Skip to main content
World Juniors

5 things to watch in WJC semifinal round

Advantage for Canada, play of Jordan Greenway of United States among top storylines

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

MONTREAL -- The 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship resumes with semifinal-round games at Bell Centre on Wednesday.

The gold medal and bronze medal games will be held at Bell Centre on Thursday.

 

Semifinal round

United States vs. Russia (3 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)

Sweden vs. Canada (7:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN)

 

5 Things to watch

 

Does Canada have advantage?

Canada coach Dominique Ducharme believes his group may have an advantage against Sweden in their semifinal round game.

Sweden is making its 11th straight appearance in the semifinal round and has won one goal medal, four silver and one bronze the past 10 tournaments.

"They've shown in the last 10 years that they're really good in the first round, but they have ways to lose when things get tougher," Ducharme said. "We want to make it tough on them."

The last time Canada and Sweden played in the WJC playoffs was the gold medal game in 2009, a 5-1 Canada win. Sweden has won the past two games, a 6-5 shootout on Dec. 31, 2010, and 5-2 on Dec. 31, 2015.

When told of Ducharme's comment, Sweden coach Tomas Monten didn't seem too concerned.

"The world juniors is a tournament where you have different teams every year and different age groups," Monten said. "I think we have a team that's good enough to play in the semifinals and we'll see if we're good enough to reach the gold medal game.

"Canada wants to play with a lot of energy and pressure and we want to play with speed and pressure so we'll see who wins."

Video: WJC Quarterfinal Round Highlights: CAN 5, CZE 3

 

Greenway offering grit, finesse

United States left wing Jordan Greenway (Minnesota Wild) has been a force on the second line alongside center Luke Kunin and right wing Jeremy Bracco.

Greenway (6-foot-5, 230 pounds), a sophomore at Boston University, has not only made it difficult on opposing players down low and in the offensive end, but is second on the team in points (six) and first in shots on goal (18) and game-winning goals (two).

"He's kind of like the big papa bear for us, and it's comforting," U.S. coach Bob Motzko said.

Motzko appreciates what Greenway brings to the team.

"He loves to play the dirty areas and knows his role," Motzko said. "We overplayed him early in the tournament on the penalty-kill so we backed off and that has helped him. You can tell opposing players don't want him; he creates space for himself and he goes in there to earn it."

 

The Russian bear

Russia enters its semifinal against the United States on Wednesday having never lost to its international rival in seven WJC playoff games, outscoring them, 32-12.

Russia has been led offensively by its top line of Mikhail Vorobyov (Philadelphia Flyers) centering left wing Alexander Polunin (2017 draft eligible) and right wing Kirill Kaprizov (Minnesota Wild), the Russia captain who leads the tournament with seven goals. Vorobyov leads the tournament with eight assists. The Polunin-Vorobyov-Kaprizov line has combined for 10 goals, 24 points and 43 shots on goal in five games.

Russia coach Valeri Bragin has four wins and one loss against the United States, including three playoff-round victories in the past five tournaments. His only loss was in the preliminary round at Air Canada Center on Thursday, 3-2. 

Goaltender Ilya Samsonov (Washington Capitals) is beginning to heat up. He has played in four games and has a 2.00 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage after posting consecutive shutouts against Slovakia in the final preliminary-round game and Denmark in the quarterfinals.

Video: WJC Quarterfinal Round Highlights: RUS 4, DEN 0

 

Swede smell of success

After finishing fourth in each of the past two WJC tournaments, Sweden looks to advance to the gold medal game for the first time in three years if they can defeat Canada.

Sweden captain Joel Eriksson Ek (Minnesota Wild) was part of the team that won its first five games in at the 2016 WJC in Finland but lost 8-3 in the semifinal against the United States.

"I remember the feeling last year," Eriksson Ek said. "I don't want to have this feeling again. I hope we can step up a little more and win the hockey games."

Forward Alexander Nylander (Buffalo Sabres) is the tournament's leading scorer with 11 points. Sweden is tied with Canada for most goals scored in the tournament with 26 and five of those goals have come on the power play.

"It's really important getting the power play going," Sweden defenseman Oliver Kylington (Calgary Flames) said. "When it's getting important games you need to have a good power play and I think we showed that we have a good power play and we moved the puck well and created good chances for ourselves."

 

Two-goalie rotation

U.S. coach Bob Motzko didn't actually commit to his starting goaltender against Russia when asked on Tuesday after practice, but all indications are he has no intention of changing what has worked so well to this point.

That could mean Boston College freshman Joseph Woll (Toronto Maple Leafs) will start.

Goaltenders Tyler Parsons (Calgary Flames) and Woll have split duty throughout the first five games. Parsons is 3-0 with a 1.67 goals-against average and .916 save percentage. Woll is 2-0 with a 1.50 GAA and .934 save percentage.

Parsons made 25 saves in a 3-2 win against Russia on Thursday.

"We'll get to our meeting as coaches and say, 'Why change?' " Motzko said. "We're at the point where there is no wrong decision. Both guys are feeling good. The team has confidence in both guys. No matter who we go with, it's the right call."

NHL.com correspondent Sean Farrell contributed to this story.

View More