WJC Day 8 three stars: Levi’s shutout propels Canada to semi-final

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#After a busy round robin, the day of the 2021 #World #Junior #Hockey #Championship quarterfinals featured four of the closest matches of the entire tournament.

#Germany fought a courageous fight against #Russia, keeping the score tight for most of the game. #Unfortunately, they couldn’t score more than once against #Yaroslav #Askarov and their tournament ended when #Russia won 2-1.

#Sweden took an early 2-0 lead and looked set for an easy quarter-final victory. #But #Finland dug, pushed back and made one of the most amazing comebacks – scoring the game-winning goal with less than 30 seconds remaining to send #Sweden racing with a 3-2 victory.

#Although #Canada managed to win a 3-0 shutout against the #Czech #Republic, it was far from an easy victory. The #Czechs pushed #Canada throughout the game and made it difficult for their offense to kick in for long stretches of the game.

#Slovakia faced the #United #States for most of the game, catching up from a 3-0 deficit to make it a one-goal game in the bottom of the third. #But the #United #States pulled out for a possible 5-2 victory to secure a berth in the semifinals.

#Here are the three best performances of the quarter-finals day at the 2021 #World #Juniors.

#Third star: #Roni #Hirvonen, #Finland

#Finland looked defeated and ready to return home after the first period. #But to their credit, they picked up the pace enormously for the remaining 40 minutes and overwhelmed #Sweden at every turn.

#Although #Finland faced some adversity when their first tying goal was canceled due to an offside challenge, they were not deterred. #In fact, it served as motivation for the rest of the game.

#Leading the charge was #Finland’s front row of #Anton #Lundell, #Roni #Hirvonen and #Kasper #Simontaival. #Lundell equalized the game midway through the third period and the line outscored the #Swedish defense on every shift.

#But it was #Hirvonen, a prospect for the #Toronto #Maple #Leafs, who was ultimately the hero of the #Finns. #Hirvonen’s goal came at the perfect time, with #Finland relentlessly pressing and #Sweden not having much time afterwards to try to get the game back on track.

#Although defender #Ville #Heinola was named player of the match at the end, #Hirvonen was without a doubt the best #Finnish striker of the match. #He and his line mates refused to give up and they were eventually rewarded.

#Finland’s road to a medal won’t be easier from here. Their semi-final will be against the #American power in a few days.

#Second star: #Cole #Caufield, #United #States

#It’s fitting that on the night the #United #States redeemed themselves from leaving last year’s quarterfinal, #Cole #Caufield finally came back on the scoresheet.

The #American sniper, who celebrated his 20th birthday with the victory of the #American team, scored only one goal in the quarterfinals and many fans were disappointed by his lack of production.

#He changed that with a brilliant second-half shot that went ahead and gave the #United #States a 3-0 lead, a goal that would be the game-winner.

#Caufield probably could have scored a few more goals without the brilliance of #Slovakian goalkeeper #Simon #Latkoczy and the goal post. #Latkoczy kept the game close as the #United #States dotted it with shots and stole #Caufield on more than one occasion.

The way the #American players celebrated #Caufield’s goal was a testament to the will to see him score.

#On a night where top scorer #Trevor #Zegras was rather calm and banged up during the game, it was a relief to see another member of the #United #States stepping up offensively.

#Now, the #United #States will face #Finland in a rematch of a pre-tournament match that the #United #States won 3-2.

#First star: #Devon #Levi, #Canada

#Devon #Levi may not have been named #Canada’s player of the game against the #Czech #Republic, but he was sensational in a 29-save shutout.

#Canada got off to a quick start again, with goals from #Dylan #Cozens and #Bowen #Byram giving them a 2-0 lead.

#But for the remainder of the game, the #Czech #Republic ended the #Canadian offense, save for #Connor #McMichael’s empty-net goal at the end.

The pesky #Czechs went back to the playbook they used to upset #Russia in the round robin and nearly pulled off another upset against #Canada. They were the first team to not only beat #Canada, but also to lead over 20 shots on goal.

The difference factor in this game was #Levi. #Canada couldn’t figure out how to stop the #Czech attack and #Levi was left on his own to close the door, making several close-range saves to maintain #Canada’s lead.

#Levi appeared calm in the crease all night and even felt confident enough to shoot towards the empty net as #Canada eliminated a penalty in the dying seconds of the third period.

#Canada is getting closer to the near-impossible: to double as a gold medalist at the #World #Junior #Hockey #Championship. #To get there, however, a tough #Russian team stands in their way. #It will be a rematch of the pre-tournament game where #Canada won 1-0.

#Canada will need to increase the intensity to win, which was missing for much of its quarter-final game. #But if #Levi can keep playing the way he did, #Canada will be in good hands.

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