World Championship: Setting Up Each Quarterfinal Showdown

World Championship: Setting Up Each Quarterfinal Showdown

Seeding for the IIHF men’s World Championship quarterfinals all came down to the final games of the preliminary round, with USA and Switzerland finishing atop their respective Groups. Now, it’s single-elimination hockey, with a chance to play for a medal on the line. 

USA was the only team to exit the preliminary round undefeated, while Switzerland had six wins and an overtime loss in their final game to Latvia, a victory which earned the Latvians a berth into the quarterfinals. The other known result from the preliminary round is that Hungary and Slovenia will be relegated to the Div. I-A World Championship next year.

For now, however, it’s playoff hockey in Finland and Latvia in what will certainly be four exciting games. Here’s a look at each matchup in the quarterfinals.

View the original article to see embedded media.

Team USA vs. Team Czechia

It’s often interesting who emerges as leaders in international competition. For Team USA, it wasn’t their NHL or NCAA stars, but it was a pair of AHL players in T.J. Tynan and Rocco Grimaldi. Neither played an NHL game this season, but they finished third and sixth in AHL scoring, respectively. 

Tynan is also second in tournament scoring. The 31-year-old, who played for the Ontario Reign, did it in his typical fashion as a setup man, recording a single goal and nine assists. In the AHL regular season, he was the only player among the top 35 in league scoring to have fewer than 10 goals but still finished with 81 points. 

While Tynan and Grimaldi led the way for the Americans in the preliminary round, followed closely by youngster Cutter Gauthier, Team USA will look for their veteran NHL presence, players like Alex Tuch and Conor Garland, to step up in the team’s first elimination game.

On the other side of the puck, Czechia rode Dominik Kubalik’s performance. The Detroit Red Wings forward led all scorers with eight goals and 12 points through the opening round. Kubalik will need to continue his hot hand against the Americans if Czechia hopes to advance. 

Roman Cervenka and defender Michal Kempny were also team leaders offensively, helping Czechia reach the quarterfinals. The real difference-maker for the Czechs, however, was Arizona Coyotes netminder Karel Vejmelka. He will need to have a spectacular game to upset Team USA. In the end, this could turn into a goaltending duel between Vejmelka and USA’s Casey DeSmith.

Team Switzerland vs. Team Germany

The Swiss were the surprise team of the preliminary round, losing only their final game in overtime. Switzerland had strength in Nino Niederreiter, Denis Malgin and Janis Moser to open the tournament, but no team received a bigger mid-tournament boost than the Swiss, adding Kevin Fiala, Nico Hischier and Jonas Siegenthaler to the mix. 

While their star power was important, what truly carried the Swiss was their depth, with 15 players scoring three or more points and no players in the top 20 in tournament scoring. Top to bottom, this roster contributed as coach Patrick Fischer deployed four lines almost evenly throughout the early stages of the tournament.

After opening the tournament 0-3, Germany mounted a strong comeback to earn a spot in the quarterfinals. J.J. Peterka put the Germans on his shoulders and carried his nation to four straight, convincing wins to close out the prelims. They enter this elimination looking confident and have played stingy, suffocating team defense throughout. 

Germany and Switzerland play a similar style, which could result in a low-scoring nailbiter.

Team Sweden vs. Team Latvia

Sweden was a favorite to win the World Championship from puck drop, only losing to the Americans in overtime. 

Longtime Swedish national team staple Henrik Tommernes is having the tournament of his life, recording 10 points in seven games from the blueline. 

The status of Rasmus Sandin, who took a knee-on-knee hit against the Americans, will be crucial to Sweden’s tournament success. Sandin was a big reason for the nation’s success, alongside mid-tournament addition Timothy Liljegren. The duo to watch in the quarterfinals, however, will be the pair of Detroit Red Wings up front in Lucas Raymond and Jonatan Berggren. Both have shown why there is hope in Detroit, and both will be keys for Sweden’s medal hopes.

Introducing the Cinderella team of the tournament, Latvia. After a pair of tough losses to open the tournament, Latvia beat Czechia and Switzerland en route to five straight wins to vault into third place in Group B. 

Rudolfs Balcers, who played a handful of games in the NHL this season, was Latvia’s offensive leader with eight points, followed by former Vancouver Canucks draft pick Rodrigo Abols who provided timely scoring for the Latvians. 

If this Cinderella story is going to continue, however, it will be on the back of Vancouver Canucks prospect Arturs Silovs. The 22-year-old netminder looked good in a five-game audition with the Canucks this season and has game-stealing capabilities.

Team Canada vs. Team Finland

Playing in front of a packed home crowd, Finland will have an extra attacker on hand with the fans. 

Despite winning five of seven games, Finland took advantage of the weak bottom half of Group A and looked underwhelming at times. That said, the Finns are the reigning gold medalists and are coming in facing a Canadian team that has also looked pedestrian at times despite having the largest NHL contingent. 

If Finland hopes to beat Canada and win a medal, it’s time for their sleeping giants to wake up. Mikko Rantanen had eight assists to lead the Finns in points but didn’t score a goal in seven preliminary games. By comparison, Rantanen, who scored 55 goals in the NHL this season, did not go seven games all season without scoring a goal. Similarly, Kaapo Kakko, who had 18 goals in the NHL this year with the New York Rangers, only scored once. Finland’s supporting cast helped the team squeeze into the quarterfinals, but they’ll need more from their stars to win a medal.

Canada is an NHL team from top to bottom, with only prospect Adam Fantilli not playing in the league this year. 

The loss of Joe Veleno, who was suspended five games for stomping on an opponent, is significant for Canada, as he was having a breakout tournament. 

When you couple that with the fact Canada’s leading scorer was defender MacKenzie Weegar, who in these more competitive games might not be able to jump into the play or take risks as he did in the preliminary round, and the Canadians should have reasons for concern. They haven’t played like an NHL-heavy team, particularly in a significant upset against Norway and their loss to Switzerland. 

Lawson Crouse has been the most consistent scoring threat for Team Canada, who will need offense from their depth and another solid performance from goalie Samuel Montembeault if they hope to hold off the Finns and their home team backing.

Related Articles


Your email address will not be published.

Skip to toolbar