The GIFies: World Juniors Day 1

Rachel Doerrie Dec 26, 2023
The gifies world junior wrap up header

Boxing Day! Happy shopping – or just sit on your couch and do it online to avoid all the hassle. However, if you weren’t up at the crack of dawn or were shopping all day, you may have missed the opening day of the IIHF World Junior Championship. Usually, the games at the beginning of the tournament are not the cream of the crop – but there were some really good ones today. Here’s everything you need to know after Day 1 in GIFs & tweets!

Slovakia: The Dark Horse

It would seem that the Slovaks are the dark horse in this tournament after a really good performance against the Czechs on Day 1. A dominant 6-2 win where they controlled the entire game and while Adam Gajan was goodie goal, he didn’t have to stand on his head. This is a strong age group from the Slovaks who are without Juraj Slafkovsky and Simon Nemec.

Contributions from Filip Mesar, Servac Petrovsky and Samuel Honzek got the Slovaks started on the right foot. Those three, along with Adam Gajan are capable of leading the Slovakians on a deep run in this tournament, specifically with it being a down year by Finnish and Czech standards.

Early Injury Concerns

Injuries are always a concern in short tournaments because if a player goes down, they are unlikely to return. The United States got Rutger McGroarty back, but there is little chance that he’s fully healthy. He looked a little laboured in his skating and was forgivably rusty in the opener. However, he’s the heart and soul of the 2004-born Americans and a major part of what makes the team tick. If he can’t impose his will on the ice, his leadership will likely be a major factor in any American success.

In the first game of the tournament, Adam Jiricek went down twice with a lower-body injury and after a brief return, missed the rest of the game. He’s a key piece of Czechia and has struggled with lower-body injuries of late. Czechia’s medal chances would take a significant hit if he were to miss the rest of the tournament.

Canada Wins Pivotal Game

Nate Danielson was named Player of the Game for Canada, which should be automatic if you score a goal with your butt. Canada beat Finland 5-2 in the opener. Canada outplayed Finland, but took a few too many penalties – an area that will need to be cleaned up if they want to win gold.

 

Given how good the Slovakians looked, any Group A team should want to avoid them in the quarterfinals. It is likely that Canada and Finland will battle it out for second and third place, with the lower seed likely to face Slovakia in the QF. Sweden is the favourite to win Group A, meaning that the win against Finland this morning sets Canada up nicely. There is a possibility Canada finishes atop the group, but given the strength of the home Swedes, they aren’t the favourite to do so.

Tougher Than Expected

The United States beat Norway 4-1 in their opener. Given all the talk about the competitiveness of some games in the past few years, and the Americans being a contender for gold, the Norwegians deserve a lot of credit. The game was much closer than most people, including oddsmakers who set the line at -5.5, expected it to be.

No goals until the midway point of the game and the Norwegians had quite a few chances to score themselves. They held star defenceman Lane Hutson to a single point. For a guy that is expected to challenge the points record in this tournament, Norway did a great job limiting his ability to impact the scoreboard. Underdog teams in this tournament are always fun because they lay everything on the line against the traditional powers. You can see it in their play how badly they want to beat these teams. That leads to some really competitive matchups, as we saw between USA and Norway today.

Strong Swedes

The Swedes were the favourite coming into the tournament on home soil and looked every bit the part in their opening game. They are overloaded with talent all the way through the lineup and it showed. Three power play goals in the game including this beautiful one-timer by Filip Bystedt. The backhand sauce combined with great movement makes this look easy, but that’s a high degree of difficulty executed perfectly.

They may be without Elias Salomonsson for a game or two after he was assessed a major 25 seconds into the first period.

You simply cannot do that. The Latvian player has his back to him the entire time and Salomonsson needs to take a different path to the puck or not make the hit. That kind of hit is frowned upon by the IIHF and Salomonsson is lucky there was no serious injury on the play.

If there is one GIF that sums up the Sweden-Latvia game today, it is this one.

After killing off the 5-minute major in the early going, the Swedes imposed their will in all three zones. Whether it was scoring, taking the puck to the net or simply, throwing a guy off the puck, it was an utterly dominant performance for the Swedes in the opener against Latvia.

Feeling #Old

The Swedes did a few pre-tournament videos and they have some pretty fun personalities. But, in case you wanted to feel old…here is a video of the Swedish players talking about the Sedin twins.

It didn’t end there, either…

I would say Jordan Eberle tying the game or Toews’ shootout performance, but apparently we’re ALREADY at the Alexis Lafreniere memories. I’m going to go yell at a cloud after I finish knitting, I guess.

Best Ref Moment

Macklin Celebrini appeared to score for Canada and after review…

Who doesn’t love a little drama? Wes McCauley is the most well-known NHL ref largely because of his calls on the mic. Swedish ref Daniel Eriksson gave us his best Wes and I, for one, appreciated it.

Play of the Day

This might be the save of the tournament when all is said and done. The Canadian defence committed a really sloppy turnover leading to a 2v0. Mathis Rousseau stole a goal like the Grinch stole presents and Canada would score moments later. A sprawling glove save that he had no business making. Usually, goalies from Slovakia, Czechia make this a tough choice with all of their highlight reel saves. Today’s Save of the Day, a no brainer.

Best Reminder

This is a great point by Derek. North Americans, particularly Canadians are accustomed to dominating the tournament. That is not the reality anymore. The Swedish development programs has allowed them to produce elite skill and one of the best defensive lineups in the history of the tournament on paper. The Slovaks continue to develop their hockey program, allowing them to produce the likes of Slafkovsky, Nemec, Mesar and Petrovsky. The Czechs, without icing their strongest group have produced Sale, the Jiricek brothers and Matyas Sapovaliv. While Canada does have the likes of Connor Bedard and Adam Fantilli unavailable, this is a great reminder that other countries are developing their hockey programs which bodes well for the growth of the sport.

Fun Fact!

Rachel Doerrie

Rachel Doerrie is a sports media personality, businesswoman, and former NHL front office member. Doerrie began her career as a consultant for several teams before joining the New Jersey Devils and, later, joining the Vancouver Canucks as an analyst and video coach. In media, Doerrie has written for some of the top outlets in the industry such as The Athletic, EP Rinkside, and The Hockey News. She created the hit Staff & Graph podcast that has grown into the streaming and video spaces and continues to consult with professional sports teams on data analysis and communications.

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