With more than a week of Preliminary Round games in the rearview mirror, the 2015 IIHF World Championship Quarterfinal contests will take place on Thursday with the Semifinal matchups and Gold and Bronze medal games following on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. All four teams with Nashville Predators representatives – Finland, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States – advanced out of their Preliminary Round groups and moved on to the Quarterfinals.
In order to advance, teams needed to finish in the Top Four of their groups after seven prelim games. In Group A, Canada finished in the top spot with a perfect 7-0-0-0 record (21 pts), followed by Sweden (4-2-0-1, 16 pts), the Czech Republic (4-1-1-1, 15 pts) and Switzerland (2-0-4-1, 10 pts). In Group B, the United States won their final preliminary game against Slovakia in overtime to secure the top spot with a 5-1-0-1 record (17 pts), followed by Finland (4-2-0-1, 16 pts), Russia (4-1-1-1, 15 pts) and Belarus (4-0-2-1, 14 pts).
|Seed: ||Team: ||Team: ||Schedule: |
|A4 vs. B1* ||Switzerland (Fiala, Josi) ||USA (Jones, Moses, Vesey) ||Thursday, 8:15 AM CT* |
|B4 vs. A1** ||Belarus ||Canada ||Thursday, 9:15 AM CT** |
|B3 vs. A2** ||Russia ||Sweden (Ekholm, Forsberg) ||Thursday, 12:15 PM CT** |
|A3 vs. B2** ||Czech Republic ||Finland (Rinne, Saros) ||Thursday, 1:15 PM CT** |
*Televised on NBCSN and streamed online*
**Live stream only
The winners of Canada vs. Belarus and Finland vs. Czech Republic will face off in Saturday’s first semifinal game and the winners of USA vs. Switzerland and Sweden vs. Russia will meet in the second semifinal. Semifinal round victors will play in Sunday’s gold-medal game and the losers will meet in the bronze-medal matchup.
Seth Jones, Jimmy Vesey, Steve Moses and the Americans will face off against Roman Josi, Kevin Fiala and the Swiss in the Thursday’s first quarterfinal matchup (8:15 a.m. CT). Switzerland, who did not make it out of the Preliminary Round in 2014, is making their first trip to the quarterfinals since taking home a silver medal in 2013. The United States returns to the quarterfinals for the fifth consecutive season, but looks to advance to the semis for the first time since 2013 (earned bronze).
Jones, who tallied his first goal of the tournament in Team USA’s 5-4 overtime victory against Slovakia on Tuesday, is consistently among team leaders in time on ice and is tied for second among American blueliners in tournament points (1g-2a-3pts). His 14 shots on goal are among the Top 15 defensemen in the tournament and second among America’s defensive corps.
In his debut for Team USA on the senior-level, Vesey has two assists through seven games played. Despite missing three games due to injury, Moses, who is representing the United States in an IIHF tournament for the first time, has two points (1g-1a) and nine shots on goal.
For the Swiss, Josi led team defensemen in points through seven Preliminary Round games (1g-2a-3pts) and sits second on the team in the category. Repeatedly among team leaders in time on ice, the Bern, Switzerland, native has recorded 16 shots on goal, a mark that leads Swiss blueliners and is among the Top 10 in the tournament. Fiala recorded his first goal of the tournament in his team’s 2-1 shootout loss to the Czech Republic on Tuesday, their final game of the prelims. Over the course of the tournament, the 18-year-old has recorded three points (1g-2a).
Filip Forsberg, Mattias Ekholm and Sweden will face Russia just after noon on Thursday (12:15 p.m. CT). The Swedes are on the hunt for their third-consecutive year on the medal stand; last year, they beat the Czech Republic to earn bronze and in 2013, they took home a gold medal.
Forsberg tallied a hat trick in Sweden’s second game against Austria and recorded a multi-goal performance against France on Monday, Sweden’s final Preliminary Round game (4-2 W), on his way to leading tournament players in total goals scored (8). In addition to leading in goals, Forsberg, who is playing in his first senior-level tournament for Tre Kronor, is among the tournament Top 10 in points (8g-1a-9pts) and shots on goal (22).
One of the Swedes’ top players in time on ice, Ekholm has recorded two assists in seven tournament games. His 15 shots are second among Swedish blueliners and in the Top 10 among all tournament defensemen.
In the last quarterfinal of the day (1:15 p.m. CT), Predators netminder Pekka Rinne and his Finnish squad take on the Czech Republic. Last year, Finland lost to Russia in the gold-medal game to come away with silver, after finishing just off the medal stand in fourth in both 2012 and 2013.
For the Finns, who won their last Preliminary Round game 3-2 in the shootout against Russia on Tuesday, Rinne has been nearly unstoppable – recording three shutouts and tally an unbeaten stretch of 237:05 over the course of five games. Rinne’s 237:05 without allowing a goal set a new IIHF record in the modern era (post World War II) and his eighth career World Championship shutouts are tied for third in tournament history.
Through the prelims, Rinne leads all goaltenders who have played five or more games in goals-against average (1.30) and is second in save percentage (.941). Rinne leads tournament backstops in shutouts (3) and is second in minutes played (368:15, 85.99 percent of Finland’s time on ice).
Rinne’s backup in net for the Suomi is Juuse Saros, Nashville’s fourth choice (99th overall) in the 2013 NHL Draft. In his lone start of the tournament, on May 9 versus Slovakia, Saros stopped all 22 Slovakian shots to Finland record their fourth consecutive shutout of the tournament.
Stay tuned to NashvillePredators.com and follow the team on Twitter at @PredsNHL to keep up to date on how the Preds’ representatives fair through the Quarterfinal Round and beyond.