There were just two games on the schedule at the World Juniors on Wednesday, but one of them produced a third upset in as many days.
After the Swiss and Czechs stunned the defending silver and gold medalist Finns and Canadians, respectively, on Boxing Day, Slovakia upset USA in Moncton on Day 3. In Halifax, Canada bounced back from its tournament-opening loss with a commanding win over Germany. Here’s what you need to know:
- Slovakia, after falling behind 2-1 to USA, scored four unanswered and sealed their upset with an empty-netter to win 6-3.
- Canada beat Germany 11-2 on the back of a pair of hat tricks from draft-eligible sensation Connor Bedard and Arizona Coyotes first-rounder Dylan Guenther, outshooting the Germans 52-16.
The Athletic’s instant analysis:
Slovakia wins the goalie duel in upset over USA
A big storyline coming into the 2023 World Juniors was where the saves would come from in an event devoid of consensus top goalie prospects. A late Carolina pick, Nikita Quapp, gave us one great performance for Germany against Sweden. Today it was the undrafted Adam Gajan who plays in the NAHL who helped steal a win against the USA.
Slovakia got good skater performances today. Better ones from Simon Nemec (NJ) for example and their draft eligibles like Dalibor Dvorsky and Maxim Strbak were very good. But they needed Gajan to make plays against the USA offense. He stood out in a distinct way among the goalie pool in this tournament given his combination of size and athleticism. Gajan’s play wasn’t always the most efficient and was over-aggressive at times, but he made a lot of tough saves and did so in a way that’s projectable to the pros. On the other end, USA’s Mbereko could not make the big save when they needed him to. — Pronman
USA’s lack of depth shows
Coming into the tournament you knew this USA team had flaws. The 2003 age group for them wasn’t the best overall, they were young with big roles for the 2004’s, and the blue line was a question. After a less-than-convincing win versus Latvia, those issues were on display against Slovakia.
On the blue line, Luke Hughes (NJ) played 25 minutes, and no other defender played 19. Hughes and the top USA line of Logan Cooley (ARI), Cutter Gauthier (PHI) and Jimmy Snuggerud (STL) have been good, but not great, and they need them to be great because they aren’t getting a ton of help down the lineup. The fourth line for USA and specifically draft eligibles Charlie Stramel and Gavin Brindley looked positive, and Ottawa’s Tyler Boucher has played well on the third line. But USA doesn’t have impact guys outside of the top forward line and Hughes, so they need them to dominate. — Pronman
Welcome to the Connor Bedard show, Canada
TSN’s play-by-play man Gord Miller might need to consider bringing back the famous line he used on a famous No. 87 once upon a time. You can never read too much into a game when the score runs up like it did for Canada against Germany on Wednesday night, but this was also a German team that played the Swedes to a tight 1-0 loss in their opener, and only one of Bedard’s Canadian world junior record-tying seven points, all of which were primary, was a gimme (a tap-in on the second goal of his hat trick).
He looks lethal every time he touches the puck at this level and when he doesn’t force the shot (which, let’s be honest, you can live with regardless) he’s unstoppable as a playmaker, too. Bedard now has an incredible 12 goals and 21 points in 11 games at the World Juniors. No. 16 is special. — Wheeler
Schedule for Thursday, December 29
- Finland vs. Latvia at 11 a.m. ET in Moncton
- Sweden vs. Czechia at 1:30 p.m. ET in Halifax
- USA vs. Switzerland at 4 p.m. ET in Moncton
- Canada vs. Austria at 6:30 p.m. ET in Halifax
(Photo: Dale Preston / Getty Images)