Though only two games were played today, Day 5 proved to be the single most eventful day of the World Juniors so far. Without getting too deep into the details, essentially here’s a brief summary of what happened: Finland fired their entire coaching staff mid-game, and Latvia will take on the Finns in the tournament’s relegation round.
Finland, the reigning World Junior champions, will play in the relegation round. I am repeating this only because of how ridiculous it seems. Assuming that Finland’s talent graduation from last year’s tournament is the main reason why the team has been losing so badly, this is a fairly detrimental situation for the Finns. I don’t think that firing the entire coaching staff mid-game is the correct solution to the problem, either, but then again, maybe a major shakeup is exactly what this team needs.
All speculation aside, Latvia will be facing Finland in what’s sure to be an interesting relegation round. This is not an ideal situation for Martins Dzierkals, as he and his team will now be forced to fight for their position in the tournament’s top division, only one year after being promoted.
LATVIA VS. SLOVAKIA
Here are the highlights from Slovakia’s 4-2 win over Latvia from earlier this evening:
— IIHF WJC (@iihf_wjc) December 31, 2016
I don’t really have a lot to say about this game. It was clear that Latvia tried their best, but grew frustrated at times. Ultimately, they just could not top the Slovaks. Dzierkals had a solid game once again, but unfortunately, he couldn’t compete with the offensive abilities of Slovakia.
I have been complaining about Latvia’s lack of defensive abilities since their 9-1 loss to Russia on Tuesday. I thought that Latvia did an okay job defending against the Canadians – and by that, I mean I found myself screaming defensive instructions to the Latvian players on the ice more so on Tuesday (against Russia) than I did on Thursday (against Canada). Latvia is frustrating to watch at times; their coaching staff have not impressed me to any extent, as I find their defensive tactics underwhelming. Proper man-on-man coverage shouldn’t be hard to emphasize, especially given that defense seems to be the team’s most prominent weakness, but somehow, the Latvian players have been struggling to properly communicate and defend in their own zone.
Dzierkals had 2 penalty minutes and 0 points, with 23:09 TOI through 60 minutes of play. Yet again, Dzierkals was within the top-3 in terms of highest minutes played by a Latvian forward, third to only Player of the Game Filips Bucnis (24:00) and Rudolfs Balcers (24:40)
Don’t be sad, though. The Latvian players sure aren’t:
Nothing keeps the Latvian’s down it appears.
They are now singing their national anthem in the @AirCanadaCentre concourse.
— Sasky Stewart (@saskystewart) December 31, 2016
DAY 6 PREVIEW
Day 6 will mark the end of the preliminary round of this year’s WJHC, and so much is still undecided. Jeremy Bracco and the Americans will face Canada in the World Juniors New Year’s Eve Classic game, taking place tomorrow at 3:30 EST. Sweden, who clinched the number-one seed in Group A, will face the third place Czechs tomorrow at 1:00 EST in Montreal.
In other WJC action, Slovakia will be taking on Russia in tomorrow’s late game, and the Finns will face off against Switzerland at 5:30 EST.
Here’s a brief look at the standings, heading into Day 6:
Sweden has clinched the number one spot in Group A, and will play the loser of tomorrow’s Russia/Slovakia game in the quarter-finals. Canada and the USA will battle it out for the top spot in Group A, and the winner will face the fourth seed in Group B (one of Denmark, Czech Republic or Switzerland). The rest of the quarterfinal matchups will be determined based on the results of tomorrow’s games.