Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey

World junior championship 3 Stars: Russia’s Slepyshev, Finland’s Ikonen turn the tide with playmaking

No. 1 star: Anton Slepyshev, Team Russia

Slepyshev (3A, +2), the Russian captain whom the Edmonton Oilers took late in the third round of last summer's NHL draft, was on the ice for all of his side's goals during their 5-3 quarter-final win over Team USA that guaranteed a new world junior championship.

The 19-year-old, who won a bronze in his hometown of Ufa at the 2013 world junior, played a great game of catch with London Knights star Nikita Zadorov for the tying and game-winning goals in the second period. While the U.S. self-destructed by taking three consecutive penalties, Slepyshev twice teed up Zadorov (2G, +1) for booming point shots that dented twine.

The 19-year-old Slepyshev also drew a helper when Mikhail Grigorenko (1G, +1) scored in the first period. Their linemate Pavel Buchnevich (2G, +1) scored twice to make it a six-point afternoon for the big line.

Russia will have rematch vs. Sweden in the semifinal on Saturday.

No. 2 star: Juuso Ikonen, Team Finland

"Juuse from JYP Jyväskylä" scored once and assisted on the game-winner during the decisive Finnish surge that bridged the late stage of the second and first half of the third during a 5-3 quarter-final win over the Czech Republic.

The Czechs were sitting prettier than Chief Wiggum with a bellyful of engine-block eggs, up 3-1 with just two minutes left in the second period. Off a neutral zone faceoff, Ikonen (1G-1A, +1) poked the puck by the Czech defenceman Libor Sulak, who was a little too 'cazh' at keeping the puck in front of him. Rasmus Kulmala (2A, +1) tore off on a break and Ikonen was there to collect the loose change by backhanding a puck by Marek Langhamer to halve the deficit.

Re-energized, Finland carried the third period. Henri Ikonen, the Tampa Bay Lightning prospect whom Kingston Frontenacs coach Todd Gill affectionately calls Hank, tipped in the tying goal. A few minutes later, Juuse Ikonen buzzed around the net and zipped a goalmouth pass to Saku Kinnunen for the game-winner.

No. 3 star: Griffin Reinhart, Team Canada

Canada didn't have much offence from defencemen during the round-robin. The clamps came off during a 4-1 win over Swizterland, with Reinhart (1G-1A, +2) scoring the icebreaker and assisting on Edmonton Oil Kings teammate Curtis Lazar's third-period clincher.

Reinhart, playing his second game of the tourney after sitting out the last three games of a suspension assessed for a high-sticking penalty during Canada's 2013 semifinal loss, crashed the net to bang in the first period's only goal. The New York Islanders first-rounder had a strong defensive game throughout the contest. In the third, he was stopped on a breakaway, but Canada stuck with the play and Lazar jammed the puck into the net when it appeared Swiss goalie Melvin Nyffeler had covered it.

Honourable mention: Joachim Svendsen, Team Norway

Norway is halfway to earning a berth in the 2015 Montreal/Toronto world junior tournament after beating undisciplined Germany 3-0 in Game 1 of the best-of-3 'survivor series' in the relegation round. Svendsen made 29 saves to get the shutout and Norway's best player award.

Svendsen made eight saves in the first period to keep the contest scoreless after a period. He came up with three stops alone on German star Leon Draisaitl in the second, when Norway struck for goals 73 seconds apart to forge out to a 2-0 advantage. That might have caused Germany to lose its cool, since Draisaitl took a major penalty for high sticking later in the frame.

Honourable mention: Filip Forsberg, Team Sweden

The Nashville Predators youngerdemonstrated why he wears the captain for Sweden with a commanding three-point effort during a never-in-doubt 6-0 win over Slovakia. The underdog hung in for about a dozen minutes, but then two Slovak defenders took each other out of a play and created a lane for undrafted 18-year-old Lucas Wallmark (2G) to skate in and roof his first world junior goal.

Forsberg (2G-2A) got an assist on a power-play tally late in the frame to open a 2-0 lead. In the second, it took all of 70 seconds before the third-time world junior competitor buried a goal of his own. Forsberg drew his second apple of the day on Wallmark's second goal of night later in the frame. The 19-year-old scored a top-shelf snipe during a 4-on-4 in the third, which was just for show.

Dishonourable mention: Leon Draisaitl, Team Germany

The German captain was tossed for the second time in the tourney after getting a high-sticking major/game misconduct in the second period. Norway scored its third goal on the ensuing power play and Germany was unable to mount a comeback.

Anyone else wonder if Draisaitl was named captain in hope it would help him focus? Apparently it didn't. The 18-year-old Prince Albert Raiders star will automatically be suspended for game 2 of the relegation round series. Norway's chance of retaining top division status for 2015 just got that much better, although Germany beat the Czech Republic on Dec. 30 when Draisaitl was serving his first one-game suspension.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to btnblog@yahoo.ca.

Related Articles

Buzzing The Net

Add to My Yahoo RSS

Blog Roll

Featured Sports Video