The final day of round robin games at the 2021 world juniors featured two highly anticipated games and set up some intriguing quarterfinal matchups in the medal round.
The Czech Republic sealed their berth in the quarterfinals with a dominant 7-0 win over Austria. Although Austrian goaltender Sebastian Wraneschitz was once again brilliant, it wasn’t enough, and Austria’s tournament is now over.
Canada stepped up in their final round robin game and delivered one of their strongest showings of the tournament, overwhelming Finland with a relentless forecheck in an eventual 4-1 victory.
And to wrap up the round robin and 2020, the United States struck early and kept rolling, all the way to a commanding 4-0 win over Sweden.
Here are the three best performances from New Year’s Eve at the world juniors.
Third Star: Martin Lang, Czech Republic
Both the Czech Republic and Austria needed a win to advance to the quarterfinals, which meant their final game of the round robin was a high stakes affair.
Although Austria had yet to win a game at this tournament, they were far from pushovers in the first period, which saw both teams struggle to land on the scoresheet.
That changed in the second period, as Martin Lang took it upon himself to put the Czechs on his back and score two goals.
Lang ended up finishing the game with two goals and one assist and was named the player of the game as the Czech Republic cruised to a big win.
Despite their win over Russia earlier in the round robin, the Czech Republic weren’t able to finish higher than fourth in Group B. They will take on Canada on Saturday.
Second Star: Peyton Krebs, Canada
It was difficult to decide which Canadian player deserved the honour of being named one of the three stars on New Year’s Eve.
Canada absolutely smothered Finland for the majority of the game and it was arguably their most dominant performance of the entire round robin.
Dylan Cozens, who was wearing the ‘C’ tonight, had a strong case with two unassisted goals on the night.
So did Jamie Drysdale, who did not land on the scoresheet but was the team’s most consistent defenseman in what was a remarkable shutdown defensive effort by the entire team.
Ultimately, Peyton Krebs was named Canada’s best player of the game by the team, which ended up being the deciding factor. Krebs was Canada’s most consistent player, worked hard on the forecheck and controlled play whenever he was on the ice.
The Vegas Golden Knights prospect scored a beautiful goal in the second period, batting the puck between his legs while parked in front of the Finnish net.
— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) January 1, 2021
Canada finished atop Group A with a statement victory and did themselves a huge favour for the quarterfinals. While they will play a lesser opponent in the Czech Republic, Finland faces a daunting Swedish squad in their quarterfinal game.
First Star: Trevor Zegras, United States
Trevor Zegras cannot be stopped.
About four hours after Canada’s Dylan Cozens took the tournament scoring lead, Zegras dropped a goal and two assists to re-take the lead in USA’s dominant win over Sweden.
Zegras, who now leads the tournament with 13 points, has been the USA’s most dangerous player.
He was a large reason for why the team rebounded after their surprising loss to Russia and kept the United States rolling against Sweden.
Even after the game was well out of reach, Zegras refused to take his foot off the gas pedal until it was over.
The USA ended their round robin with their best performance of the tournament, stifling any offensive opportunities that Sweden had. Sweden simply had no answer for the USA’s speed and relentless forecheck.
Sweden would have needed to win this game in order to finish first in Group B. Instead, this win lifted the USA to the top of the group and set them up with an easier quarterfinal game, a date with Slovakia on Saturday. Meanwhile, the struggling Swedes will take on their Scandinavian rivals in Finland.