With six games on the docket Friday, the World Junior Championships are hitting their stride. With eight of the 10 teams taking the ice in Ufa, Russia today, fans enjoyed a four course meal of hockey excitement.
Here's a look at Friday's games:
Czech Republic 3 - Finland 1
The Czech Republic recovered brilliantly from their opening loss to Sweden on Wednesday by shocking Group A favorites Finland by a two goal margin.
Considered the third best team in Group A behind Sweden and Finland upon arriving in Ufa, it seemed unlikely that the Czech Republic would have anything to show for their first two games.
The Czechs' 4-1 loss to Sweden was more or less expected and a similar result seemed to be in the cards for Friday as well. The surprising result makes the Czech Republic a virtual lock to reach the knockout stage as the team will likely need only one win from their next two games, against Switzerland and Latvia.
The Finns entered the contest with ever climbing expectations. Pre-tournament wins over the USA and Canada made Finland the popular dark horse candidate for gold in Ufa.
Finland opened the tournament with an encouraging 5-1 win over lowly Latvia on Wednesday, but their first loss of the competition will likely see many hastily jump from the bandwagon.
Though the Finns outshot their opponents throughout the game, the Czechs did a superior job of capitalizing on their opportunities. Tomas Hyka opened the scoring on behalf of the Czech Republic 14 minutes in, and Marek Hrbas doubled the lead two minutes later.
Teuvo Teravainen scored Finland's only goal and his second of the tournament early in the second period.
The Finns were stonewalled all day by Czech goalie Patrik Bartosak. Bartosak made 29 saves on 30 shots, carrying his country to victory.
Dmitrij Jaskin tapped in the empty netter with just seconds remaining to seal the first upset of the tournament.
Both teams will take the day off tomorrow, before returning to action on December 30. Finland will face Switzerland, while the Czech Republic should have an easy matchup with Latvia.
Canada 6 - Slovakia 3
For the second time in three days, Slovakia gave a gold medal favorite a serious scare. They led Canada for nearly half of the game, before succumbing to a much more talented force.
The Slovakians forced overtime against heavily-favored Russia on Wednesday with a last minute goal, before losing in the extra frame. The plucky Slovakians tried their best to cause chaos in Group B today before eventually accepting their second loss.
Canada, on the other hand, blew the doors off of Germany in their opener. The 9-3 victory showed off their incredible offensive talent, but also exposed a few defensive issues that required correction. The Canadians needed to take care of business against Slovakia before looking towards upcoming clashes with contenders Team USA and Team Russia.
Canada conceded early in this one, allowing Marko Dano to force in a rebound that sent Canada into a tailspin.
Later in the first, Canadian winger J.C. Lipon was ejected, giving Slovakia an opportunity to score on the ensuing power play. Tomas Mikus' goal enticed a full-scale panic among Canadian fans.
Ryan Strome pulled one back in the second period before winger Anthony Camara was ejected for a devastating blow that sent Slovakia's Patrik Luza to the hospital. Though it looked like a clean hit, Slovakia was afforded another five minute power play, which allowed Dano to score his second and restore Slovakia's two goal lead.
From that point on, however, the Canadians took over the game.
Defenseman Morgan Rielly scored from the point, cutting the lead in half midway through the second. Then Xavier Ouellet fed Ty Rattie for the game-typing tap-in less than four minutes later.
Mark Scheifele tipped in a Ouellet shot to give Canada the lead before the second intermission, effectively ending the contest. Slovakia showed little resistance in the third, with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Strome padding their stats with insurance goals for Canada.
The 6-3 win raised concerns about Team Canada but it leaves them in comfortable shape in Group B.
After a day off for both teams, Slovakia will face Germany in a must-win game. Meanwhile the Canadians will take on their familiar neighbors, Team USA.
Canada will await news from the IIHF regarding potentially suspended forwards J.C. Lipon and Anthony Camara. If both players are banned in addition to the already suspended Boone Jenner, Canada will only have 11 forwards available to take on the Americans.
Sweden 3 - Swtizerland 2
Underdog Switzerland pushed the defending gold medalists to a shootout on Friday, confirming that the Swiss' 7-1 victory over Latvia on Thursday was no fluke.
Sweden beat the Czech Republic 4-1 in their first game, giving the Swedes plenty of confidence to carry through the group stage.
The Swiss took a 1-0 lead at the end of the first period with Eliot Antonietti beating Swedish goalie Joel Lassinantti.
Sebastian Collberg tied it for Sweden scoring his second goal of the tournament halfway through the second period, but Switzerland continued to put pressure on the Swedes.
Mike Kunzle returned the lead to Switzerland with his third goal in two games, tying him with Canadians Ryan Strome and Mark Scheifele for most goals in the tournament.
Six minutes into the third Sweden's Emil Djuse deadlocked the contest once again. Djuse's goal would eventually force the game into overtime. When the extra frame failed to produce a winner, the shootout was called upon for the first time in the tournament.
Swiss goalie Melvin Nyffeler saved 36 shots in regulation and two more in the shootout, but he conceded the decisive strike to Victor Rask on Sweden's third attempt.
Lassinantti was replaced for the shootout by Niklas Lundstrom, who denied everything he faced to put Sweden atop Group A with 5 points.
Sweden, the only undefeated team in Group A, has secured the inside track to a knockout phase bye. The Swedes could annihilate Latvia tomorrow to clinch a knockout berth.
Switzerland will rest tomorrow before a huge clash with Finland on Sunday.
Russia 2 - USA 1
In the day's marquee matchup, Team Russia barely pulled off a crucial Group B victory.
The United States were playing for the second straight day after their 8-0 demolition of Germany on Wednesday. On the other side, the Russians beat Slovakia in overtime on Wednesday.
The Russians made the decision to start Andrey Makarov in net over Tampa Bay first rounder Andrey Vasilevskiy, who played very well against Slovakia.
Makarov rode the bench at last year's tournament until earning the start in the gold medal game. He then made an unbelievable 57 saves before losing in overtime to Sweden. He was excellent against the United States.
Team USA came out fast and hungry with the trio of J.T. Miller, Rocco Grimaldi and Johnny Gaudreau creating superb scoring chances. Despite their control of the game, it was Russia who struck first off the stick of Albert Yarullin, who scored the OT winner against Slovakia.
Yarullin's shot took a number of difficult bounces before beating USA goalie John Gibson on the power play. After the goal, the game seemed very evenly matched, with the two teams trading chances.
Team USA caught a break late in the second when they were awarded a power play.
Defenseman Jacob Trouba launched a rocket from the point that took a few wacky bounces of its own before striking twine. It was the Winnipeg Jets first rounder's second goal of the tournament.
With the game deadlocked early in the third, Valeri Nichushkin, considered to be the top Russian prospect eligible for the 2013 draft, drove to the net. The rebound produced by his shot was slid under Gibson's pad by Vladimir Tkachyov.
Team USA would play catch up for the remainder of the game, getting a few nice chances but also relying on huge saves from Gibson.
With less than two minutes remaining it seemed like Deja Vu for Russia as they took a horrible penalty while trying to close out the game. The ensuing US power play created a chance or two, but the excellent goaltending of Makarov allowed the Russians to escape with the three points.
The United States can still be proud of its effort. With a few different bounces they would be sitting atop Group B. They will face another tough test against Canada on Sunday.
Russia will take on Group B doormat Germany tomorrow.
1. Andrey Makarov - Russia
Despite riding the bench behind Andrey Vasilevskiy against Slovakia, Andrey Makarov was spectacular for the host country against the United States. He made 41 saves to seal his team's one goal victory. Most notably, he weathered a six on four barrage in the final minute, doing what teammate Andrey Vasilevskiy could not do against Slovakia.
2. Patrik Bartosak - Czech Republic
On a day dominated by great goaltending, Patrik Bartosak produced arguably the best performance. He stopped 29 of Finland's 30 shots to give the Czech Republic a key upset that could ultimately earn them a trip to the knockout stages. With Switzerland surging in Group A, the Czech Republic needed to steal this one from the favored Finns.
3. Mark Scheifele - Canada
Canada winger Mark Scheifele played an excellent game, leading Canada to a come-from-behind victory. He assisted on Morgan Rielly's goal, which started the comeback, and later tipped in a Xavier Ouellet shot to give Canada the lead late in the second.
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