WJC: Slovakia upsets the United States; Nylander earns Player of the Game honors

Casey Mittelstadt scores for the U.S., but his efforts are not enough in the loss

Brayton Wilson
December 28, 2017 - 8:57 pm

Photo: Mark Blinch - The Canadian Press via AP

It is arguably one of the biggest upsets at the IIHF World Junior Championship in recent memory.

Slovakia, coming in losers of their first game to Team Canada on Wednesday, knocks off the United States 3-2 on Thursday night at KeyBank Center in Buffalo.

It was Samuel Bucek who played the hero as he put the Slovaks up 3-2 on the Americans with just 2:08 left to play in regulation. Bucek started and ended the play himself, carrying it into the U.S. zone and dancing his way around and through the defense. He attempted a wrap-around that was at first stopped by American goalie Joseph Woll, but Bucek stuck with it and managed to put his rebound in-behind Woll for the go-ahead goal.

Bucek currently plays for the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League, and sits with seven goals and 18 points on his stat sheet through 20 games. The 19-year old winger went undrafted at the 2017 NHL Draft after putting up a 33-point 2016-17 campaign with the Shawinigan Cataractes of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Slovakia also got two goals from forward Filip Krivosik on the night, while netminder Roman Durny turned away 43 American shots on goal in the win. Krivosik was named as Slovakia's Player of the Game of his two-goal effort.

The United States has not lost to the Slovaks at the IIHF World Juniors since the quarterfinal round of the 2009 World Juniors held in Ottawa. However, the Americans fail to generate many quality offensive chances on the night, and end up suffering their first loss in the tournament since the semifinal round at the 2016 World Juniors in Finland.

Buffalo Sabres prospect Casey Mittelstadt was one of the goal scorers for the United States with a highlight reel goal in the third period to tie the hockey game at 2-2 with just 3:11 left to play.

Mittelstadt finished the night with his third goal of the tournament, four shots on goal, and finished with the highest ice-time among forwards at 18:40.

Team USA's other goal came from 2018 NHL Draft eligible forward Brady Tkachuk, who finished the night with a team-high six shots on goal in 17:54 of total ice-time. Tkachuk was named as the United States' Player of the Game for his efforts in the loss.

The Slovaks will have Friday off from game action before returning to the ice on Saturday to take on Finland at 4 p.m. at KeyBank Center.

Sabres prospects Alexander Nylander and Marcus Davidsson were also back in action on Thursday for Sweden, taking on Vojtech Budik and the Czech Republic at KeyBank Center. It happened to be a good day for both Buffalo prospects for Sweden as they both scored a goal in a 3-1 win.

Davidsson opened the scoring for the Swedes after Washington Capitals prospect Axel Jonsson Fjallby used his speed to drive to the net, then dropped a pass back to the Sabres' prospect for the goal. It is the first goal and first point for Davidsson in this year's tournament. Davidsson finished the evening with his goal on his only shot of the game in 9:27 of action, and was Sweden's best faceoff man, winning 63.6-percent of his draws.

Nylander put up another excellent game for Sweden. He scored on the powerplay in the third period to make the game 3-1, and added a primary assist on Elias Pettersson's (Vancouver Canucks) powerplay goal near he end of the first period. Nylander also registered five shots on goal in 20:19 of total ice-time, and was named the Player of the Game for Sweden.

The other two-point performance of the afternoon came from 2018 NHL Draft eligible defenseman, Rasmus Dahlin. He picked up assists on both of Sweden's powerplay goals, and led all Swedish skaters in ice-time at 24:05.

After the day is done, Nylander and Dahlin are in a four-way tie for the tournament lead in scoring with four points. Canada's Jordan Kyrou (St. Louis Blues) and Russia's Vladislav Syomin are the other two currently in that race.

The Czechs managed to find the net once on the afternoon with a powerplay goal from 2018 NHL Draft Eligible forward, Filip Zadina. Zadina slapped home a nice feed from Martin Necas (Carolina Hurricanes) to bring the game to within one in the second period, but the Swedes played some solid defense in the third to not let the Czechs back in the game.

As for Budik, it was another quiet night for him with no points and no shots in 17:49 of action.

Both Sweden and the Czech Republic will have Friday off before returning to the ice on Saturday. The Czechs will kick things off at 12 p.m. with a matchup against Belarus at KeyBank Center, followed by Sweden facing off with Switzerland at HarborCenter at 2 p.m.

Buffalo's fifth prospect was also in action on Thursday as Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and Finland took on Denmark to start the day. It was all Finland in this game as they out-shoot the Danes 62-7 in a 4-1 win at KeyBank Center.

Although Luukkonen did not face much action in goal, he makes six saves while keeping himself busy in net while the offense went to work.

The Finns got goals from Joona Koppanen (Boston Bruins), Aapeli Rasanen (Edmonton Oilers), Juuso Valimaki (Calgary Flames) and Henri Jokiharju (Chicago Blackhawks), while nine different players pick up a point in the win. Finland's defense shut the door on the Danes, only giving up one shot on goal in the first period, then not giving up a single shot on goal in the third.

Denmark won't have it any easier on Saturday as they face Canada in the late game at KeyBank Center. Faceoff is at 8 p.m.

The only other game in action on Thursday was at HarborCenter between Russia and Switzerland.

After the Swiss tied the game 2-2 and kept things interesting through 50 minutes of action, Artem Kayumov (Chicago Blackhawks) gave the Russians the lead for good after Blues prospect Klim Kostin found him streaking into the offensive zone off a line change. The Russians added two more goals late in the third to put the Swiss to rest, 5-2.

Kostin was honored as the Player of the Game for Russia, scoring a goal in the second period, adding his assist in the third, and registering four shots on goal in 13:44 of ice-time.

Goalie Philip Wuthrich earned Player of the Game honors for Switzerland as he made 32 saves on 36 shots faced.

Here is the schedule for Friday's games in Buffalo:

  • Russia vs. Belarus - 12 p.m. (HarborCenter)
  • United States vs. Canada - 3 p.m. (New Era Field - Orchard Park)
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