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Goaltenders Play Huge Roles In Day Three At World Juniors

by Glenn Odebralski / Florida Panthers

In Day Three of the World Junior Championships, it was all about the netminders. One netminder gave Finland a win while pulling the upset over the United States. The other netminder played spectacularly but in the end it wasn't enough as Canada still rolled to a victory. In the late game, two goalies battled it out between Slovakia and Russia.

In the opening game in Edmonton, the United States and Finland played a relatively close game except for 30 seconds and a hot goaltender by the name of Sami Aittokallio left the Americans on the short end of a 4-1 defeat to the Finns. That moved both teams to 1-1 in Group B play.

In the second game in Edmonton, Canada had a much better result despite playing against Petr Mrazek. The goaltender gave the Czech Republic a chance but Canada walked a way with a 5-0 victory to move to 2-0 in Group B.

In the late game in Calgary, Russia found a way to beat Juraj Simboch three times despite his efforts as they came back for a 3-1 victory over Slovakia.


Less than 30 seconds turned a close game into a nightmare for the Americans as they looked to go 2-0 to start the World Junior Championships.

Deadlocked at one midway through the third period, Finland struck for two goals 29 seconds apart to pull ahead 3-1 and put the Americans back on their heels and grasping for a comeback.

First it was Buffalo prospect Joel Armia who found himself behind the Americans defense with both teams with a skater in the box. Armia beat US netminder Josh Gibson at the 10:53 mark. Then a bad bounce really cost the Americans at least a good chance at a comeback as Wild prospect and Finland captain Mikael Granlund threw a puck to the center of the ice The puck went in off of US defenseman John Merrill for a 3-1 advantage at 11:22.

There Finnish netminder Sami Aittokallio made everything stand up as he kept the talented Americans off the board the rest of the way, stopping 14 shots in the third alone.

Finland would tack on a fourth goal, their third of the final period as Cats prospect Joonas Donskoi picked up his first point of the tournament when his shot on Gibson was poked home by Armia for his second of the game with 3:33 remaining on the clock.

It was a slow moving opening period as the two teams tried to figure each other out. The two teams combined for just 12 shots on net (US with eight).

Coming out of the intermission, Finland would strike first as Mikka Salomaki pulled off his goal almost singlehandedly skating through the United States defense before firing a shot short side and above Gibson's shoulder just 1:21 into the stanza.

That goal held for almost a full period. Down a goal, the United States were able to tie it just 19 seconds into the third as Brandon Saad nicely redirected Emerson Etem's pass past Aittokallio.

Aittokallio was huge in net finishing with 38 saves on the game including two shots from Kyle Rau and three from Nick Bjugstad. Forward Connor Brickley missed the game after being cut by a skate on his leg against Denmark. Donskoi finished with the assist and was a plus-two on the game.


For the first 35 minutes, Canada and Czech Republic had played to a stalemate. It was a hard checking, fast-moving contest between two pretty close teams.

The hosts would pull away with two goals in the second and two more in the third on to the 5-0 victory. The win moves them atop Group B as they remained perfect at 2-0.

Canada had a 1-0 lead thanks to Jonathan Huberdeau and Mark Stone as the Stone slammed home the puck on the doorstep after Huberdeau's shot on the wraparound sat in the crease just 5:37 into the game. It was Stone's fourth goal in two games and Huberdeau's sixth point over that same span.

The Canadians had a great opportunity to make it a 2-0 lead late in the first as defenseman Jiri Riha covered the puck with his glove in the crease. Stone took the ensuing penalty shot only to be denied by Czech netminder Petr Mrazek.

Mrazek was sensational in goal as he was bombarded throughout the entire game. Finishing with 33 saves on the night, it looked like he would be able to keep the visitors in the game.

It was not to be as Canada scored twice in a 1:55 span. First it was Islanders 2011 top pick Ryan Strome putting in a power play goal into the wide open net as Freddie Hamilton found him in open space with 3:44 left in the period. Then it was Tampa prospect Brett Connolly putting his own rebound with 1:49 on the clock. Panthers prospect Quinton Howden set up Connolly from behind the net on the goal for his first point of the tournament.

Canada pulled away with two goals from Winnipeg prospect Mark Scheifele over a 5:40 span in the third. Scheifele netted his first nine minutes in and then scored the red and white's second power play goal with 5:20 left on the clock.

Not to be forgotten, Canada netminder Scott Wedgewood did have to make several big saves and turned asided all 26 Czech shots for the shutout.

For Canada, the host nation has outscored their opponents 13-1 in the opening two games. They'll get right back at it as they play Denmark.

Both Howden and Huberdeau finished with identical stat lines, an assist to go with a shot on goal and a plus-one.


For forty minutes, Russia and Slovakia played had played to a draw.

Then the Russians were able to solve Juraj Simboch as they put 14 shots on the Slovakian netminder to earn a hard fought 3-1 victory.

It looked like the game might have gone to overtime or even the shootout after two periods but Mikhail Naumenkov gave the Russians their first lead of the game 1:45 into the final period. With Slovakia pressing for the equalizer, Nikita Kucherov ended any hope as he scored to make it 3-1 with 5:29 left on the clock.

Slovakia actually tallied the first goal of the game, scoring just 33 seconds before the clock struck zero in the opening period. Milos Bubela beat Andrei Makarov on an unassisted play. Russia was able to respond 4:11 into the second period when Igor Ozhiganov finally solved Simboch. Panthers prospect Yaroslav Kosov registered the second assist on the goal.

In the goaltender's duel, Simboch finished with 37 saves while Makarov turned aside 31 in picking up the victory.

Kosov finished with the assist on one shot and a plus-2 as the Russians moved to 2-0 in Group A.
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