2020 WJC Day 2 Recap

by Jokke Nevalainen on December 28, 2019

 

In today’s recap, I combined both games into one article because I’m sure not everyone was super excited about the Slovakia-Kazakhstan game. But it was an important game because the loser of the game would likely go to relegation round whereas the winner is very close to securing their playoff spot, so let’s start by going though what happened in that game.

 

SVK-KAZ

 

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After a scoreless first period, Slovakia got on the board on the power play. Winger Oliver Okuliar, who plays for Lethbridge in the WHL, started the play by giving a nice pass to winger Maxim Cajkovic (TBL), who plays for Saint John in the QMJHL. Cajkovic then makes a quick little pass to defenseman Samuel Knazko (2020), a projected third round pick who plays in the Finnish junior league. Knazko makes a great cross ice pass, and Okuliar is there to finish it off with a nice one-timer. Slovakia’s three most skilled players gave them the early lead.

 

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Later in that period, Kazakhstan got on the power play, and their most skilled player, winger Maxim Musorov, took matters into his own hands. The 18-year-old Kazakh has a great shot, and you can see it here. He doesn’t have a great angle but manages to get the puck over the goalie’s shoulder. 18-year-old defenseman Danil Butenko got the only assist.

 

It was Musorov’s third goal in the tournament which puts him at the top of the goal-scoring race. This shouldn’t come as a big surprise because he’s had a great season in the Russian junior league – his 1.35 points-per-game average leads all under-19 players in the MHL – and he’s also played a dozen KHL games as well. Musorov didn’t get drafted last summer but he’s making a statement in this tournament – he’s one to watch for sure.

 

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With less than three minutes left in the third period, Slovakia regained their lead. 19-year-old forward Daniel Tkac, who was actually born in USA and plays in the BCHL, received a great pass from winger Michal Mrázik, who plays in the Swedish junior league. 18-year-old defenseman David Mudrak, who plays in the Finnish junior league, got the secondary assist.

 

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Slovakia added an empty-net goal to seal the deal, and they are now on their way to the playoffs with this crucial win against Kazakhstan. The Kazakhs would need a win against Finland and a point against Sweden to avoid relegation round, so that is very unlikely to happen.

 

19-year-old defenseman Temirlan Gaitamirov, who plays in the USHL and is the Captain for Team Kazakhstan, got the Player of the Game honors. For Slovakia, it was 18-year-old goalie Samuel Hlavaj who plays for Sherbrooke in the QMJHL. Hlavaj had a 0.957 save percentage in the game, so he definitely deserved the honor. I’m not quite sure how Gaitamirov got the honor instead of Musorov but that’s not so important.

 

Even though Okuliar scored that great power play goal, he was a bit disappointing otherwise. His decisions with the puck were not very good and he wasn’t as dominant as I expected him to be. Cajkovic and Knazko were better than him but they weren’t amazing either. Slovakia’s big guns need to be better in the upcoming games if they want to win more than just the Kazakhstan game.

 

GER-USA

 

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The late game was much-anticipated because it was Germany’s first game in this tournament after earning the promotion to the top level last year. Germany has never had as many NHL prospects as they do right now, so everyone wanted to see how they look against a powerhouse team like USA.

 

Germany got off to a great start when they got an early power play and didn’t feel like wasting that opportunity. Defenseman and Team Captain Moritz Seider (DET) makes a simple pass to winger Dominik Bokk (CAR) who makes a great cross ice pass to forward Tim Stützle (2020) who in turn makes an even better cross ice pass to winger John-Jason Peterka (2020) who lifts the puck over the helpless-looking goalie.

 

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But USA responded quickly. Just a few minutes later, defenseman Jordan Harris (MTL) takes advantage of a German forward falling down and makes a great shot that gets past the goalie. Forward Trevor Zegras (ANA) got the primary assist and winger Arthur Kaliyev (LAK) got the secondary. Even though he is capable of playing down the middle, Zegras has been used at wing in this tournament so far.

 

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Later in the first period, defenseman Zac Jones (NYR) put USA ahead by one. Jones received a great pass from Zegras, who got the primary assist. But also noteworthy is the pass made by center Shane Pinto (OTT) who gets the secondary assist.

 

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But Germany wasn’t ready to give up. They had another power play opportunity early in the second period, and Peterka gets his second goal in the game. Seider shoots from the blue line, and his shot bounces back from the end-board. Peterka is the quickest to find the puck and puts it in. Bokk got the secondary assist.

 

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A few minutes after tying the game, Germany regained their lead once again. Winger Lukas Reichel (2020) starts the play from the defensive zone, and then Justin Schütz (FLA), who is better-known as a winger but played at center in this game, makes a great pass between Harris’ legs, and Bokk shows his finishing skills to put the Germans ahead. It was Bokk’s third point in the game.

 

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But only minutes after that, it was USA’s turn to tie the game. Defenseman K’Andre Miller (NYR) makes a nice zone entry and passes to Zegras who shoots, and Pinto finds the rebound and puts it in quickly. It was Zegras’ third primary assist in the game.

 

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And only a few minutes after tying the game, it was USA’s turn to regain the lead. Zegras makes an unbelievable pass from behind the net, and Curtis Hall (BOS) puts it in quickly. This was Zegras’ fourth primary assist in the game – and it was the fourth goal scored by USA. Jacob Pivonka (NYI) got the secondary assist.

 

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In the third period, USA got a power play opportunity, and it’s winger Bobby Brink (PHI) who breaks the German’s backs. Jones shot the puck from the blue line but wingers Oliver Wahlstrom (NYI) and Nicholas Robertson (TOR) received assists on the goal, so they must have touched the puck before it landed on Brink’s stick.

 

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A few minutes later, it was time for Wahlstrom to step up and put the final nail in the coffin. He hadn’t been all that noticeable until this goal but shows his excellent finishing skills here. Pinto gets the primary assist, and it was a great play because he drew two Germans onto him which opened up that room for Wahlstrom. It was Pinto’s third point in the game.

 

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And that was the final score. Zegras and Peterka deservedly got the Player of the Game honors, and Zegras’ performance was definitely the highlight of the entire day. Pinto and Bokk also had three-point nights which shouldn’t go unnoticed.

 

It was a valiant effort from the Germans but they just don’t have the depth to battle against a powerhouse team for full 60 minutes. And because they play in the Group of Death, their opponents don’t get much easier than that – today, they play against the host country Czech Republic, and then it’s Canada and Russia after that. Those will be good learning experiences for them but I’m not expecting them to win any of those games.

 

But Germany definitely has enough skill to beat Kazakhstan in the relegation round to remain at the top level. Bokk and Schütz will age out after this tournament and Seider will likely play in the NHL next season but it looks like their three 17-year-olds, Stützle, Reichel and Peterka, are ready to carry the team next year, so that will be interesting to see. Stützle is a projected top ten pick (number five on my board) whereas Reichel and Peterka should get drafted in the second and third round.

 

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And that’s all for now, thanks for reading. Feel free to add comments below. Remember to follow me on Twitter @JokkeNevalainen.

 

 

Main picture courtesy of usahockeyntdp.com