Ice Hockey World Championship: Quarter-Finals Preview
The group stage of global sensations did not give. Decreased in the class were Hungary and Slovenia, which only a year ago rose to the top 16. They will be replaced by Poland (which has not played in the elite since 2002) and the UK. Only the strongest remained.
USA – Czech Republic
Start: 16.20, Tampere
Team USA hasn’t been a world champion since 1960. The Ice Yankees never made it to the finals (until 1992 the tournament was held in a round robin and even combined with the Olympics) and, in principle, the Americans do not consider the World Cup a priority competition. However, David Quinn (he coaches San Jose in the NHL), who took the Stars and Stripes to the second World Cup in a row, clearly got a taste and gained experience. For the first time in its history, the United States won seven out of seven matches in the group stage. The Americans could take the maximum 21 points, but in the last game with the Swedes they missed two goals of the advantage – they had to squeeze the “tre krunur” in overtime.
The US attack was the best in the group stage – 34 goals. Only the Swedes conceded fewer “stars and stripes” (8 goals). Special brigades showed themselves at a good level – 33.33% of the implementation of the majority and 81.25% of the neutralization of the minority.
The Americans traditionally have a lot of young people (13 field players under the age of 25), among which forward Cutter Gauthier (the fifth number of the last draft, he has 6 + 2 in the group stage) stands out in the tournament, as well as oversized and high-speed defenders Scott Perunovich (1 + 5) and Lane Hutson (2 + 3), who are great to connect to the attacks.
But experienced players are also showing themselves well, and there are many of them, as for the US team, at this World Cup. Pittsburgh’s two-time Stanley Cup winner Nick Bonino scored three goals, four goals from Alex Tuck, who had a great season at Buffalo, scored seven (2 + 5) points from Vancouver’s Connor Garland, and Casey Desmith reliably defends the goal from Pittsburgh.
Americans traditionally rely on high speeds. Unsurprisingly, their top scorers in the group stage were oversized guys who didn’t have an NHL career – T.J. Tynan (1+9) and Rocco Grimaldi (4+5).
The Czech Republic against the background of the United States in the group looked frankly miserable. She lost to Canada (1:3), Switzerland (2:4), and even Latvia (3:4 in overtime). That is, all decent teams of the Czechs beat. A year ago, the Czech Republic interrupted a 10-year streak without medals at the World Championships (it was the United States that beat the bronze in the match for bronze), but then the Slavs had a super duet Krejci – Pastrnak. Now Dominik Kubalik (8 goals – the best sniper of the tournament) and the eternal Roman Cervenka (3 + 6 – not bad for a 37-year-old veteran) are showing themselves well. However, behind them in the attack of the Czechs, in fact, there is no one. The situation was noticeably aggravated due to injuries to Filip Chytil of the Rangers and Lukas Sedlak.
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Czech coach Kari Jalonen tried all three goaltenders in the tournament – no one looked super reliable, but it seems that the choice was made in favor of Karel Veimelka, who is used to deflecting a lot of shots in his Arizona.
In any other situation, the US team would have been the undisputed favorite. However, the Czech Republic has historically been able to play on counterattacks, not to let the opponent turn on the speed, and the goalkeeper is able to give out a match of a lifetime – even though there are no new Dominik Haseks. In addition, the United States, although it has reached bronze four times in the last 10 years, is considered the loser of the world championships. It won’t be easy for the Ice Yankees.
Switzerland – Germany
Start: 16.20, Riga
Switzerland has long been either wanting to expand the real elite of world hockey to the top 7, or throw the Czech Republic out of the top 6. Since the past decade, the “neutrals” have had more achievements than the Czechs and the Americans – they reached the World Cup finals in 2013 and 2018.
The current Switzerland is able to at least repeat its best result. The Crusaders started with three dry wins, then began to clobber the strongest opponents in the group – Slovakia (4:2), Canada (3:2) and the Czech Republic (4:2). And only on the last game day they allowed the hosts-Latvians to beat themselves from the master’s shoulder (3:4 in overtime).
The Swiss, even without the NHL landing force, would be considered a World Cup playoff-level team, because they have a very strong local league. And a lot of Enkhael players arrived, even those who played in the second round of the Stanley Cup – only the elite defender Roman Yosi was not enough for complete happiness. However, the roster is already impressive: Niko Hishir and Jonas Siegenthaler from New Jersey, Nino Niederreiter from Winnipeg, Kevin Fiala from Los Angeles, Janis Moser from Arizona, Denis Malgin from Colorado. At the same time, the best sniper of the Swiss, along with Niederreiter (thrown four goals each), is the 39-year-old Andres Ambuhl, for whom this is – attention – the 18th world championship in the elite division at the adult level in his career.
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The performance of Germany, which has not won a World Cup medal since 1953, and over the past 13 years has made it to the semi-finals only once, looks pale compared to the Swiss. The Germans started with three defeats, then won a key match against Denmark (6:4), after which they confidently coped with three outsiders and secured a ticket to the playoffs. Detroit’s Moritz Seider could have been more than a 1+2 in the group stage, having already shown his prowess on the blue line in the NHL. However, there are no and cannot be any particular complaints about Zayder, and other NHL players are doing well – we are talking about forwards JJ Peterka (4 + 5) and Niko Sturm, who scored five goals.
Like the first couple, formally there is a clear favorite here, but it’s better not to expect an easy life for him. A year ago, Switzerland generally won all seven matches in the group, but in the quarterfinals fell victim to the cool game of the Americans on the counterattacks. Germany won the last two personal meetings in the playoffs at the World Championships against the Swiss. The Germans, although they lost in the group to the strongest opponents, but strictly by one puck in a severe struggle – 0:1 to Sweden, 3:4 to Finland and 2:3 to the Americans.
Canada – Finland
Start: 20.20, Tampere
At the last three World Championships, these teams made up the final pair. In 2019 and 2022, the Finns won, in 2021 the Canadians turned out to be stronger, and in 2020 the World Cup was not held due to the coronavirus pandemic. And only four years ago the final ended in regular time – then everything was decided in overtime.
The fact that now we see the sign Canada – Finland already in the quarterfinals means that someone did not have the best group stage. And just to the founders of hockey there are fewer claims. Yes, they screwed up, losing not only to the strong Swiss, but even to the Norwegians (for the second time in history), albeit in a shootout. However, Canada still finished second in the group and decided on the main goalkeeper – Sam Montembo is clearly superior to Joel Hofer and Devon Levy.
Canada consistently brings lineups to the World Championships that are almost a hundred (now – without “hardly”) percent different from last year. Therefore, the “maple” need time to build up and to play. However, there is no feeling that Canada is adding. But it is clear what kind of hockey the founders play, because the roster is full of those who are in the top of the NHL in terms of power moves.
This line-up of Canada is virtually devoid of stars. Milan Lucic, Tyler Myers and Tyler Toffoli have names, but Lucic and Myers are behind their best years. The forwards are so unimpressive that the team’s top scorer is defenseman Mackenzie Wigar of Calgary with 9 (3+6) points. And only after him comes the enforcer Lawson Krause from Arizona, who has five goals without assists. Joe Veleno, who has 2+3, is suspended until the end of the tournament for playing dirty in the match against Switzerland. 18-year-old Adam Fantilli, who is preparing for the draft, proves that he is not Connor Bedard (he refused to go to the tournament) – just 0 + 2 in the group stage.
Canada could not disappoint much, because they did not expect high class and brightness from it. Head coach Andre Turigny in his “Arizona” is used to the role of an outsider who pushes a lot at the boards and counts on counterattacks.
But Finland is disappointing. Suomi as if decided to remind that until the golden year 2022 (then they won the Beijing Olympics), she consistently flunked the home world championships, flying past the medals. On the one hand, both defeats in the group stage came at the start – on the first day, the Americans simply beat the Finns in speed and won 4:1, then in the third round there was a dull match with Sweden and a failure in the shootout. On the other hand, a series of victories at the finish does not mean that the Finns have added, as the opponents were weak.
There is a feeling that the system of the best Finnish coach in the history of Jukka Jalonen (three world titles, the winner of the Olympics, without him Suomi won gold only once) does not work at all like everyone is used to. 15 missed goals in the group stage is a lot for the Finns. After all, a year ago they conceded 10 goals less, and now the statistics have improved only due to meetings with outsiders.
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Finland now has a more stellar roster than a year ago. And, for example, Colorado’s elite shooter Mikko Rantanen is the team’s leading scorer with eight points. The problem is that Rantanen, even playing against all sorts of Hungarians, French and Austrians, still has never scored. More than one goal was expected from the talented Kaapo Kakko – he had six goals at the 2019 World Gold Championship. Not impressive in the role of the main goalkeeper Emile Larmy. Except that the special brigades are fine. But, if the star snipers do not break through, then Finland may not hope to retain the championship title. Even such Canada will be difficult to pass.
Sweden – Latvia
Start: 20.20, Riga
Latvia has demonstrated miracles of character. After all, the co-hosts of the tournament started with 0:6 from Canada, then lost to direct competitors to the Slovaks (1:2) and, it seemed, they could only dream of reaching the playoffs – the first since 2018. However, Latvia was able to gather its will into a fist – five victories in a row, four of which with a difference of one puck, two in overtime (over the Czech Republic and Switzerland). The team of Harijs Vitolinsh even climbed to third place in the group, beating the Czechs.
At the same time, the Latvians were by no means able to gather all the strongest – Elvis Merzlikins and Zemgus Girgensons did not arrive, Teddy Bluegers is fighting for the Stanley Cup as part of Vegas. But Rudolfs Balzers (1+7), Rodrigo Abols (5+2) and Kaspars Daugavins (3+3) showed themselves perfectly.
Of course, Sweden will be the clear favorite of this pair. But the Tre Krunur will surely have problems, not only because of their traditional arrogance and self-confidence. The times when star Swedish players traveled en masse to the World Cup are in the past.
Elias Pettersson from Vancouver wanted to participate in this tournament, but the federation did not pull his insurance. William Nylander from Toronto wanted to come, but changed his mind, as he was afraid that he could deprive his brother Alex of his place in the application. Rasmus Sandin was injured – in this squad of the Swedes he is an excellent performer for the blue line. However, Henrik Tömmernes does an excellent job with the functions of an attacking defender, who made 10 assists, there is also Timothy Lilliegren from Toronto. Detroit sniper Lucas Raymond is not impressive.
However, the advantage of “tre krunur” in the class should have an effect. Possibly even outside of regular time.
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