Canada's roster unveiling may have stolen the headlines, but some good games were played in Bled, Slovenia, as the blowouts ceased as teams started to hit their key swing games. Even games that weren't expected to be that close were. The groups in Belarus, Estonia, and Romania may have had the day off, but we ended up having more close games on this day than in the week to date. They've got a lot to live up to on Thursday.
Division 1, Group B in Slovenia
The shot totals indicate that Austria dominated the play, especially when the game was tied. In a scoreless first period, Austria fired twenty shots on Croatian goaltender Kresimir Tomljenovic, allowing eleven on their own. Kevin Puschnik scored twice in the second period as Austria finally solved Tomljenovic. After the initial push, Austria sat back a bit and Croatia chipped away at the lead. Croatia tied the game 9 minutes into the third period on a goal by Mislav Blagus, but less than a minute later Austria regained the lead. With eight minutes left, Borna Rendulic broke in while shorthanded to tie the game and eventually force overtime. So while coming back, Croatia played Austria pretty even, only being outshot 14-13. But in overtime, Austria fired six shots on goal, while Croatia only managed one. And at 4:24 of overtime, Peter Schneider ended the first Div. 1 or 2 game that went to overtime, on their fifty-seventh shot. Croatia fired 31 shots on Austrian goalie Andreas Brenkusch. Austria is still in position to win the group, and Croatia's first point still means they're in danger of relegation, but the near upset (Croatia is ranked 23rd, Austria 11th) definitely raises some eyebrows.
Kazakhstan, like Austria, aren't completely foreign to the top group of the World Juniors, but on this day, they were quite surprised by a team that fluctuates between the bottom of Division 1 and the top of Division 2. Lithuania dominated the first half, building a 3-0 lead and heavily outshooting the Kazakhs. At the half way mark, though, the expected started to come to fruition. Kazakhstan scored three goals in 4:05, and started to dominate the shot count as well. In the third period, two quick goals by Alexander Belkin gave the top ranked Asian nation the lead, on the way to a 6-4 win. Kazakhstan outshot Lithuania 41-34 in the end, including 34-19 in the final two periods. Kazakhstan is in a battle to get 3rd in the group and stay in the 11-16 group for next year after two tough losses to start this tournament. Lithuania, meanwhile, is now 0-3 and looking at just avoiding relegaiton to Division 2, yet again.
Denmark, who absolutely dominated in their first two games, actually faced a challenge in the inspired home team. Both teams were undefeated heading in, and played like it. Anders Schultz opened the scoring for Denmark in the first period, quickly followed by an equalizer from Slovenian captain Eric Pance. In the second period, a power play goal from Patrick Bjorkstrand gave Denmark a lead they wouldn't relinquish, thanks to a solid goaltending performance from Lasse Jensen, who made 35 saves in the win. Slovenia ended up outshooting Denmark in the 3rd period 15-4, and 36-34 overall. So Denmark has a leg up on finishing first as a result now with the regulation win, setting up the Denmark vs. Austria game as the battle for a spot in the 2012 World Juniors in Alberta.
Div. 1 Group B Games: Kazakhstan (3 pts) vs. Croatia (1 pt)
Div. 1 Group A Games: Great Britain (1-1) vs. Ukraine (0-2); Latvia (2-0) vs. Japan (0-2); Belarus (2-0) vs. Italy (1-1)
Div. 2 Group A Games: The Netherlands (2-0) vs. Iceland (1-1); Spain (0-2) vs. Belgium (0-2); France (2-0) vs. Estonia (1-1)
Div. 2 Group B Games: Poland (2-0) vs. China (0-2); Hungary (2-0) vs. Australia (1-1); Romania (0-2) vs. South Korea (1-1).