The World Juniors semi finals concluded today and with 3 of the 4 teams having Wings prospects on them, heartbreak was inevitable. While Finland will play in the gold medal game on home ice against Russia, Sweden will play the United States for a very bitter tasting bronze medal.
Sweden vs Finland
Result: Sweden 1, Finland 2
Axel Holmstrom: Goose Eggs
Christoffer Ehn: 1 SOG
Vili Saarijarvi: 1 SOG
Sweden hadn't lost a game in the tournament yet and looked like they could very well be on their way to a gold medal. They had only allowed 5 goals against in 5 preliminary round games, while scoring 19 goals on their opponents.
Finland has some high powered offense, scoring a tournament leading 23 goals in the preliminary round, but their defense has been sketchy, and their 13 goals against was the highest among the teams not named Belarus, Slovakia, and Switzerland.
I thought Sweden would win this game. Their offense, defense, goaltending, special teams, and all around team play looked nearly unbeatable. It was anyone's game and tied 1-1 until halfway through the 2nd period. Anton Karlsson was called for checking to the head and received a 2 minute minor and a 10 minute misconduct. I don't think his hit even deserved a minor penalty at all, much less a misconduct and the call seemed to take the players by surprise as well. Finland boasts the tournament's top power play at 40.74% and it took them just 27 seconds with the man advantage to take a 2-1 lead. The baffling penalty and ensuing Finland goal seemed to rattle Sweden a bit and despite their best efforts, they couldn't overcome Finland's prevent game and the final score sat at 2-1 Finland.
Axel Holmstrom and Christoffer Ehn still have a chance to medal, but there's no way a bronze medal can take away this pain.
It gut punches me in the feels every time.
Russia vs United States
Result: Russia 2 , United States 1
Evgeny Svechnikov: -1
Despite not having a point yet in the tournament, Evgeny Svechnikov remains on Russia's top line and had a great shift to start the game. He had a big hit and some good work with the puck, but he's trying to play like he's in the QMJHL and the more experienced, developed players in this tournament make him look like he's playing a boys game among men. The effort and desire are there for sure, but he's used to being able to stand around a lot more and wait for the puck and at this level, the game goes far too fast for that. He also made several passes that, in the Q, his teammates would probably get, but team USA easily picked them off and gained possession. It's not Svechnikov's fault, he's playing the way he's used to and the only way he'll learn to be better is by playing against better competition. It's the same issues that Tomas Jurco, Marty Frk, and Anthony Mantha had coming out of the QMJHL and Svechnikov is going ot have to go through many of the same challenges and learning processes when he comes to Grand Rapids next season.
My hope for Svechnikov in the gold medal game is that he continues to use this setting as a learning tool to prepare himself for turning pro.
Sweden takes on the United States in the bronze medal game Tuesday at 9am EST
Finland takes on Russia in the Gold medal game Tuesday at 1:30pm EST
Both TSN and the NHL Network will broadcast both games live.