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World Juniors

Lafreniere powers Canada into final at World Junior Championship

Scores twice in semifinal win against Finland, setting up title game against Russia

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Saturday is the next-to-last day of the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship, which is being held in Ostrava and Trinec, Czech Republic.

 

Saturday schedule/results

Russia 5, Sweden 4 (OT)
Canada 5, Finland 0

 

Semifinals
 
Canada 5, Finland 0

Alexis Lafreniere, expected to be the No. 1 pick of the 2020 NHL Draft, scored two goals for Canada in its semifinal win against Finland.

Joel Hofer, a St. Louis Blues prospect, made 31 saves for Canada, which will play Russia in the championship game Sunday (1 p.m. ET; NHLN). Connor McMichael (Washington Capitals), Jamie Drysdale (2020 Draft eligible) and Ty Dellandrea (Dallas Stars) scored for Canada.

Justus Annunen (Colorado Avalanche) made 34 saves for Finland, the 2019 WJC champion. Finland will play Sweden in the third-place game Sunday (9 a.m. ET; NHLN).

McMichael opened the scoring 1:48 into the first period, and Lafreniere made it 2-0 when he lifted a backhander off the rush over Annunen at 3:05.

Tweet from @TSN_Sports: 🇨🇦 wasting no time! Nolan Foote finds Alexis Lafreni��re and Canada takes a very early 2-0 lead! pic.twitter.com/qjiT43AGDK

Drysdale made it 3-0 at 3:55 and Dellandrea scored at 14:49 to make it 4-0. Lafreniere made it 5-0 with a power-play goal at 17:54 of the second period.

Canada forward Barrett Hayton (Arizona Coyotes), who had two assists, did not return after sustaining an apparent left shoulder injury early in the third period when he got tangled with Finland defenseman Lassi Thomson (Ottawa Senators) and fell into the boards. Canada coach Dale Hunter said Hayton is questionable for the championship game.

Hunter said defenseman Bowen Byram (Vancouver Canucks), who missed the game because of an illness, is expected to play against Russia.

 

Russia 5, Sweden 4 (OT)

Ivan Morozov, a Vegas Golden Knights prospect, scored his second goal of the game 3:24 into overtime for Russia in the semifinals.

Morozov cut wide through the Sweden zone during the 3-on-3 overtime, got around defensemen Rasmus Sandin (Toronto Maple Leafs) and beat goalie Hugo Alnefelt (Tampa Bay Lightning) under his arm.

Tweet from @TSN_Sports: The goal that secures either a gold or silver medal for the Russians! pic.twitter.com/1QsRX9jkfZ

Egor Sokolov, a C-rated prospect for the 2020 NHL Draft, scored two goals for Russia. Alexander Khovanov (Minnesota Wild) had a goal and an assist. Goalie Amir Miktakhov (2020 Draft eligible), who replaced Yaroslav Askarov (2020 draft eligible) 4:25 into the third period, stopped all five shots he faced.

Sandin had two goals and two assists for Sweden. Samuel Fagemo (Los Angeles Kings) and Nils Lundkvist each had a goal and an assist. Alnefelt made 39 saves.

 

What we learned

 

Sandin's wrist is OK

Sweden defenseman Rasmus Sandin (Toronto Maple Leafs) missed time the previous two games after being slashed on the left wrist and told TSN that he's playing through pain.

The wrist looked pretty good Saturday, when Sandin had two goals and two assists.

Both goals came on slap shots from the point. He gave Sweden a 1-0 lead 16 seconds into the first period after David Gustafsson won a face-off on the left side of the Russia zone.

Tweet from @TSN_Sports: Sweden isn't messing around... less than 20 seconds into the game and Rasmus Sandin claps one home! 😱 pic.twitter.com/BxO6W8ACYZ

Then he scored the only goal of the second period that tied the game 3-3.

Tweet from @IIHFHockey: With his second of the game, @Rasmussandin ties it for @trekronorse on the #powerplay! #WorldJuniors @mapleleafs pic.twitter.com/gso0FSLwwH

Sandin also had two assists, and with nine points (two goals, seven assists) leads all defensemen at the WJC in scoring.

 

Sokolov not worried about NHL Draft

Egor Sokolov said winning, not the 2020 NHL Draft, is at the front of his mind right now. However, the 19-year-old forward is doing a nice job building a resume for himself for when the NHL heads to Bell Centre in Montreal for the annual selection process June 26-27.

Sokolov scored two goals Saturday, including the game-tying goal at 8:35 of the third period when he found space over the shoulder of Sweden goalie Hugo Alnefelt (Tampa Bay Lightning) to finish a give-and-go with Alexander Khovanov (Minnesota Wild).

Tweet from @TSN_Sports: Yegor Sokolov snipes the tying goal. 😯😯 We're in for a crazy finish! pic.twitter.com/8qhPFQ2AQP

"I just got the puck, and I knew I have a good shot and I just shot it upstairs and it went in," Morozov said. "I just couldn't even believe that it went like that. ... Just an amazing feeling."

Sokolov has three goals in six WJC games, and in his second season with Cape Breton of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League leads the team with 51 points (24 goals, 27 assists) in 30 games.

He received a C rating from NHL Central Scouting in its preliminary players to watch list, meaning he's expected to be drafted between the fourth and sixth rounds.

 

Hofer growing into No. 1 goalie role

When Canada started building its WJC roster at the World Junior Summer Showcase in late July, Joel Hofer (St. Louis Blues) was building his game at home in Winnipeg.

Canada had five goalies at the Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Michigan. But it will be Hofer, who wasn't really on the radar at that time, in goal at Ostravar Arena in Ostrava against Russia in the championship game.

"It's unbelievable," Hofer said. "I wasn't invited to the showcase. Obviously it was a goal of mine, just like a lot of other guys."

Hofer built his case through strong play this season with Portland of the Western Hockey League, where he has 20 wins, a 1.81 goals-against average and .937 save percentage in 27 games. Since relieving Nicolas Daws (2020 Draft eligible) during the second period of Canada's 6-0 loss to Russia on Dec. 28, Hofer has allowed six goals on 110 shots (.945 save percentage) in five games.

"He's a really composed guy," said defenseman Jamie Drysdale, Hofer's roommate during the tournament. "I think he's a great guy, very calm. He does his thing in net and we're very grateful for that how he's been playing."

 

Drysdale took advantage of ice time for Canada

Drysdale is one of the top defensemen available for the 2020 NHL Draft, but he was Canada's seventh defenseman through the first five games of the World Juniors. But with Bowen Byram (Colorado Avalanche) out against Finland because of an illness, Drysdale played 20:28, by far the most ice time he's gotten during the WJC, and he scored his first goal.

Tweet from @TSN_Sports: Jamie Drysdale gets in on the ridiculous start, Canada leads 3-0! 🇨🇦 pic.twitter.com/9yWfn8lVt4

"I think just being able to get on the board, as well as our team getting off to such a good start, I think was really exciting for us," Drysdale said. 

The 17-year-old's previous high was 15:21 in the quarterfinals against Slovakia. He started the tournament playing 8:27 against the United States.

"I think obviously from game one to now I think the confidence level has gone up," Drysdale said. "With this team, it's just a really comfortable environment and very supportive. They encourage you to do your thing out there and that's just what I tried to do."

Canada coach Dale Hunter said he's been happy all along with Drysdale.

"He's got a great brain, his feet are good," Hunter said. "He plays a smart game. He doesn't overextend himself. He's one of those players that's a natural."

Drysdale received an A rating from NHL Central Scouting in its preliminary players to watch list for the 2020 draft. The 5-foot-11, 175-pound right-handed shot has 31 points (six goals, 25 assists) in 29 games with Erie of the Ontario Hockey League.

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