European Leagues

U20 World Junior Championships: Day Eight

Semifinals
Canada 5 @ Russia 6
Nikita Kucherov, Russia, 1-0-1, -2, 0 PIM, 2 SOG
Tournament totals: 6 GP, 2-5-7, +5, 2 PIM

Nikita Nesterov, Russia, 1-0-1, -1, 2 PIM, 1 SOG
Tournament totals: 6 GP, 2-3-5, +7, 6 PIM

Brett Connolly, Canada, 1-0-1, -1, 0 PIM, 6 SOG
Tournament totals: 5 GP, 5-1-6, +4, 4 PIM

In the mother of all Semifinals, Russia streaked out to a 6-1 lead early in the third period, and then held on by a fingernail in the face of 4 unanswered Canadian goals for the 6-5 victory. Nikita Kucherov's tap in goal as the trailer on a 3-on-1 ended up being the game winning goal in the match. Nikita Nesterov also contributed a power play goal for the Russians on a first period one timer from the point that was deflected in off a Canadian defender's stick. Lightning forward Brett Connolly scored the second Lightning prospect goal in the game as the extra attacker on a play where Nikita Nesterov was about to be sent off on a minor penalty. Connolly ripped a short side wrister for the goal that was Canada's only through 40 minutes. The most bizarre move of the match came when Russian coach Valeri Bragin's decided to lift Andrei Vasilevski after he stopped 44 of 49 shots for the Russians, but backup Andrei Makarov stopped 7 of 7 the rest of the way to secure the win, seemingly against all odds.

Connolly looked to be Canada's strongest player in the match. He had what was perhaps Canada's best chance to tie the game on a rebound off a shot that hit the post which he was unable to lift over Makarov's pads. Kucherov had some dangerous moments as a playmaker on what was Russia's de facto second line. He looked to be an extremely creative passer with superlative puckhandling skills that were among the best on display by both teams tonight. Nesterov, for his part, took a late second period penalty for interference that likely wasn't his and looked somewhat outclassed by the Canadians' speed and strength. Still, it's hard to complain about the Lightning prospect hat trick of goals.

Russia moves on to play Sweden in the Gold Medal match on Thursday. Sweden advanced to the Finals with a dramatic 3-2 shootout win over the rival Finns earlier in the night on the strength of a Max Friberg game tying goal with 1:44 left in regulation followed up by Friberg's winning shootout goal. Recall, Friberg scored the game tying goal with 40 seconds left in regulation against the Russians in the final game of the Preliminary Round to earn Sweden their bye in the Quarterfinals of the Medal Round. The Ducks fifth rounder is suddenly looking like a living legend for the Swedes.

Canada will play in the Bronze Medal match against the Finns on Thursday, as well.

European Game Day: 1-3-12

SM-liiga (Finland):
JYP 2 @ TPS 0
Riku Helenius, JYP, Win, 14/14, 0.00 GAA, 1.000 sv%
Season totals: 17 GP, 11-6-0, 6 SO, 1.47 GAA, .934 sv%

Well, you don't see one of these every day. Riku Helenius started the game for JYP and stopped all 14 shots he faced before leaving the game at 4:07 of the second period. Backup Joni Myllykoski stopped all 21 shots he faced the rest of the way for the combined shutout. Myllykoski and Helenius ended up being the game's first and third stars, respectively. Officially, the SM-liiga did not award Helenius the win despite his leaving the game with a 1-0 lead. However, on Bolt Prospects, we keep track of goaltenders wins and losses by the North American rules. For those interested, he's 8-6-2 by the Finnish standard, which doesn't award wins for shootout or overtime wins, either. We'll have to see about a potential injury to Helenius. JYP plays KalPa on Thursday.

KHL (Russia):
Cherepovets 4 @ Chekhov 1
Vasily Koshechkin, Cherepovets, DNP
Season totals: 22 GP, 11-8-0, 2 SO, 2.57 GAA, .919 sv%

Vasily Koshechkin did not dress in Cherepovets' 4-1 win over Chekhov. For those wondering, the KHL also scores goaltender's wins and losses like the SM-liiga, so his official KHL record is 9-8-2 and he did not receive official wins for a pair of shootout victories earlier in the season. Cherepovets draws Mytischi on Saturday.

U20 World Junior Championships: Day Six

Preliminary Round
Slovakia 6 @ Switzerland 4
Adam Janosik, Slovakia, 0-0-0, +2, 0 PIM, 3 SOG
Tournament totals: 4 GP, 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIM

Thanks in part to 4 assists by Red Wings draft pick Tomas Jurco, the Slovakians overcame a pair of 2 goal deficits to beat Switzerland 6-4 and punch their ticket to the medal round. Lightning prospect Adam Janosik was +2 in the match. Slovakia moves on to face Finland in the Quarterfinals on Monday. Switzerland falls into the Relegation bracket against Denmark, also on Monday.

Canada 3 @ USA 2
Brett Connolly, Canada, 1-0-1, +1, 0 PIM, 2 SOG
Tournament totals: 4 GP, 4-1-5, +5, 4 PIM

Canada held off a furious US comeback to scrape by the Americans 3-2. Brett Connolly's first period goal ended up being the game winner. Credit to the already Relegation Round saddled US side for not caving after falling down 3-0 in the first and giving Canada all they could handle. Canada earns a bye to the Semifinals on Tuesday. The US draws Latvia on Tuesday, and I suspect will cut a wide swath of destruction through the loser's bracket.

Russia 3 @ Sweden 4 (OT)
Nikita Kucherov, Russia, 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIM, 2 SOG
Tournament totals: 4 GP, 1-4-5, +6, 0 PIM

Nikita Nesterov, Russia, 0-0-0, -1, 2 PIM, 1 SOG
Tournament totals: 4 GP, 1-3-4, +7, 4 PIM

Whereas a 3 goal third period lead is a death sentence in pro hockey, it's not quite so in junior hockey. Ducks draft pick Max Friberg scored an extra attacker goal to cap a 3 goal third period comeback for the Swedes and Blackhawks draft pick Joakim Nordstrom scored the overtime winner in their thrilling 4-3 win over Russia. Sweden clinches a bye to the Semis with the win. Russia now faces a Quarterfinal match with the Czech Republic on Monday. Lightning prospects Nikita Nesterov and Nikita Kucherov, who were on the ice for Friberg's goal, took their first minuses of the tournament. Swedish coach Roger Ronnberg perhaps deserves considerable credit for a Steve Ludzik-like goalie switch just before the goal to get a cheap timeout after burning his official timeout earlier in the game. It was a blast from the past for older Lightning fans.

U20 World Junior Championships: Day Four

Preliminary Round
Denmark 2 @ Canada 10
Brett Connolly, Canada, 1-1-2, +3, 2 PIM, 2 SOG
Tournament totals: 3 GP, 3-1-4, +4, 4 PIM

Brett Connolly had a shorthanded goal and an even strength assist as the Canadians punished Denmark for showing up to the building 10-2. Connolly also took an undisciplined third period penalty for cross checking. Canada wraps up their Preliminary Round on Saturday against Team USA.

Latvia 0 @ Russia 14
Nikita Kucherov, Russia, 0-3-3, +5, 0 PIM, 5 SOG
Tournament totals: 3 GP, 1-4-5, +7, 0 PIM

Nikita Nesterov, Russia, 1-2-3, +5, 0 PIM, 2 SOG
Tournament totals: 3 GP, 1-3-4, +8, 2 PIM

If the Canadians set the standard Thursday night for unrelenting butt whippings, the Russians quickly rewrote it in breaking former breakaway republic Latvia 14-0. Nikita Gusev, the longtime line mate of Lightning prospect Nikita Kucherov, had 2 goals and 7 points in the match and still wasn't the team's leading scorer. That distinction went to captain Yevgeni Kuznetsov's "Kuznetztrick" stat line of 3-6-9. For their parts, Lightning representatives Nikita Kucherov and Nikita Nesterov contributed a combined 1 goal and 6 points to the rout. Russia finishes their last prelim on Saturday versus Sweden.

SM-liiga Game Day: 12-29-11

SM-liiga (Finland)
Assat 2 @ JYP 4
Riku Helenius, JYP, Win, 24/26, 2.00 GAA, ?923 sv %
Season totals: 16 GP, 10-6-0, 6 SO, 1.51 GAA, .931 sv %

Despite Assat goals by ex-Lightning prospects Kristian Kudroc and Radek Smolenak, Riku Helenius and JYP emerged with a 4-2 win. JYP draws TPS on 1/3.

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