It was unthinkable that Finland could potentially have been left out of medal contention this tournament.
Group A in the 2013 IIHF U-20 world championship, featuring the Czech Republic, Latvia and Switzerland, is the weaker of the two groups, yet the Finns, after losing Miro Aaltonen to a broken ankle in the first game of the tournament (and were without Olli Määttä due to illness), lost to the Czechs and were down 4-3 late to the Swiss. A regulation loss, and a Czech win over Latvia would send Finland to the relegation round.
Luckily for the Finns, Calgary Flame prospect Markus Granlund stepped up, banging home a Joel Armia rebound past Swiss goalie Melvin Nyffeler with just 1:39 on the clock to tie the game. He also scored a pretty goal in the shootout's sixth round to give the Finns the victory in Game Winning Shots:
An overtime loss would have been more manageable, allowing the squad to control their own destiny with a win against Sweden.
Now, while Finland managed just a 4-4 game in regulation against Switzerland, which looks bleak on paper, look at the goaltending disparity between the two teams. Finland outshot the Swiss 57-23. Granlund had six shots on net, but Tuevo Teravainen, an overlooked Chicago Blackhawks first rounder who has put together a very solid tournament, had eight shots, including two goals. While we're glancing at the stat page, it's also easy to miss top prospect Aleksander Barkov's 25-for-30 night in the face-off circle.
No. 2 Star - Malcolm Subban, Team Canada
After forgettable performances against Germany and Slovakia, Malcolm Subban put together a shiny plate-worthy game against the Americans in a 2-1 win in the tournament's marquee game thus far. The Belleville Bull and Boston Bruins prospect stopped 36 of 37 shots, and held the Americans scoreless on five of six power plays, essentially solving Steve Spott's penalty killing woes with some timely saves. Most impressively, he kept John Gaudreau scoreless on a breakaway save in the first period.
It's fair to say Team Canada forged a fairly poor defensive performance tonight, being outshot 37-32, with perhaps the exception of specialist Phillip Danault. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who put together a strong offensive performance, was liable to giving up pucks his side of centre, took a late penalty, and went an astonishing 1-for-12 on face-offs. Ryan Murphy, Griffin Reinhart and Tyler Wotherspoon had some notable giveaways, bailed out in each instance by Subban, who displayed his athleticism and poise. He kept rebounds near his pads, flashed his blocker and extremities on difficult opportunities, and may have single-handedly won the game for Team Canada.
No. 3 Star - Dmitrij Jaskin, Team Czech Republic
The Czechs were on their heels, eking out a 4-2 win over Latvia that was more like a 3-2 win if you take away Martin Frk's garbage-time powerplay goal. Tied 2-2 in the third period with the Latvians, the Czechs were in an odd position where they could either conceivably be sent to the relegation round—or win the group outright.
The Moncton Wildcat and St. Louis Blues prospect Jaskin scored the winning goal on a hard wrist shot from the circle with a little over six minutes to go, giving the Czechs a lead they would not relinquish. He was a good candidate for the club, playing one of the stronger games on that side, tallying three shots on net in the process and finishing with a +1. Frk, who scored the clincher with :27 seconds to go, also tallied in the second period. Petr Beranek scored the first goal.
Honourable Mention - Peter Ceresnak, Team Slovakia
For a while, it looked like Martin Cüpper could pull this one out for the Germans, unbeatable through two (stopping all 28 Slovakian chances) and protecting his team's one goal lead. Slovakia gave both Russia and Canada a tougher test than the Germans, so the 1-0 scoreline was somewhat of a surprise. Bruno Mraz tied it up for the Slovaks four minutes into the third and it was all Slovakia in the OT, with Peterborough Petes defenceman Peter Ceresnak wiring home the winner in the extra frame.
The win is somewhat trivial for the Slovaks for their hopes of winning the tournament, which rest on whether or not they can beat the Americans New Year's Eve. Loser of that game goes to the relegation round.