Day two of the World Junior Hockey Championship had big shoes to fill, as the opening day was filled with stunning upsets as well as an overtime thriller.
Thankfully for hockey fans, the youngsters came through, and there was more outstanding hockey played out in Eastern Canada on Tuesday.
We had our first shootout of the tournament, courtesy of Latvia and Switzerland, with the Swiss taking home their second consecutive extra-time victory.
Finland, runners-up at the last tournament, came away with a bounce-back performance over Slovakia after being upset by Switzerland on day one.
Meanwhile, Sweden still has yet to concede a goal this tournament after blanking Germany on Tuesday, though they were tested by the scrappy German squad.
The final game of the day saw the upstart Czechs push their record to 2-0 with a convincing 9-0 win over Austria. As Canadian fans well know, it is time to take Czechia as a legitimate threat to win a medal at this year’s tournament.
Here is a look at the best performances from the second day of the World Juniors:
3rd Star: Oliver Kapanen, Finland
When a team needs to rebound from a disappointing performance, the first person looked to for guidance is usually the team captain. Thankfully for Finland, Oliver Kapanen led by example on Tuesday, sparking his team to a 5-2 win over Slovakia.
Kapanen, drafted 64th overall by the Montreal Canadiens in 2021, was solid on both ends of the ice for the Finns. He won key faceoffs, back checked like a mad man, all while also contributing on the score sheet.
The 19-year-old’s lone goal, which ended up being the game-winner, put his full arsenal of skills on display. He used his 200-pound frame to thwart Simon Becar’s check, before using his speed to get behind the net and sneak in the wrap-around.
Next, the Canadiens’ prospect helped orchestrate Jani Nyman’s power-play marker, picking up an assist and helping his team take a comfortable 4-1 lead.
Kapanen and the Fins will enjoy a well-deserved day off Wednesday, before taking on Latvia on Thursday.
2nd Star: Jiri Kulich, Czechia
After sending shockwaves through an entire country, Czechia wanted to come out Tuesday and prove that their win over Canada was no fluke. All they did to prove that, a 9-0 drubbing of Austria.
Once again, it was hard to pick just one Czech to be represented here. Tomas Suchanek was once again solid between the pipes, picking up the shutout and his second win of the tournament. Gabriel Szturc scored twice, while defenceman Stanislav Svozil picked up four assists and is now the tournament’s leading scorer with six points.
But it was too hard to ignore the first hat trick of this tournament, courtesy of Buffalo Sabres’ prospect Jiri Kulich.
Kulich, 18, scored his first goal of the tournament late in the first, taking a cross-ice pass from the aforementioned Svozil, then ripped one high short side to put Czechia up 2-0.
The assistant captain proved with his second goal that he could score from anywhere, bombing one in from the point.
Finally, Kulich finished off the hat trick just eight seconds into the third period, breaking in alone and finishing with a nice move to make the score 8-0.
Kulich and the rest of his teammates will try and keep their early momentum going when they face off against Sweden on Thursday, in a matchup of the only two undefeated teams in Group A.
1st Star: Carl Lindbom, Sweden
It is hard to dream up a more perfect start than the one that Swedish goaltender Carl Lindbom has had at this year’s World Juniors.
Two games, two wins and two shutouts. Not too shabby.
Allowing a few goals wouldn’t have mattered in his team’s opening game on Monday as Sweden put an 11-0 hurting on Austria.
But Tuesday was a different story, as Lindbom went toe-to-toe with German netminder Nikita Quapp, propelling his team to a 1-0 victory.
He stopped all 28 shots he faced against Germany, and now has made 41 total stops without seeing one go past him, pushing Sweden’s shutout streak to 120 minutes.
Germany didn’t make it easy on him, especially in the first and third periods where they dominated the scoring chances. Arguably Lindbom’s best stop came in the third period with his team clinging to a 1-0 advantage, when Robin van Calster had a chance right out front, but was turned away by the Swede’s right pad.
The Vegas Golden Knights prospect will look to keep his shutout streak alive on Thursday when Sweden takes on the red-hot Czechs.