World Juniors 2024

EP Rinkside's 3 Stars from Day 6 of the 2024 World Juniors

GOTHENBURG, Sweden – Whenever Sweden and Finland meet in international action, you know that emotions are going to run high.

The Finns did their part early, coming out of the gates hot after a disjointed first three outings. They pushed the pace with the puck on their stick and clogged the neutral zone when it wasn't. Slowly, they took the Scandinavium crowd out of it. Then, they altogether silenced them with two quick goals to close out the opening frame.

Tommi Männistö got the festivities started, breaking the tournament-long shutout streak that Sweden brought into this contest. Then Lenni Hämeenaho was Johnny on the spot to pick up a loose puck at the goalmouth and deposit it upstairs to double the lead.

Sweden had a little more jump in the second, and they were quickly rewarded. Isac Born got them on the board with a slippery ice-level shot, and then Jonathan Lekkerimäki evened things up with a howitzer of a wrist shot from high in the offensive zone.

Kasper Halttunen wasn't going to let this one snowball for the Finns, though. He wired a one-timer top-corner to help his country regain the lead on the power play only 37 seconds after Lekkerimäki knotted this one at two. Only for Theo Lindstein to get Sweden back on the board with his team-leading sixth point in four games.

Finally, the barrage of second-period goals was bookended by Filip Bystedt who gave the Swedes their first lead of the game.

Suddenly, it was the pesky Finns who found themselves chasing the game, pressing with all their might to draw this game even. Eventually, with goaltender Noa Vali called back to the bench for the extra attacker, they broke through. Not without controversy, though. Finnish captain Jere Lassila made a diving play to keep Noah Östlund from burying the dagger with an empty-net goal; the home crowd bellowed with all their might for a penalty, but play carried on and Jani Nyman banged home a loose puck to tie this game with 1:32 left in regulation.

Overtime solved nothing, so the Nordic nations went to the shootout. The two sides went back and forth, with Lekkermäki getting things started with a wrister that could've stood as the game-winner, right up until Konsta Helenius dangled his way to a backhand goal for the Finns.

This set the stage for Nyman to yet again play the hero as the final shooter, and he was up to the task, going upstairs on the backhand to complete the upset over their rivals.

The result didn’t impact the standings as Sweden still took the top spot in Pool A and solidified their date with the Swiss in the quarterfinals. Meanwhile, the Finns ended up third and will face the Slovaks in the quarterfinals.

The Daily Scoreboard

USA 10-2 Slovakia

Finland 5-4 Sweden

Czechia 4-2 Switzerland

Canada 6-3 Germany

1. Rutger McGroarty, LW, USA (Winnipeg Jets)

Rutger McGroarty wasn't available to the media after today's game. The reason? Random drug testing. That's all the statement we needed. It's the common language across all sports that communicates your performance defied all logic.

Three goals on seven shots, all of them at even strength, and all of them of the McGroarty variety – he was in the right place, at the right time, with the requisite finishing skill to make his opponents pay.

“He’s been awesome. Obviously, through the injury that he had and coming back from that to get a hat trick today is awesome,” McGroarty's Michigan teammate Gavin Brindley told EP Rinkside after the game. “It’s awesome to see him smiling and celly’ing hard. Whenever you see that, you know he’s back. He’s been outstanding, and hopefully he keeps that going for us as well.”

“He’s my best friend off the ice, so it’s great to see him succeed, obviously,” Cutter Gauthier added. “He’s been great since the day he came back and a great leader off the ice. I was just happy to see him get that first one and to see the joy on his face.”

No surprises here – McGroarty's performance saw him generate the highest game score in the data set our Rinkside colleagues Mitch Brown and Lassi Alanen tracked from the day's action. His 3.37 mark is actually the second-highest single-game performance to this point in the tournament.

It doesn't always look pretty, but at a certain point, you have to give McGroarty his due. Especially after battling back from a lung injury that nearly kept him from the tournament entirely.

2. Jani Nyman, RW, Finland (Seattle Kraken)

Playing hero in a World Junior Championship game is one thing. Playing hero for Team Finland against Sweden is an entirely different story. Nyman did just that as he scored the tying goal late in the final frame with the goaltender pulled.

As the play rattled around the crease, the puck popped out to the Kraken prospect who made no mistake slipping it under a sprawling Melker Thelin. As he was mobbed by his teammates, the Scandinavium crowd issued their chorus of boos and anger toward the referees, the Finnish players, and basically anyone else they could conceivably blame.

As mentioned earlier, Nyman was able to play the hero role once again as the final option in the five-player shootout. With the goals tied at one a piece, the 19-year-old came down on an angle, faked a shot which Thelin bit on thus exposing the far side of the net when Nyman was able to get it up and under the bar on his backhand.

It was a tremendous finish to a tremendous match and even though it didn’t change the standings, you could see how badly each team wanted to come away victorious. For his major role, Nyman received Player of the Game and a well-deserved star here.

3. Tomáš Galvas, D, Czechia (2024 NHL Draft)

Tomáš Galvas wasn't supposed to see the ice at all in this tournament. He was the odd man out on the Czech blue line, condemned to the press box when they opened the tournament on Boxing Day with a loss to the Slovaks, one that also cost them defenceman Adam Jiříček for the balance of the tournament with a right leg injury.

That opened the door for Galvas, and he's done everything he can with the opportunity. Tonight was his best work yet though. The Czech coaching staff elevated him to the second pair, playing him a tournament-high 17:31, and he paid it back by making a beautiful play to set up Jiří Kulich for the game-winning goal in the third.

“He was a part of the team, but he wasn’t on the roster at the beginning of the tournament,” Czech head coach Patrik Augusta said after the game. “He’s a smart player. He sees the ice well. He has guts. He has the guts to make the big plays. Tonight, he made a big play that helped us win. He’s a very good skater, a very good skater. He’s not afraid to play 1-on-1, and he’s winning most of the battles 1-on-1. He’s not losing them. It was a good performance from him tonight.”

The tournament rewarded Galvas with Player of the Game honours for Czechia. I asked Augusta if this was the result of any development from Galvas over the course of the tournament, and the answer surprised me.

“I think he’s played the same from the first minute he took the ice. I think that’s a good thing on him. That he’s not letting the surroundings get to him. He’s out there playing hockey. You can see him, he’s loving it. He loves playing hockey, and he’s out there doing it.”

The Highlight of the Day

It's been an up-and-down tournament for Zeev Buium, but the scales tilt far more toward the up side of the ledger. His two points in the USA's 10-2 win over Slovakia got him up to four in four games, and his goal was nothing short of amazing. 

"Gavin Hayes made a great pass through the neutral zone," Buium said after the game. “I kind of saw that the D was flat-footed, got my way around him, and I looked at Hayes who was crashing the net hard, giving me time and space to make a play. It just found its way in.”

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This article is about:
World Juniors 2024 Canada U20 Czechia U20 Finland U20 Germany U20 Slovakia U20 Sweden U20 Switzerland U20 USA U20 WJC-20 Zeev Buium Tomas Galvas Rutger McGroarty Jani Nyman
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