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Semifinal Preview: World Juniors

Are more upsets on the way in the World Juniors?

It’s semifinal day at the World Juniors tomorrow! After an intense day of quarterfinal action on Tuesday, only the United States, Czechia, Sweden and Finland remain. The undefeated Americans are the clear favorites at this point, but as we know, anything can happen in this tournament. Let’s get into the games!

Sweden vs Czechia

Tomorrow’s first semifinal game between the Swedes and Czechs should be a good one. Czechia will be riding high after their quarterfinal win against Canada, but the Swedes will provide a different and possibly even more difficult challenge in this round. No team in the tournament has given up fewer goals than Sweden’s seven in five games, and the only team to score more than two against them has been Finland. For Czechia, they’ll need to stay close in this game for its entirety. The Swiss almost erased a two-goal deficit against Sweden in the quarterfinals, but I doubt the home team will let that happen again.  

To keep it close, they’ll need to stay disciplined. Sweden has scored eight powerplay goals on 19 opportunities in this tournament, and if you give them too many chances, they will make you pay. The Czechs have been pretty good at staying out of the box so far, but it’ll be more important than ever for this game. The player to watch in this matchup is Czechia’s Jiri Kulich. While Sweden has a core group of guys that are similar in skill, Kulich is the straw that stirs the drink for the Czechs. He’s the only player on his team in the top ten for tournament scoring, and if he’s kept off the scoresheet, it’s hard to imagine Czechia coming away with another upset. With that being said, I expect this contest to be a very closely contested one throughout. 

Prediction: 3-2 SWEDEN  

United States vs Finland

In the second semifinal, we’ll see Finland take on the United States for a trip to the gold medal game. The Americans were our favourite to win at the beginning of the tournament this year, and so far, they’ve lived up to the expectations. Some defensive issues have popped up occasionally in the tournament, especially in their shootout win against the Czechs, but the U.S.A.’s offensive firepower is unmatched. Through five games, the team scored 36 goals, thirteen more than the next team. They also have eight players with more than five points in the tournament, proving that their scoring is deep and can come from various players. 

Despite their success so far, the U.S. cannot take Finland lightly. They’ve looked very beatable when they don’t have their best stuff in this tournament, and Finland is a team that can make them pay. The Finns certainly didn’t have their best stuff at the beginning of the tournament, but since the loss to Germany, they’re 3-0-0 with two wins against Sweden and Slovakia after regulation. The team is young, and hopefully, they’ll be taking a nothing-to-lose approach to their game with the mighty Americans. The key to the game will be their defence. The United States will give Finland opportunities on offence, but if this turns into a shootout, Finland will almost certainly lose.  

The Fins certainly have a chance at the upset here if they do everything right, but I think the American offence will be too much in the end. 

Prediction: 5-2 USA 

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