BUFFALO NY - DECEMBER 31: Forward Tomas Jurco #13 of Slovakia carries the puck during the 2011 IIHF World U20 Championship game between Slovakia and Finland on December 31 2010 at HSBC Arena in Buffalo New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Alright, to recap, here are the final standings of the preliminary round of the tournament:
Sweden got first place as the first tiebreaker is the result of the match played between the two tied clubs, which of course Sweden won in overtime. Canada is the only team with a perfect record so far, and Don Hay has yet to be a losing coach at this tournament, having gone a perfect 7-0 in 1995 when the format was simply an 8 team round robin tournament with no playoff system.
We now have a playoff system, and here's how it shakes out as we get into a do or die situation. Finland and Slovakia are first, at 3:00 PM MST, with the winner facing Sweden in the semifinal tomorrow (also at 3:00 PM MST). Russia and the Czech Republic are the later game at 7:00 PM MST, with the winner facing Canada in the second semifinal tomorrow (at 7:00 PM MST). The losers of today's games will play each other on Wednesday at 7:00 PM MST in the 5th place game, while the medal games will be on Thursday.
There are also early starts for the relegation round games the next three days, as the bottom two teams in each group play a round robin to determine placement, with the 10th place team being relegated to Division 1 as Germany moves up next year. Switzerland's 5-3 win over Latvia and USA's 11-3 win over Denmark in the preliminary round are carried forward into this tournament, meaning each team has to only play the two teams that were in the opposite group to complete the round robin.
All games are now in Calgary at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Here are today's games:
Denmark hasn't been in a close game all tournament, but a surprising win here could be huge. No word on the status of Sven Bärtschi, who was dearly missed by the Swiss against Slovakia.
A little over a year ago was the last time these two teams met, a 6-0 Finnish win in the 2011 World Juniors in Buffalo. That result is of little importance, aside from showing how much stronger this Slovakian team is than a year ago. Finland, too, is stronger, and we've only started to see the Granlund connection start up. Slovakia is led by Tomas Jurco, who had four assists in their big comeback win over Switzerland, some of which were truly spectacular. Finland is definitely the favourite, but this Slovak team has proven to be quite a tough test for every non-Swedish team so far.
The Russians have been very tough to read so far this tournament. They only narrowly beat the Swiss (who outshot and outchanced them) and Slovakia, while they jumped out to an early 3-0 lead against Sweden only to sit back and see it evaporate in the third period, surrendering an astounding 55 shots in the game. The Czechs, meanwhile, saved their best effort for the USA game, a game in which they had a day's rest and outplayed the Americans at even strength, but the team leads the tournament in penalties taken and have not made things easy on themselves. The two goaltenders have been arguably the best in the tournament, as Andrei Vasilevskiy has covered a lot of warts in the Russian defence while Petr Mrazek has been heroic, particuarly on the penalty kill. There's a potential upset to happen here, although Daniel Krejci of the Czechs might have given some big time fuel to the fire when he re-ignited this longtime rivalry with these quotes:
"In my heart, I hate Russia. With all my heart... I think if it's an important match, the Czech Republic can beat Russia every time."
1968 has never been forgotten around the Czech Republic, even if Jaromir Jagr wore #68 in Siberia and loved it there for several years.
The relegation round games are only available on Fasthockey. The quarterfinal games are broadcast as follows:
TSN/RDS (Canada), SVT (Sweden), NTV Plus (Russia), MTV3 (Finland), Ceske Televisie (Czech Republic, Czech games only).