Thursday’s quarterfinals did not disappoint, and set up some very difficult and exciting semi-final games at the 2020 World Junior Championships. Russia had no trouble dispatching Switzerland, Canada cruised past Slovakia, Finland used a statement defensive performance to beat USA, and Sweden defeated the Czech Republic handily.
All four Colorado Avalanche prospects will be playing for medals this weekend. The only question is: what colour will they be?
Plus, we’re still awaiting the first Avs prospect to score a goal:
LD — Canada
Byram had another solid game as Canada jumped out to an early lead against Slovakia and won the game 6-1. He played 18:43, which was the second most minutes among all Canadians (behind Calen Addison’s 19:17) and recorded two shots on goal.
Byram blew a tire early in the first period that led to an odd-man rush, but I don’t really think he can be faulted for that. He just lost an edge.
lol that was Bowen Byram who blew a tire and allowed a Slovak odd-man rush #GoAvsGo— World Juniors Lauren (@laurkelly24) January 2, 2020
Byam had some scoring chances and drew a penalty:
Barrett Hayton, who was out for the entire 2 minute PP, taken down in the slot (no call). Byram walks in with the loose puck and fires it wide short side. #GoAvsGo— World Juniors Lauren (@laurkelly24) January 2, 2020
He also had a giveaway that was bailed out by goalie Joel Hofer (STL):
Byram’s drop pass in the neutral zone is picked off by a Slovak player and he walks in and fires a slapshot that is stopped by Hofer #GoAvsGo— World Juniors Lauren (@laurkelly24) January 2, 2020
All in all, Byram’s confidence has skyrocketed since his promotion and he looks like a different player. Now, if only the puck could start going in...
LW — Finland
Ranta looked a lot better in this game. He was physical, he played on the power play, and used his speed to get open and free on breakaways:
Ranta buried Parker Ford against the boards with a massive hit. #GoAvsGo — World Juniors Lauren (@laurkelly24) January 2, 2020
Wait, Sampo Ranta on the powerplay? That’s a new one. I think. #GoAvsGo— World Juniors Lauren (@laurkelly24) January 2, 2020
Sampo Ranta drives in trying to get alone on the breakaway but is stopped by Spencer Statsney’s pokecheck before sliding into the net #GoAvsGo— World Juniors Lauren (@laurkelly24) January 2, 2020
#WorldJuniors: Nice hustle by Spencer Stastney (NAS 5th/2018) to catch up to Sampo Ranta (COL) and neutralize his breakaway attempt. Tight-checking affair nonetheless, and the U.S. and Finland are scoreless midway through the second period. pic.twitter.com/wtAQ9evEfg— Steve Kournianos (@TheDraftAnalyst) January 2, 2020
This was an incredibly close, tight-checking game, and it definitely felt like we were heading to overtime the entire game. Fortunately, Finland was able to close it out with the one goal in regulation, and they’ll be heading to the semis. It’d be nice if Ranta could get on the scoresheet, but he’s still playing on Finland’s fourth line and performing solidly for them.
G — Finland
So how did Finland manage to pull off the win in a game that many people had written them off in against the United States?
Two words: Justus Annunen.
Before the game started, I tweeted this:
And perfect he was. Annunen made 30 saves for the shutout win over USA (and still didn’t get player of the game recognition, somehow). USA was the better team in the first two periods, but Finland was able to shut them down in the third period and limit any offensive chances they did have. The ones that did make their way towards Annunen were stopped.
Annunen looked unbeatable (also because USA looked like they were never going to generate any extended offensive zone time).
When Justus Annunen is on his game, I don’t know how a team beats him once, let alone twice. And he’s on it tonight. #GoAvsGo— World Juniors Lauren (@laurkelly24) January 2, 2020
Justus Annunen is going to do the damn thing and get Finland out of this, isn’t he— World Juniors Lauren (@laurkelly24) January 2, 2020
Live look at Justus Annunen right now: pic.twitter.com/5GeKCcbkYK— World Juniors Lauren (@laurkelly24) January 2, 2020
What else could I have said at that point? He was stopping everything. It was really something to watch. But USA really bit themselves so many times throughout the tournament, and they ran into a hot goalie that they couldn’t beat.
I think today, Finland just played better, especially in the third period. Annunen was outstanding, but USA struggled to create through the middle. They had the skill on the roster to cut through that and couldn’t. One power play goal against on a good play and it’s curtains.— Chris Peters (@chrismpeters) January 2, 2020
Finland will play Canada on Saturday in the semi-finals, a meeting between Avalanche prospects Ranta, Annunen, and Byram. Does Annunen have another perfect performance in him?
LD — Russia
Once again, Zhuravlyov played pretty well on Russia’s third pair, but also looked more active in the offensive zone. He and Russia will take on Sweden in the first semi-final on Saturday morning, hoping to return to the gold medal game for the first time since 2016, where they won silver.
Zhuravlyov jumps jumps into the play and gets dumped in the corner by Guggenheim. No call. Z looks all right. #GoAvsGo— World Juniors Lauren (@laurkelly24) January 2, 2020
Excellent steal by Zhuravlyov in the offensive zone that leads to a Russian scoring chance that Z can't pull the trigger on #GoAvsGo— World Juniors Lauren (@laurkelly24) January 2, 2020
(All times MT, teams with Avalanche prospects are bolded)
7:00am — Sweden vs. Russia
11:00am — Canada vs. Finland