Bruce Bennett

2013 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships

Updates from the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championships, as BC's Johnny Gaudreau and the US national team look to medal in Russia.

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15 Total Updates since December 22, 2012
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USA HOCKEY WINS GOLD

In one of the great moments in USA Hockey history, the United States junior team defeated Sweden 3-1 to win gold at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships - the US's second gold medal in four years, and third all time. Between their success in the past four years at this tournament, along with strong performances at the Under-18 world championships and the silver medal at the 2010 Olympics, it's been an excellent stretch for American hockey.

It was an impressive run for the US after facing adversity early in the tournament, recovering from back-to-back 2-1 losses to Russia and Canada in the group stage to win four straight elimination games. They needed to beat Slovakia on New Year's Eve just to make it in to the quarterfinal round as the third place finisher in Group B, but from there, they got better and better, beating down the Czechs in the quarterfinals before lighting up Canada in the semis.

This morning, the US faced a stout test in defending champion Sweden, but dispatched them as well, 3-1 -- capping off a stretch in which they outscored opponents 24-5 in their last four games.

Johnny Gaudreau was held off the board in today's game, but he had another excellent performance and drew nationwide praise on TV and throughout the twitter/blog world for being one of the most electrifying players on the US roster. He joins Chris Kreider as Eagles who have brought World Junior gold back to the Heights. As one of the US's three most valuable players in the tournament, he comes home with a pretty sweet watch. (NCAA student-athletes are allowed to accept awards when participating in international competitions, presumably under the same rule that lets players bring home swag from bowl games?)

North Dakota's Rocco Grimaldi scored the US's first two goals after they fell behind 1-0 early in the second period. That made it seven straight US goals by NCAA hockey players, exploding Don Cherry's head all over again. Grimaldi had been benched earlier in the tournament but responded well, and was by far the US's best forward in this game.

Vincent Trocheck finished the game off with an empty netter in the final minute, providing the final 3-1 margin.

John Gibson was brilliant again between the pipes; the Anaheim draft pick made a stunning pad save on a wraparound with 15 minutes remaining that just barely kept the puck from going over the line and preserved the US's 2-1 lead. He was named MVP of the tournament - sweet redemption after being part of the US team that stumbled to a 7th place finish last year.

These players will now return to their respective colleges and junior teams, but not before making every American hockey fan proud. Congratulations, USA Hockey!

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WJC: Russia Defeats Canada For Bronze Medal

Russia defeated Canada 6-5 in overtime in the bronze medal game at the 2013 World Junior Hockey Championships, ending Canada's run of 14 consecutive years with a medal in this tournament.

Valeri Nichushkin scored the game winner in OT for the Russians, who have now medaled in three straight tournaments themselves (gold in 2011, silver in 2012, bronze in 2013).

The stage is now set for the gold medal game between the US and Sweden at 8 AM, which will bring the curtain down on what's been a thrilling and dramatic tournament.

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MINE EYES HAVE SEEN THE GLORY: USA 5, Canada 1

No, that's not a misprint. The US completely dismantled and dominated the high-powered Canadian team, 5-1, in the semifinals of the 2013 World Junior Hockey Championships, and now awaits the winner of Sweden vs. Russia in Saturday's gold medal game.

It's hard to really say just how stunning this result was. The US beat Canada a couple of times in big games at the World Juniors, beating them for gold in 2004 and 2010 - but both of those were narrow, one goal victories. To see the US completely beat down Canada, especially a Canada team considered one of the best assembled in recenet history thanks to having extra players available due to the lockout, was absolutely stunning. You can be sure that millions of groggy Canadians will be heading into their offices with shocked faces this morning, and this result will be the source of major consternation in Canadian media.

Where to begin to summarize such a tremendous performance?

Let's start, of course, with our own, Johnny Gaudreau, who is currently trending nationwide on Twitter. After Jake McCabe scored a pair of goals to put the US up 2-0, Gaudreau pulled off a ludicrous dangle to beat Malcolm Subban and extend the lead to 3-0. He then fed a sweet pass to Jim Vesey for the US's 4th goal in the second period. Finally, with the score 4-1 and time winding down, Gaudreau put the icing on the cake, streaking in for a breakaway goal to make it 5-1.

The BC fans (and friends) awake and tweeting about the game were having a grand old time.

This is just a small sampling of the insanity that broke out on Twitter this morning, with patriotic celebrations and trolling of Don Cherry abounding. Poor Don's head has already exploded several times this morning.

Gaudreau leads the WJC with 7 goals and is now one goal shy of tying the American single-tournament record - 8 goals by Jeremy Roenick.

Another important note: As Chris Peters of the United States of Hockey pointed out, all 5 USA goals were scored by college hockey players: Wisconsin, Wisconsin, BC, Harvard, BC.

Finally, a gigantic amount of credit needs to be given to US goalie and Anaheim draft pick John Gibson, who stonewalled Canada with ridiculous save after ridiculous save during Canada's third period attempt to get back in to the game. His tournament save percentage is now a ludicrous .954.

I hope you'll be tuning in on Saturday for Gaudreau & the US's final act in this tournament - a chance to bring home World Junior gold first just the third time in USA hockey history.

HIGHLIGHTS:

USA - Canada 5:1 Semi-final WJC 2013; 03.01.2013 (via LVhighlights)


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WJC: Gaudreau Leads USA Surge Into Semifinals

On the back of a hat trick by Johnny Gaudreau, the US national junior team stomped the Czech Republic 7-0 and rode a wave of momentum into the semifinals, where they will play Canada tomorrow morning at 4 AM. Gaudreau was officially named Player of the Game and will take home a commemorative plate for his efforts. He now has 5 goals in his last 2 games, and amazingly is now the leading goalscorer in the tournament.

All of the struggles of Gaudreau specifically, and the US offense generally, are very much in the past now. The situation the US faces is this: they have two games left at World Juniors. One will be against Canada, and the other will be against either Russia or Sweden. While you might not bet on the US to win a seven game series against any of those teams, they certainly have enough quality to win at least one of the two - which is all they need to do to come home from Russia with a medal.

The story of today's game can be summed up pretty simply: The Czechs tried to play their trademark defensive, trapping style, but the US jumped out to a lead and got the Czechs off their game. Gaudreau tapped in a power play goal at 11:45 in the 1st, the only tally in a tight period. Then he repeated his act :28 seconds in to the second period. Ryan Hartman scored less than a minute later, and from there, the lights were pretty much out for the Czechs.

John Gibson didn't have to be stellar between the pipes for the US, but he was anyway, pitching a shutout and making a number of excellent stops.

So now the stage is set for USA-Canada - as it had to be, of course. Sunday's matchup between the two bitter rivals was a thriller, but the US didn't have enough offensive oomph to break down Malcolm Subban. BC fans know very well what a game-changer Gaudreau is when he's on fire, so hopefully the momentum that he and the rest of the US forwards have been able to garner over the past two games carries over and helps the US pull an upset tomorrow morning. It'll definitely be worth waking up for.

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WJC: USA Routs Slovakia to Advance to Quarterfinal

After a pair of tight 2-1 losses to the two best teams in the tournament, the US busted out on Monday morning, thrashing Slovakia 9-3 in a must-win game to advance to the quarterfinals of the World Junior Hockey Championships. The Americans finish up the group stage in third place, and now awaits the second-place finisher from Group A in a quarterfinal tilt Wednesday morning at 4:00 AM.

Johnny Gaudreau was one of the big stories of the game for the US, breaking out with 2 goals and an assist, including a signature dangle-and-backhand move, along with another one of Gaudreau's classics, a patient and perfect feed from Gretzky's Office to pick up an assist on a goal by Vince Trochek. Gaudreau's line was invigorated by the insertion of Harvard's Jim Vesey on the wing, who was promoted onto a regular line after spending the first few games as the US's extra forward. Vesey had two assists on the day.

In the US's last two games, defenseman Jacob Trouba was the only American to light the lamp, so it was nice to see some of the US's forwards get on the board and gain some confidence. Cole Bardreau notched the opening goal and earned player of the game honors for the US, and Vince Trochek finally cashed in on some opportunities to pick up a two-goal game of his own.

From this point forward the slate is wiped clean. Depending on how the cookie crumbles in today's Group A finale between Sweden and Finland, the US will play either the Czech Republic, Finland, or Sweden in the quarterfinals. As of this writing, Sweden leads Finland 2-0; a Sweden win would give the US a matchup against the Czech Republic, a team that they should beat.

As I've been saying after each of the last two games, the effort and energy have been there for the US. Perhaps now they'll have some offensive chemistry and confidence going into the medal rounds.

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WJC: US Drops Heartbreaker to Canada, 2-1

The do-or-die games will begin early for the US, as they now must beat Slovakia in tomorrow's group stage finale to advance in the World Junior Hockey Championships. Despite a late game surge, the US fell 2-1 to Canada on Sunday, putting the Americans behind the eight ball.

For the first 2+ periods of play, Canada looked to be in cruise control, with the US able to generate very little offense. Ryan Strome and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored a pair of quick goals early in the game for Canada, which went into lockdown mode shortly thereafter. A few miraculous saves by John Gibson kept the US from being smoked early on.

Frustration built and built well into the third period as the US could create very few chances - and even when they did, Canada goalie Malcolm Subban was solid as a rock between the pipes. With 12 minutes left in the game, the US earned a power play but could generate nothing, and hope appeared to be pretty much lost - but the US got a lucky break a couple of minutes later when Canada picked up a delay of game penalty for accidentally shooting the puck over the glass.

This was finally the breakthrough the US needed. After a mad back-and-forth frenzy in which Gibson denied a shorthanded odd-man rush chance for Canada, Jacob Trouba knocked one home for the US to make it 2-1. The Americans carried that momentum into the next shift, buzzing the Canadian net. Ryan Hartman was denied of a sure goal by a fantastic Subban save, and Seth Jones fired a shot high and wide when he had Subban down and out.

With Canada reeling, the US then self-destructed. Jake McCabe got a little caught up in the emotion of the moment and smacked a Canadian player with a high hit, earning a 2 minute penalty plus a 10 minute misconduct. Another US penalty put the Americans in a 3-on-5 hole for 30 seconds, but the US managed to escape from the whole situation unscathed. But before the US could turn that momentum into some offense, they took two penalties on the same play and had to kill a full two minute 5-on-3.

Once again, the US somehow managed to escape, and proceeded to lay siege upon the Canadian goal. After a Nugent-Hopkins boarding penalty gave the US a power play for the final two minutes, Canada survived a flurry of American opportunities before a Seth Jones bomb from the point hit the end glass and bounced out of the zone, running time out on the US.

It was, unfortunately, another tough game for Johnny Gaudreau, whose frustration appears to be growing. His minutes dwindled a bit in the crucial late-game scramble, as US coach Phil Housley eschewed some of his more highly touted forwards in favor of guys who have been playing better lately.

If the Americans are going to dig out of this hole and win a medal at this tournament, they will need their best players to emerge. Gaudreau, obviously, will need to find the scoresheet, along with Rocco Grimaldi. And Seth Jones will need to be a better blue line anchor; it was not a stellar game today for the man expected to go #1 or #2 overall at the NHL Draft this summer.

The effort, the energy, and the goaltending have been there for the US. The high-end offensive talent appears not to be there, so the Americans will need to grind out some results.

It's not an insurmountable path to a medal for the US. The Americans should realistically be expected to beat Slovakia tomorrow. If they do so, they will finish third place in Group B and face the second place Group A team in the quarterfinals. That slot is shaping up to be a mad scramble between Finland, the Czech Republic, and Switzerland. Despite the US's pre-tournament loss to Finland, on paper the Americans should be better than all three of those teams and would definitely be heavy favorites against the Czechs or the Swiss.

The next (and hopefully not final) chapter in the US's push for a medal comes tomorrow at 5 AM.

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WJC Day 4: Excitement Builds for USA-Canada

It was a pretty uneventful day on Saturday at the World Junior Hockey Championships, as two uneven matchups gave us two expected beatdowns: Sweden beat Latvia 5-1, and the Russians stomped Germany 7-0.

With tomorrow's huge USA-Canada game upcoming, the big news of the day was that Canadian forward J.C. Lipon was suspended for one game for his ejection for a hit to the head of a Slovakian player on Friday. With Boone Jenner still suspended from his pre-tournament ejection, Canada will be down two forwards for tomorrow's game.

I highly recommend an early wakeup for this one, as the US and Canada seem almost incapable of playing anything other than intense, dramatic games at World Juniors.

Enjoy these highlights from the US's last win over Canada - the 2010 gold medal game in Saskatoon.

2010 Canada vs USA Gold Medal Game Extended Highlights (via thehockeysite)

Group A Standings

Sweden - 2-0-1-0, 8 pts., +8 GD (Clinched spot in either semifinals or quarterfinals)
Switzerland - 1-0-0-1, 4 pts., +4 GD
Czech Republic - 1-1-0-0, 3 pts., -1 GD
Finland - 1-1-0-0, 3 pts., +2 GD
Latvia - 0-3-0-0, 0 pts., -13 GD

Group B Standings

Russia - 2-0-1-0, 8 pts., +9 GD
Canada, 2-0-0-0, 6 pts., +9 GD
USA, 1-1-0-0, 3 pts., +7 GD
Slovakia 0-1-0-1, 1 pt., -4 GD
Germany, 0-3-0-0, 0 pts., -19 GD, eliminated from medal rounds

Tomorrow's Games

2:30 AM - Switzerland vs. Finland
4:30 AM - USA vs. Canada - Live on NHL Network
7:00 AM - Latvia vs. Czech Republic
9:00 AM - Germany vs. Slovakia - Live on NHL Network

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Russia Edges US 2-1 at World Juniors

On the strength of a third period goal by Vladimir Tkachyov, Russia edged past the United States 2-1 in a critical Group B clash at the World Junior Hockey Championships.

It was a strong performance by the Us for the most part, as they looked to be every bit the equals of the highly talented hosts. But in this short tournament and in this "group of death," every point is crucial and a good performance isn't quite enough to shake off the sting of dropping all three points.

The Americans came out buzzing the Russian net and mostly controlling the game early in the first, but a wave of unnecessary penalties opened the door for Russia's potent power play. Albert Yarullin made the US pay 2:42 into the game with a power play tally and from there, the Americans were chasing the game. The US managed to outshoot Russia in the first period despite taking four penalties.

After a number of strong shifts, the US finally tied it up with a power play goal of their own in the second period, a big blast by Jacob Trouba at 13:18. Alex Galchenyuk continued his hot start to the tournament by picking up an assist on Trouba's goal (man, I'm going to hate that guy if the NHL ever comes back and he starts playing for Montreal).

Russia took the advantage back 4:10 into the third on Tkachyov's goal and never looked back, sustaining a late US flurry including a power play in the final two minutes with the net empty to eke out the big win.

Johnny Gaudreau appears to be gripping his stick a little tight at this point, as despite putting himself in some good positions and creating chances, he has been unable to find the back of the net. Gaudreau had a great chance to score in the opening minutes of the game, going to the net hard on a 2-on-1 and nearly stuffing one home before Andrei Makarov flashed his left pad and straight-up robbed him; if that puck goes in the net, the Us leads, and Gaudreau & the US's whole game probably goes a lot differently.

Late in the game as the Gaudreau-Rocco Grimaldi-JT Miller line continued to put in a good effort without seeing results, Gaudreau made a few uncharacteristic whiffs in the late-game scramble that seemed to stem from frustration - missing a long breakout pass intended to stretch him behind the Russian D, getting broken up while carrying the puck in to the Russian zone with under 90 seconds to go, and missing Rocco Grimaldi with an attempted drop-pass in the US's final rush up ice before time expired.

Confidence is obviously a huge part of hockey, and we see how much of a game-changer Gaudreau is when he's on a roll; hopefully his line gets a good bounce early in the Canada game on Sunday because if they do, I think more goals will shortly follow.

Rocco Grimaldi was a lot of fun to watch for the US today; North Dakota's star forward really would've looked great in maroon and gold. He reminds me a little bit of Brian Gibbons in that he is a great leader and plays with an edge, with all-out effort all the time. He made some great plays busting back defensively to break up Russian chances. He deserves to get on the board as well.

We are now officialy in to the business end of this tournament. The US gets tomorrow off, then plays Canada and Slovakia on back-to-back days Sunday and Monday - Sunday at 4:30 AM, Monday at 5 AM. With today's loss, it becomes very very important to pick up at least one or two points against the high-flying Canadians, as the Americans will be in a bit of a spot come Sunday barring crazy upsets. Russia and Slovakia still have games to play against Germany, which they will likely win with ease, putting them at 8 points & 4 points, respectively. Canada is sitting on 6, while the US has 3. With the top 3 teams advancing, the Us obviously needs more points.

The good news is that even if the US loses to Canada, worst case scenario is controlling their own fate in Monday's game against Slovakia, with a "Win and you're in" situation. But let's hope it doesn't come to that.

Conventional wisdom has been that the Group B teams really want to avoid finishing 3rd and having to face Sweden or Finland in the quarterfinals, but after a topsy-turvy day in Group A, that race appears wide open right now. As I mentioned earlier, Finland was shocked by the Czech Republic 3-1; in the later game, Switzerland managed to force a shootout against defending champ Sweden and earned a point despite losing the shootout.

Group A Standings:

Sweden: 1-0-1-0, 5 pts., +4 GD
Switzerland: 1-0-0-1, 4 pts., +4 GD
Czech Republic: 1-1-0-0, 3 pts., -1 GD
Finland: 1-1-0-0, 3 pts., +2 GD
Latvia: 0-2-0-0, 0 pts. -9 GD

Group B Standings:

Canada: 2-0-0-0, 6 pts., +9 GD
Russia: 1-0-1-0, 5 pts,. +2 GD
USA: 1-1-0-0, 3 pts., +7 GD
Slovakia: 0-1-0-1, 1 pt., -4 GD
Germany: 0-2-0-0, 0 pts, -14 GD

Tomorrow's Games:

7 AM - Sweden vs. Latvia
9 AM - Russia vs. Germany

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WJC: Canada Survives Scare; USA-Russia at 9 AM

In a game riddled with controversy, Canada overcame deficits of 2-0 and 3-1 to beat Slovakia 6-3 and move into first place in Group B at the World Junior Hockey Championships. Next up in Ufa: the highly anticipated game between the US and Russia, which will air live on the NHL Network at 9 AM.

The Canada-Slovakia game saw two Canadian players assessed five-minute majors and ejected on calls that were probably questionable by North American standards. J.C. Lipon got the gate in the first period for a high check on Tomas Mikus. The IIHF has very harsh punishments for contact to the head, and as such, it was a major infraction despite not being the hardest hit. Anthony Camara was then ejected after laying the lumber in the second period on a Slovak player. He kept his elbow down and the hit didn't seem late to me, but he was called for charging and could be criticized for leaving his feet a bit on the hit.

Here's the hit; you be the judge.

Anthony Camara hits Patrik Luza at the WJC 12/28/12 (via dafoomie)

Despite being down to 10 forwards, Canada wore out the pesky and determined Slovaks, cashing in on some questionable calls themselves. Big Canadian defenders Dougie Hamilton and Mark Scheifele did their best BU hockey impressions, exaggerating minor contact and drawing a pair of power plays that Canada used to level the game 3-3. Scheifele's offense was particularly egregious has he's 6'3'' and was "sent flying" by a shove from a 5'9" Slovak forward. Dougie Hamilton was at least legitimately high sticked, but he seemed to exaggerate the impact to draw the call.

Hopefully the theatrics don't carry over into the US-Russia game.

Other stories from this morning: Finland suffered a surprising 3-1 defeat at the hands of the Czech Republic, playing in their first game since losing Miro Aaltonen to a broken ankle. Additionally, Matt Grzelcyk was officially announced as the last cut from the US team and presumably will rejoin BU for their upcoming games.

Because I am crazy and decided to take today off when the WJC schedule came out, I will be watching the US-Russia game live and discussing it on Twitter, as well as recapping the game here. Feel free to comment here or on Twitter if you'll be watching, too. Go US & go #GaudreaubeyBaker.

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WJC: US Cruises to 8-0 Win In Opener

I feel like a bad person for watching that game the whole way through. From the very opening faceoff - when the US's Sean Kuraly broke in and scored less than 20 seconds into the game - it was clear that Germany was completely overwhelmed, as the Americans romped to an 8-0 win in their first game at the 2013 World Junior Championships.

Eight different American players scored: Kuraly (Miami), Jacob Trouba (Michigan), Alex Galchenyuk, Riley Barber (Miami), Shayne Gostisbehere (Union), Ryan Hartman, J.T. Miller, and Seth Jones. For what it's worth, the +8 goal differential puts the US in first place in Group B, as Canada had a +6 differential in their game against Germany.

Johnny Gaudreau did not score, though he did register 5 shots on goal and seemed to come on stronger as the game went on. Gaudreau's line, with Miller and Rocco Grimaldi, was expected to be the US's #1 line in the tournament, but the two most effective units were Kuraly-Galchenyuk-Barber and Cole Bardreau-Blake Pietila-Ryan Hartman. It seemed like in the first period Gaudreau's line was having some problems establishing chemistry and spacing, with Gaudreau and Miller bunching up a couple of times on the power play and creating awkward passing angles. I expect these guys to get better as the tournament goes on.

Galchenyuk, Barber and Kuraly are going to be fun to watch during this tournament, I think. Barber and Kuraly have great chemistry as both play at Miami and are having strong seasons for the Redhawks. Galchenyuk, meanwhile, is Straight Filthy, and demonstrated why the Montreal Canadiens drafted him #3 overall by showing his great vision, speed, and shot. I have to imagine he'll be extra pumped to play in this tournament, as his family is Russian and he spent some of his youth in Russia. His goal, the third of the night, was probably the most impressive highlight of the night; here's a look at all 8 goals.

USA - Germany (8-0) WJC 12/27/12 All Goals & Highlights (via JonesHighlights)

A mild concern for the US was the number of penalties taken in the game (7 total), but they managed to kill off all of the penalties.

Goaltender John Gibson wasn't tested much but when he was, he looked sharp and made some solid stops.

Overall, it seems like the US's big strengths are overall team speed and the dynamism, playmaking and shooting ability of their puck-moving defensemen. Gothisbehere, Jones, and Connor Murphy all look poised to have tremendous tournaments.

Hopefully the Americans saved some goals and some energy for tomorrow, as they will take on the host Russians at 9 AM in an absolutely huge game. Let's hope it brings another US win and Gaudreau's first goal of the tournament.

It's probably a good sign that my #1 complaint is about the NHL Network broadcast, but I must say, it was pretty poor. To be fair, it's hard to make a fair judgement as the NHL Network's original broadcasts of US games come on right after simulcasts of TSN for the other games; TSN's coverage in Canada is about the best hockey production you'll find anywhere, and they sent all their A-teamers for World Juniors.

It seemed pretty clear to me that the announcers weren't even at the game and were calling it from a studio back home - and if they weren't, the audio feed needs a lot of work to sound less detached from the rest of the arena sounds. They basically just took all of TSN's graphics (right on down to "tweet about this game at #TSNWJC") and slapped an NHL Network logo on there. And most annoyingly to me, they once again hired announcers who have the obnoxious tic of almost always referring to the US team as "Team USA," even though we'd never call a team Team Boston College or Team Notre Dame, and we usually don't call other national teams "Team _____." But for whatever reason, American announcers say "Team USA" over and over again. It's like nails on a chalkboard to me.

Am I the only one who gets really annoyed by this? I'm willing for it to be a one-man crusade. If we're going to refer to our national teams by a goofy, cartoonish name, I say we go all out with "Team America." (F Yeah!)

Annyyway....

In the day's other action, Switzerland thumped Latvia 7-2.

Group A Standings

Switzerland - 1-0-0-0, 3 pts., +5 GD
Finland - 1-0-0-0, 3 pts., +4 GD
Sweden - 1-0-0-0, 3 pts., +3 GD
Czech Republic - 0-1-0-0, 0 pts., -3 GD
Latvia - 0-2-0-0, 0 pts., -9 GD

Group B Standings

United States - 1-0-0-0, 3 pts., +8 GD
Canada - 1-0-0-0, 3 pts., +6 GD
Russia - 0-0-1-0, 2 pts., +1 GD
Slovakia - 0-0-0-1, 1 pt., -1 GD
Germany - 0-2-0-0, 0 pts., -14 GD

Tomorrow's Games

2:30 AM - Czech Republic vs. Finland
4:30 AM - Slovakia vs. Canada - live on NHL Network
7:00 AM - Sweden vs. Switzerland
9:00 AM - USA vs. Russia - live on NHL Network

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WJC: Day One Drama

The four teams who were expected to win on Day One of the 2013 World Junior Championships - Finland, Canada, Sweden, and Russia - ultimately got victories in their opening games. But not everything went according to plan.

The host Russians, boasting 11 players who ply their trade in the KHL and backed by a boisterous home crowd complete with cheerleaders, a drum section leading chants, and a creepy bear mascot, were expected to wipe the floor with Slovakia in their opener this morning. But a power play goal by the Slovaks with less than a minute remaining in the third period pushed the game to overtime, where Russia's Albert Yarullin blasted home a power play tally of his own to give Russia the narrow 3-2 win with just 9 seconds remaining in the game. Slovak goalie Adam Nagy made 34 saves, including many outstanding ones, to keep his team in the game and earn a point in the Pool B standings.

It's hard to say whether this is good or bad news for the US. Theoretically, the US is supposed to be locked in a battle with Canada and Russia for the top spot in Group B, so Russia earning 2 points instead of the full 3 is good in that sense. But Slovakia showed themselves to be a contender rather than a doormat, and will hope to make it a 4 team race for the group's 3 spots in the playoff rounds. (The group winners advance directly to the semifinals, while the 2nd and 3rd place teams go to the quarterfinals.)

In the early Group B game, Canada celebrated its annual Boxing Day tradition of bludgeoning an inferior opponent in World Juniors, smacking Germany 9-3. It wasn't quite the bloodletting we've seen in some Boxing Day openers (such as Canada beating Latvia 16-0 in the 2010 tournament), but it was a strong opening for the favored Canadians.

In Group A, Finland suffered a major blow, as in their 5-1 win over Latvia, they lost one of their best players to injury. Miro Aaltonen scored two goals for the Finns, but broke his ankle in the game, ending his tournament. It's a big loss for a Finland team that was emerging as a darkhorse threat to the major powers.

In the day's most uneventful game, Sweden opened its title defense with a comfortable 4-1 win over the Czech Republic.

The stage is now set for the US's first game, Thursday at 9 am against Germany. Here's hoping the forecasts are wrong and Boston gets a blizzard tonight, so that I get work off and can watch it live. If not, expect my reactions to Gaudreau and the team's performance tomorrow night after the re-run - and if you want more intelligent and timely information about World Juniors, check out the outstanding United States of Hockey.

Group A Standings

Record indicated as: Wins, losses, OT wins, OT losses. Regular wins are worth 3 points, OT wins worth 2, OT losses worth 1.

Finland - 1-0-0-0, 3 points, +4 GD
Sweden - 1-0-0-0, 3 points, +3 GD
Switzerland - 0-0-0-0
Czech Republic - 0-1-0-0, 0 points, -3 GD
Latvia - 0-1-0-0, 0 points, -4 GD

Group B Standings

Canada - 1-0-0-0, 3 points, +6 GD
Russia - 0-0-1-0, 2 points, +1 GD
Slovakia - 0-0-0-1, 1 point, -1 GD
USA - 0-0-0-0
Germany - 0-1-0-0, 0 points, -6 GD

Tomorrow's Games

Latvia vs. Switzerland, 7 am
USA vs. Germany, 9 am (live on NHL Network and NHL.com)

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WJC 2013: Day 1 Schedule

The 2013 World Junior Hockey Championship gets underway tomorrow in Ufa, Russia. Johnny Gaudreau and the rest of the US team will have the day off; they kick off their quest for a medal on Thursday.

Tomorrow's schedule:

2:30 AM: Finland vs. Latvia

4:30 AM: Canada vs. Germany - live on NHL Network. This is the first game for the US's group, Group B. Boston Bruins draft pick Malcolm Subban will be the starting goalie for Canada.

7:00 AM: Sweden vs. Czech Republic - Sweden kicks off its title defense against the Czechs.

9:00 AM: Russia vs. Slovakia - live on NHL Network. The debut of the host nation, winners of silver and gold medals in the past two World Juniors. This is also a Group B game.

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WJC: Finland Thrashes US 5-1 in Last Tuneup

The US finishes pre-tournament play 1-1 after a tough loss to Finland this morning. Johnny Gaudreau made his debut but did not make the scoresheet.

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WJC: USA tops Sweden 3-2 in Exhibition Game

Johnny Gaudreau and the rest of the US's first line sat out while borderline candidates battled for the last few roster spots.

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As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

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Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

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