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World Juniors

Canada defeats United States in World Juniors opener

Lafreniere has four points in win; Sweden tops Finland in overtime

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Deputy Managing Editor

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


Czech Republic 4, Russia 3

Switzerland 5, Kazakhstan 3

Canada 6, United States 4

Sweden 3, Finland 2 (OT)

Day 1 games

Canada 6, United States 4 -- Alexis Lafreniere, projected to be the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, had a goal and three assists for Canada in a 6-4 win against the United States in a Group B preliminary-round game at Ostravar Arena in Ostrava.

The U.S. tied the game 4-4 on Shane Pinto's (Ottawa Senators) second power-play goal of the game, with 3:17 left in the third period. Seven seconds later, Lafreniere scored to put Canada ahead 5-4.

On the face-off after Pinto's goal, Canada pushed forward after winning the draw. The heavy forecheck forced U.S. defenseman K'Andre Miller (New York Rangers) to turn over the puck and Lafreniere scored alone in front with 3:10 left to put Canada back in the lead.

Barrett Hayton (Arizona Coyotes) scored two goals for Canada, and Connor McMichael (Washington Capitals) and Ty Dellandrea (Dallas Stars) scored. Nicolas Daws made 28 saves.

Nicholas Robertson (Toronto Maple Leafs) and Arthur Kaliyev (Los Angeles Kings) scored for the United States. Spencer Knight (Florida Panthers) made 26 saves.

Sweden 3, Finland 2 (OT) -- Alexander Holtz, a top prospect for the 2020 NHL Draft, scored with five seconds remaining in overtime in a Group A game at Werk Arena in Trinec.

Holtz snapped a shot off the rush from the left circle that beat Finland goalie Justus Annunen (Colorado Avalanche). Sweden has won 49 consecutive preliminary-round games, dating to the 2008 WJC.

Czech Republic 4, Russia 3 -- Jan Jenik (Arizona Coyotes) scored a 5-on-3 goal with 2:35 remaining in the second period, and goalie Lukas Dostal (Anaheim Ducks) made 23 saves in a Group B game at Ostravar Arena in Ostrava.

Yegor Zamula (Philadelphia Flyers) scored two goals for Russia. Czech Republic forward Jakob Lauko (Boston Bruins) injured his right knee 53 seconds into the game and did not return.

Switzerland 5, Kazakhstan 3 -- Matthew Verboon scored two goals for Switzerland in a Group A game at Werk Arena in Trinec. Goalie Luca Hollenstein made 20 saves. Maxim Musorov scored two goals for Kazakhstan. 

What We Learned on Day 1

Lafreniere lives up to the hype for Canada

Canada forward Alexis Lafreniere easily was the most hyped player entering the WJC, and in his first game, against his team's biggest rival, the 18-year-old forward made a spectacular play to score the game-winning goal and had three assists in a 6-4 win against the United States.

Seven seconds after the United States tied the game late in the third period, Lafreniere knocked down a pass by U.S. defenseman K'Andre Miller's deep in the U.S. zone and beat goalie Spencer Knight from in close.

Tweet from @StevenEllisTHN: Alexis Lafreniere gets the puck off the faceoff and scores a beautiful goal to make it 5-4. 3:10 left to play. #WJC2020 #NHLDraft

"I got lucky to knock it down," Lafreniere said. "I just tried to get it to the net and I was lucky enough to put it in."

Lafreniere had an assist on two power-play goals by Barrett Hayton (Arizona Coyotes) and on an empty-net goal by Ty Dellandrea (Dallas Stars). On the play that led to Hayton's second goal, Lafreniere skated through the U.S. zone, drew the four penalty killers and found an open Hayton on the back door.

"He's unbelievable," Hayton said. "The whole night. He brings so many different facets out there. Just brings a ton of energy and a huge skill set. Really couldn't have asked for better passes." 

Zamula a potential steal for Flyers

Defenseman Yegor Zamula scored two goals for Russia in its 4-3 loss to the Czech Republic on Thursday, and the Philadelphia Flyers are hoping he can follow in the footsteps of Philippe Myers as another plus-size undrafted free agent defenseman. 

Zamula (6-foot-3, 177 pounds) was passed over in the 2018 NHL Draft, but the Flyers signed him to an entry-level contract Sept. 20, 2018 after a strong prospect development camp. Last season, his second with Calgary of the Western Hockey League, he was seventh among defensemen with 56 points (10 goals, 46 assists) in 61 games. This season, the 19-year-old has 28 points (seven goals, 21 assists) in 28 games.

Myers (6-5, 210), who was signed Sept. 21, 2015, has 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in 21 games and leads NHL rookies with a plus-18.

Pinto earning his ice time for United States

U.S. forward Shane Pinto impressed in more ways than just the two goals he scored Thursday.

He was the center on the top line, played on the first power play, won 10 of 21 face-offs, and tied for the U.S. lead with five shots on goal. And he nearly scored a third goal, but video review showed his shot crossed the goal line after time expired in the second period.

"He had a pretty good first half in college (North Dakota), gained a lot of confidence with his first half, and it showed," U.S. coach Scott Sandelin said. "We put him in a prominent role on the power play and played him more of a top-line role. But he's earned it. Big body (6-foot-2, 192 pounds), strong on face-offs, can play in different situations. Nice to see him get a couple goals too. ... He had a good first half and he's come into the tournament from that first half with a lot of confidence."

Pinto has 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in 17 games as a college freshman.

Tweet from @StarsStripesHKY: Team USA jumps out early on a PP tally from Shane Pinto. Zac Jones throws it on net and Pinto with the deflection from the high slot. #WJC2020 #UNDproud

Hoglander goes lacrosse style -- again -- for Sweden

Sweden forward Nils Hoglander (Vancouver Canucks) scored potentially the goal of the tournament on the first day with a lacrosse-style goal in the second period against Finland on Thursday.

Tweet from @Canucks: Hoglander just pulled it off again!! 🤯

Hoglander has done it before this season, with Rogle in the Swedish Hockey League in October. But this time might have been more impressive, because of the opponent and the setting.

Switzerland confident it can have repeat upset

Sweden has won 49 straight games in the preliminary round, but after Switzerland defeated it 2-0 in the quarterfinals of the 2019 WJC, the Swiss believe they can end that streak when the teams play Friday.

"We upset them pretty good last year, so I expect them to come in pretty hard and start off very hard against us," forward Matthew Verboon, who scored two goals in Switzerland's 5-3 win against Kazakhstan on Thursday, told the IIHF website. "I think we've got a good team. We can compete with them. I know they're going to compete with us and they're a really good team. I really like their defense. It's going to be a tough game. We're going to have to grind it out on them. But it'll be a fun game."

Luca Hollenstein, who made 41 saves for Switzerland in last year's quarterfinals, is one of 10 players for Switzerland back from the 2019 WJC.

What to expect

Canada forward Alexis Lafreniere is one of the top 2020 NHL Draft prospects who will be playing in the tournament. Get to know some of them here.

Check out all the players, including some top NHL prospects, playing in the World Junior Championship.

Who will win the 2020 World Junior Championship? Check out the predictions.

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