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Avalanche Prospects at the 2020 World Juniors Day 7: Welcome to the Justus Annunen show

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The Colorado Avalanche prospect rebounded for a heroic 30-save shutout against USA.

PHOTO: MATT ZAMBONIN / HHOF-IIHF IMAGES

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:

Bowen Byram

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.

Byam had some scoring chances and drew a penalty:

He also had a giveaway that was bailed out by goalie Joel Hofer (STL):

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...

Sampo Ranta

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:

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.

Justus Annunen

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).

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.

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?

Danila Zhuravlyov

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.

Semi-Final Games

(All times MT, teams with Avalanche prospects are bolded)

7:00am — Sweden vs. Russia
11:00am — Canada vs. Finland