Bronze Medal Game
Canada 4 @ Finland 0
Brett Connolly, Canada, 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 3 SOG
Tournament totals: 6 GP, 5-1-6, +4, 4 PIM
Coyotes first rounder Mark Visentin stopped all 27 shots he faced to lead Canada to the Bronze Medal in their 4-0 win over Finland. Brett Connolly was held off the scoresheet for the first time in the tournament, but was named one of Canada's three best players in the tournament as selected by the coaches. He'll head back east now to rejoin the Lightning.
Gold Medal Game
Sweden 1 @ Russia 0 (OT)
Nikita Kucherov, Russia, 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIM, 2 SOG
Tournament totals: 7 GP, 2-5-7, +4, 2 PIM
Nikita Nesterov, Russia, 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 0 SOG
Tournament totals: 7 GP, 2-3-5, +7, 6 PIM
Ottawa first rounder Mika Zibanejad scored an overtime breakaway goal to earn Sweden its first Gold Medal in 31 years at the U20 World Junior Championships. Lulea netminder Johan Gustafsson, a Wild 6th rounder and a teammate of overage Lightning prospect Johan Harju, made 16 stops for the shutout. Draft eligible Andrei Makarov, who currently plays for Saskatoon in the WHL, stopped an amazing 57 of 58 shots in defeat. Lightning prospects Nikita Kucherov and Nikita Nesterov will be eligible to return next season for Team Russia in Ufa at next year's tournament. Nesterov finished tied for 3rd amongst defensemen in scoring and tied for 6th in plus/minus.
Canada 5 @ Russia 6
Nikita Kucherov, Russia, 1-0-1, -2, 0 PIM, 2 SOG
Tournament totals: 6 GP, 2-5-7, +5, 2 PIM
Nikita Nesterov, Russia, 1-0-1, -1, 2 PIM, 1 SOG
Tournament totals: 6 GP, 2-3-5, +7, 6 PIM
Brett Connolly, Canada, 1-0-1, -1, 0 PIM, 6 SOG
Tournament totals: 5 GP, 5-1-6, +4, 4 PIM
In the mother of all Semifinals, Russia streaked out to a 6-1 lead early in the third period, and then held on by a fingernail in the face of 4 unanswered Canadian goals for the 6-5 victory. Nikita Kucherov's tap in goal as the trailer on a 3-on-1 ended up being the game winning goal in the match. Nikita Nesterov also contributed a power play goal for the Russians on a first period one timer from the point that was deflected in off a Canadian defender's stick. Lightning forward Brett Connolly scored the second Lightning prospect goal in the game as the extra attacker on a play where Nikita Nesterov was about to be sent off on a minor penalty. Connolly ripped a short side wrister for the goal that was Canada's only through 40 minutes. The most bizarre move of the match came when Russian coach Valeri Bragin's decided to lift Andrei Vasilevski after he stopped 44 of 49 shots for the Russians, but backup Andrei Makarov stopped 7 of 7 the rest of the way to secure the win, seemingly against all odds.
Connolly looked to be Canada's strongest player in the match. He had what was perhaps Canada's best chance to tie the game on a rebound off a shot that hit the post which he was unable to lift over Makarov's pads. Kucherov had some dangerous moments as a playmaker on what was Russia's de facto second line. He looked to be an extremely creative passer with superlative puckhandling skills that were among the best on display by both teams tonight. Nesterov, for his part, took a late second period penalty for interference that likely wasn't his and looked somewhat outclassed by the Canadians' speed and strength. Still, it's hard to complain about the Lightning prospect hat trick of goals.
Russia moves on to play Sweden in the Gold Medal match on Thursday. Sweden advanced to the Finals with a dramatic 3-2 shootout win over the rival Finns earlier in the night on the strength of a Max Friberg game tying goal with 1:44 left in regulation followed up by Friberg's winning shootout goal. Recall, Friberg scored the game tying goal with 40 seconds left in regulation against the Russians in the final game of the Preliminary Round to earn Sweden their bye in the Quarterfinals of the Medal Round. The Ducks fifth rounder is suddenly looking like a living legend for the Swedes.
Canada will play in the Bronze Medal match against the Finns on Thursday, as well.
Slovakia 6 @ Switzerland 4
Adam Janosik, Slovakia, 0-0-0, +2, 0 PIM, 3 SOG
Tournament totals: 4 GP, 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIM
Thanks in part to 4 assists by Red Wings draft pick Tomas Jurco, the Slovakians overcame a pair of 2 goal deficits to beat Switzerland 6-4 and punch their ticket to the medal round. Lightning prospect Adam Janosik was +2 in the match. Slovakia moves on to face Finland in the Quarterfinals on Monday. Switzerland falls into the Relegation bracket against Denmark, also on Monday.
Canada 3 @ USA 2
Brett Connolly, Canada, 1-0-1, +1, 0 PIM, 2 SOG
Tournament totals: 4 GP, 4-1-5, +5, 4 PIM
Canada held off a furious US comeback to scrape by the Americans 3-2. Brett Connolly's first period goal ended up being the game winner. Credit to the already Relegation Round saddled US side for not caving after falling down 3-0 in the first and giving Canada all they could handle. Canada earns a bye to the Semifinals on Tuesday. The US draws Latvia on Tuesday, and I suspect will cut a wide swath of destruction through the loser's bracket.
Russia 3 @ Sweden 4 (OT)
Nikita Kucherov, Russia, 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIM, 2 SOG
Tournament totals: 4 GP, 1-4-5, +6, 0 PIM
Nikita Nesterov, Russia, 0-0-0, -1, 2 PIM, 1 SOG
Tournament totals: 4 GP, 1-3-4, +7, 4 PIM
Whereas a 3 goal third period lead is a death sentence in pro hockey, it's not quite so in junior hockey. Ducks draft pick Max Friberg scored an extra attacker goal to cap a 3 goal third period comeback for the Swedes and Blackhawks draft pick Joakim Nordstrom scored the overtime winner in their thrilling 4-3 win over Russia. Sweden clinches a bye to the Semis with the win. Russia now faces a Quarterfinal match with the Czech Republic on Monday. Lightning prospects Nikita Nesterov and Nikita Kucherov, who were on the ice for Friberg's goal, took their first minuses of the tournament. Swedish coach Roger Ronnberg perhaps deserves considerable credit for a Steve Ludzik-like goalie switch just before the goal to get a cheap timeout after burning his official timeout earlier in the game. It was a blast from the past for older Lightning fans.
Denmark 2 @ Canada 10
Brett Connolly, Canada, 1-1-2, +3, 2 PIM, 2 SOG
Tournament totals: 3 GP, 3-1-4, +4, 4 PIM
Brett Connolly had a shorthanded goal and an even strength assist as the Canadians punished Denmark for showing up to the building 10-2. Connolly also took an undisciplined third period penalty for cross checking. Canada wraps up their Preliminary Round on Saturday against Team USA.
Latvia 0 @ Russia 14
Nikita Kucherov, Russia, 0-3-3, +5, 0 PIM, 5 SOG
Tournament totals: 3 GP, 1-4-5, +7, 0 PIM
Nikita Nesterov, Russia, 1-2-3, +5, 0 PIM, 2 SOG
Tournament totals: 3 GP, 1-3-4, +8, 2 PIM
If the Canadians set the standard Thursday night for unrelenting butt whippings, the Russians quickly rewrote it in breaking former breakaway republic Latvia 14-0. Nikita Gusev, the longtime line mate of Lightning prospect Nikita Kucherov, had 2 goals and 7 points in the match and still wasn't the team's leading scorer. That distinction went to captain Yevgeni Kuznetsov's "Kuznetztrick" stat line of 3-6-9. For their parts, Lightning representatives Nikita Kucherov and Nikita Nesterov contributed a combined 1 goal and 6 points to the rout. Russia finishes their last prelim on Saturday versus Sweden.
Canada 5 @ Czech Republic 0
Brett Connolly, Canada, 1-0-1, +1, 2 PIM, 2 SOG
Tournament totals: 2 GP, 2-0-2, +1, 2 PIM
Brett Connolly scored the nail-in-coffin third goal for Canada late in the second period in their 5-0 win over Czech Republic. The goal showed some absolutely lethal stickhandling moves by Connolly, beating multiple defenders and the netminder on a joy ride through a crowded slot area. It was a man against boys moment. The forward also took a minor for interference in the match. Jets first rounder Mark Scheifele had a pair of goals in the win for the Canadians. Canada draws Denmark on Thursday. Lord have mercy on the Danes souls, because the Czechs made the Canadians work for it today, and they're bound to be grumpy.
Russia 3 @ Slovakia 1
Nikita Kucherov, Russia, 1-0-1, +1, 0 PIM, 5 SOG
Tournament totals: 2 GP, 1-1-2, +2, 0 PIM
Nikita Nesterov, Russia, 0-1-1, +1, 0 PIM, 0 SOG
Tournament totals: 2 GP, 0-1-1, +3, 2 PIM
Adam Janosik, Slovakia, 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 0 SOG
Tournament totals: 2 GP, 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM
It took a Nikita Kucherov insurance marker late in the third period for the Russians to finally put away a spunky Slovakian squad 3-1. Fellow Lightning prospect Nikita Nesterov had a secondary assist on the goal. Kucherov was second on Team Russia with 5 shots behind Yevgeni Kuznetsov's impressive 9 bids on net. Russia draws Latvia on Thursday. The same grumpiness likely will apply to Team Russia. Slovakia gets Sweden on Friday.