against Belarus on Tuesday, and 24:05 against the Czech Republic. He had two points (one goal, one assist) in seven games as a 16-year-old at the 2017 WJC.

"Rasmus was our super sub last year, but he's just better this year," Monten said. "He defends better and is more calm with the puck. Last year we gave him some defensive-zone face-offs and defensive-zone time, but this year he can play all situations. He's used to this since he averages big minutes (19:10) for Frolunda in a tough league [Swedish Hockey League]."

What's next | Complete schedule

Russia vs. Belarus (12 p.m. ET; HarborCenter, NHLN, TSN3, RDS)

U.S. vs. Canada (3 p.m. ET; New Era Field, NHLN, TSN, RDS)

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