With the Division 1 and 2 level tournaments nearly wrapped up, we've got a pretty clear picture of just who is going where, but we've also gotten to a point where certain players have emerged as real leaders for their country's future. Division 1, Group B will finish on Saturday with several important positions still up in the air.
Division 1, Group A in Belarus
I'm at a loss to explain Ukraine's results at this tournament, but their program has been reaching new lows in recent years. Japan has never really improved or regressed, though this is the Nagano generation that is playing now. Shots were 39-19 for Japan, who got a shutout from Yen Ramaguchi and a goal and an assist from Tohru Murotani. Japan, who have seemingly improved with every game this tournament, could finish third with a regulation win against Great Britain tomorrow. Ukraine needs to beat Italy in regulation in order to avoid relegation to Division 2A, and based on how they've played so far, that seems like a huge stretch.
Zegmus Girgensons scored the only goal in this game, as Italian goaltender Massimo Quagliato stopped 39 shots to keep it close. Italy failed to score on a five minute powerplay to end the first period, when Oilers prospect Kristians Pelss was given a major for boarding along with a game misconduct. Janis Kalinis made twenty saves for the shutout. Italy has an outside shot at fourth place, but more importantly need at least a point against Ukraine to avoid potential relegation.
British goaltender Ben Bowns almost did it again. When Jack Prince scored in the first minute to give Great Britain the lead, the Brits tried to win the only way they know how: by taking few chances and relying on their excellent goaltender. It worked for fourty minutes: even though Belarus outshot Great Britain 16-3 in the second period, the score remained 1-0 after two. But come the third period, Belarus finally got the puck past Bowns. A rebound goal by Rustam Azimov was followed by a bit of a defensive breakdown leading to the winning goal by Roman Malinovski. The win still gives Great Britain a chance to finish third with a win against Japan, while Belarus is now set up for the winner-takes-all final everyone anticipated against the Latvians on Sunday.
Division 1, Group B in Slovenia
Nicolai Meyer scored four goals in the first period and added an assist as Denmark won their fourth straight. The win put them in a position to clinch first and return to the Championship division in Alberta next year, which happened with the result below. Lithuania, meanwhile, is going to be battling to avoid relegation tomorrow against Croatia.
Slovenia has been playing well at home at this tournament, and beating Austria definitely qualifies as a significant accomplishment for them. Kal Goren, Gasper Kopitar, and Luka Scap scored the goals for Slovenia, which helped put them in a position for second or third place. Slovenia plays Kazkahstan to close out the tournament, with a spot in next year's 1A Group on the line. Austria will have to spend another year at the Div. 1 level, and could possibly play at the 1B level if they don't get points against Denmark tomorrow.
Saturday's Games: Croatia (1 pt) vs. Lithuania (0 pts); Austria (8 pts) vs. Denmark (12 pts); Slovenia (9 pts) vs. Kazakhstan (6 pts).
Division 2, Group A in Estonia
Belgium, who hadn't picked up a single point so far, and they somehow played their neighbours incredibly tough. The win doesn't put them out of a relegation spot, but it could be a bit of a confidence booster to beat one of the two undefeated teams at the tournament. Mitch Morgan, who tried out in the QMJHL two years ago, scored a hat trick and got the shootout winner. The Dutch, meanwhile, still have a chance to win the group and advance to Division 1 with a win over France on Sunday.
France is on a roll this tournament, and now are alone in first place in the group heading into their final game against the Dutch. Victor Barbero had a goal and three assists to lead the way for France. Bjorn Sigurdarsson, Iceland's 16 year old playing in the J18 Elit in Sweden, had another goal as his strong tournament continues. Iceland is still in position to avoid relegation, but could help themselves with a win against Spain tomorrow.
Luck wasn't on the home team's side in this one, outshooting Spain 44-21 but losing by a goal. Oriol Boronat, Javier Garcia-Arias and Erik Michelena each had a goal and an assist in the victory. Robert Rooba (1+1) and Artjom Gornostajev (1+2) led the way for Estonia. Spain is in position to finish third now, while Estonia must beat Belgium in order to avoid potential relegation.
If you want to see what Division 2 U20 hockey looks like, here's a YouTube channel with a lot of video of Estonia's games.
Division 2, Group B in Romania
After the blowout became quite obvious, a line brawl broke out at this one. Some of the better players on both teams, including Poland's Aron Chmielewski (who had 2 goals and 2 assists already) and Australia's Jamie Bourke and Matthew Anderson were ejected. Eight players in all were ejected in this one, leading to a total of 258 PIMs handed out. In the meantime, Damian Piotrowicz got a natural hat trick in the third period while Poland racked up a 77-10 shot advantage. This one was ugly in every which way. Poland is now set for a winner take all game vs. Hungary on Sunday, while Australia has avoided relegation and will finish fourth or fifth in the group.
Sixteen year old goaltender Adam Vay finally had his shutout streak stopped in this one, but it wasn't enough for South Korea to knock off the undefeated Hungarians. Balazs Somogyi had two goals and two assists to lead Hungary, while Jinwoo Oh had a goal and two assists in the losing cause for South Korea. Shots were 50-31 for Hungary. South Korea will try and beat China to claim the bronze, while Hungary goes for promotion against Poland on Sunday.
Romania hasn't gotten many saves from their goalies all tournament, and this game wasn't an exception. The 6-3 score masks the shot totals: 49-14 for Romania. That said, this win was important as Romania will now avoid relegation, while China will be in Division 3 next year as a result of an atrocious tournament. Zsombor Molnar had two goals to lead the way for Romania, who face Australia on Sunday to end the tournament.