Days three and four of the World Junior Under-20 Championships saw five games played, four of which included Habs’ prospects. Unlike the first two days of the tournament, the favored teams found ways to win, and in most cases won big. Finland rebounded from a surprise loss to Germany with a 6-2 win over the Czech Republic, the only game played not including a potential future Habs’ player.
Meanwhile, Juraj Mikus found the back of the net in a losing cause against Sweden and Carey Price protected his net against a defensive German team who won big games against the US and Slovakia this week. Sergei Kostitsyn picked up an assist on the only goal scored in a game with Russia, ending in a 6-1 loss for the young Belarusian. Pavel Valentenko, who saw action against fellow prospect Kostitsyn in that game, played a strong two games. Valentenko got an assist in a 6-0 win over Switzerland, and then added a goal against Belarus on route to a 6-1 win.
Carey Price: Price came out with his third straight win to remain unbeaten in the tournament and helped Canada clinch a birth into the semi-finals. He allowed a single goal against Germany, a power-play goal that was deflected 5-hole when his own defenseman, Ryan Parent, attempted to block the shot. Price saw only 19 shots from the defensive German squad, but came up with what is likely his save of the tournament during third period action versus Germany. The save was one that Price needed to dive cross-crease to deflect a puck that was destined for the initial wide-open net. Price’s 0.953 save percentage and 1.33 GAA is second only to Russia’s Semen Varlamov who holds a 0.957 save percentage and a 1.00 GAA through three games. Both are tied for the tournament lead with 3 wins each.
Sergei Kostitsyn: Kostitsyn played his third game of the tournament against the high-flying Russians. He picked up an assist on Belarus’ only goal of the 6-1 loss for his third point of the season. Kostitsyn, who has been expected to lead his team, hasn’t had much support. Only two other players have more than a single point for the Belarus team. Kostitsyn is a -2 over three games, but the stat shouldn’t raise too much concern as the entire team combines for a -27 thus far in the tournament. Even though he has seven shots through three games, expect the Belarus coaching staff to ask Kostitsyn to shoot some more after only getting one on net versus Russia.
Juraj Mikus: Mikus is currently on a scoring streak, albeit a short one. He scored his second goal in as many games against Sweden on Thursday. Since both of his goals were scored with the man advantage, like Kostitsyn, Mikus’ +/- currently sits at a -2. With two games remaining, the first against Team USA and the second against Canada, it will be interesting to see if Mikus can continue to score. He has five shots over two games.
Pavel Valentenko: Valentenko saw action in two games the past couple of days and should be proud of his team’s play. Russia scored 12 goals while only allowing one over the past two days, helping them along to a perfect record thus far with a single match left against Finland on New Years Eve. Valentenko has played a large part in Russia’s success with his steady defensive play. His offensive touch has been a bit of a surprise. With a goal and an assist in three games of the tournament, Valentenko already has more points now than he has over 32 games with his team in the Russian Super League.
There is question to whether or not Carey Price will play against Slovakia on New Years Eve in order to give him a break with Canada having already clinched a bye into the semi-finals. However, if Price sits in favor of backup goaltender Leland Irving, he will have a total of 4 days off before the semi-final game. This may be too much time for the star net-minder to sit, so don’t be surprised if Price is between the pipes for a forth consecutive game.
Price, Kostitsyn, and Valentenko each have only a single game left before the medal round, while Mikus will play twice over the next two days.