The intensity on Day 6 of the 2021 World Junior Hockey Championship was on display with a lot at stake in a couple of high-pressured games.
In arguably the game of the tournament so far, Sweden and Russia needed overtime to crown a winner with top spot in Group B still up for grabs. The stunning win for Russia saw Sweden’s 54-game win streak in the preliminary round come to an end in heartbreaking fashion as they pushed hard to tie the game late but were unable to overcome a late penalty in the extra period.
Germany survived a late scare against Switzerland to move on to the quarterfinals round for the first time since the current tournament format was adopted in 1996. It has been a big redemption story for Germany who rebounded from a pair of crushing losses and a shorthanded lineup because of COVID-19.
Finland continued to display their fine form with a convincing 6-0 win over Slovakia, setting up a must-watch showdown against Canada for first place in Group A.
Before we look at the top three players from Day 6, there are a couple of players from Finland who deserve honourable mentions for their performances against Slovakia.
Florida Panthers prospect Anton Lundell continues to be a force for Finland as he notched his third goal of the world juniors while adding two assists. Samuel Helenius helped his draft stock with a pair of goals while Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Topi Niemela had a goal and an assist to join Lundell with six points to lead Finland.
Third Star: Rodion Amirov, Russia
Russia and Sweden pushed each other to the limit in the final game of the day and it was the top line that got the job done for Russia.
Rodion Amirov led the way for Russia with a goal and an assist — with the helper coming on the play that set up the overtime winner by Marat Khusnutdinov — and was named the player of the game for Russia. Amirov’s initial shot was saved by Jesper Wallstedt but the Swedish keeper was unable to hold on to the rebound which was scooped up by Khusnutdinov.
The Toronto Maple Leafs prospect thought he had his second of the tournament 37 seconds in the game but it was called back for goaltender interference. The Russian winger was determined to get it back and got his chance as he finished off a great tic-tac-toe play with Vancouver Canucks prospect Vasili Podkolzin finding Amirov open for the easy tap in.
While the goal was a big one for Russia, many couldn’t help but point out (no pun intended) the celebration by Amirov, who channelled his inner Auston Matthews after signalling a good goal.
That’s a familiar celly
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) December 31, 2020
It looked like Russia was on their way to ending Sweden’s streak in the third period after Amirov started the play that led to Kirill Kirsanov’s power-play goal with just over 10 minutes left.
Russia currently sits in first place in Group A but will have wait for the result of Thursday’s game between the United States and Sweden to see if they will stay there. A win by either team in regulation would push Russia out of first and out of a chance to face Slovakia in the quarterfinals.
Second Star: John-Jason Peterka, Germany
A lot of attention has been paid to Tim Stuetzle at the world juniors but John-Jason Peterka is making sure he is getting his fair share of praise as well.
The Buffalo Sabres prospect scored a hat trick and had two assists against Switzerland and was named the player of the game for his efforts.
Peterka got Germany on the board early in the first period as he took a rebound behind the net and beat an outstretched Thibault Fatton with the wraparound. His second goal came later on in the period on the power play as he took the feed from Stuetzle and snapped the perfect shot past Fatton.
His third goal of the game turned out to be a crucial one for Germany as he found a way to power through a couple of Swiss players who did all they could to try and prevent him from scoring on the empty net. That late goal would become the game-winner as a late push from Switzerland provided some nervous moments for Germany.
First Star: Tim Stuetzle, Germany
After playing a big role in Germany’s overtime victory over Slovakia, Stuetzle was back at it again against Switzerland with a pair of goals and three assists.
The third overall pick from the 2020 NHL Draft continues to show why he’s one of the more dangerous players at the world juniors when the puck is on his stick. Stuetzle put the puck through the legs of Swiss defender Cedric Fiedler and outmuscled him to the net for his first of the game.
Then in the second period, the Ottawa Senators prospect displayed some great patience as he went across the ice and beat Fatton with a quick release to put Germany up 4-0.
Stuetzle and Peterka finished the preliminary round with 10 points each and sit tied with Trevor Zegras of the United States for the tournament scoring lead. The dynamic duo will look to continue their dominance when Germany plays in the quarterfinals Saturday.