World Juniors Update: Sweden Leads Group B, USA with 2 Pivotal Matches Ahead
The 2021 IIHF World Junior Championships opened on Christmas Day with a slate of three games. For the three Flyers prospects participating in the tournament, two games have been completed as of the end of competition on Monday night. Only two teams in the tournament have played three of their four Group-play games with three days remaining in the Group round.
Both the USA – with Flyers prospects Cam York and Bobby Brink on the roster – and Sweden – with Emil Andrae on the roster – are playing in Group B. Through Monday, Sweden sits atop the standings in the Group, with two wins in two games. The US is in a three-way tie with Russia and Czech Republic with one win and one regulation loss.
The US suffered a 5-3 loss on Christmas Day to Russia to open the tournament. Despite the struggles for USA in the game, both Flyers prospects contributed. Cam York, named the captain of the team earlier in the week, had a goal and an assist as well as four shots on goal in 22:49 of ice time and was named the US Player of the Game. Brink had an assist and took two shots in 13:57 of ice time in the defeat.
The US responded the next night with a resounding win over Austria, scoring an 11-0 win. York picked up another assist in 18:10 of ice time. Brink was held without a point, but had two shots and was a plus-2 in 13:24 of ice time.
Sweden opened the tournament on the second day of play by dominating Czech Republic on the way to a 7-1 win. Andrae was used in a more limited role and played just 6:30 of ice time, second lowest on the team.
On Monday, Sweden scored a 4-0 win over Austria. This time, Andrae was promoted to the top pairing in place of the absent Philip Broberg, and logged the second-highest ice time in the game at 21:17.
On the other side in Group A, Canada and Finland both picked up a pair of wins in their first two games, including a 16-2 drubbing by Canada against Germany. Germany, who started the tournament on Christmas Day with just 14 available skaters and two goalies after positive COVID tests, admirably stayed with Finland in a 5-3 defeat. Germany scored a 4-3 overtime win over Slovakia on Monday night.
Looking ahead at the next three days of the tournament, the US has two crucial matchups ahead. While it appears to be a shoe-in that they will advance to the Quarterfinal Round as one of the top four teams in the group, their placement in the standings is still very much at large. The US faces Czech Republic on Tuesday afternoon at 2 p.m. The Czechs are coming off an upset win over Russia.
If the US were to win this game, they could still be in position to claim the top spot in the group.
As for Sweden, they will face two difficult opponents on their way to attempting to lock up the top spot in Group B. Sweden faces Russia on Wednesday night at 9:30 p.m. If they were to lose that game and the US defeats Czech Republic on Tuesday, it would set up a matchup for the top spot in Group B on New Year’s Eve at 9:30 p.m. between the US and Sweden. Russia could also come away with three wins in Group play, but their low goal differential and goals for in the tournament put them behind the US and Sweden in tiebreakers.
In similar fashion, the final matchup of Group play for Group A could also decide the top spot in the group. Canada and Finland are both cruising through the tournament, but meet on New Year’s Eve at 6 p.m.
The Quarterfinal Round will be held on Saturday, Jan. 2.
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.