The World Juniors have been incredible so far this year. After a great round-robin loaded with storylines, the quarterfinals were played on Tuesday and there were some great matchups.
The teams that advanced from Group A's round-robin are Sweden, Canada, Finland, and Latvia. From Group B, it was the United States, Slovakia, Czechia, and Switzerland.
Norway and Germany each had their moments in the tournament but they are going to face off to determine which one is staying at the top level in 2024-25 and which one is being relegated.
The games on Tuesday were all great and provided something different. This is how the action went in the quarterfinals:
The 2023-24 World Junior Championships have been must-see TV
Finland vs Slovakia
Finland had a horrible start to their tournament. They went down 0-2 in the standings which set them way behind. They lost to Germany who hadn't beaten them ever (0-25) and are now facing relegation.
It was great to see them bounce back enough to make it to the quarterfinal with a decent seed. Slovakia, who had dominated the entire round-robin outside of one game, was not happy to see Finland bounce back.
Finland took this matchup 4-3 in overtime. Neither team had more than a one-goal lead in regulation before it ended up in the extra period tied at three.
It is tough for Slovakia because they are a very good team. They played hard in this one but couldn't beat the Finnish to the extra goal in overtime. They should still be proud of their tournament and know they are a top-flight hockey country.
Jere Lassila scored the overtime winner for the Fins and now they will move on to the semi-finals. Of course, they are now playing well with an extra chip on their shoulder because of the way the tournament started for them.
Czechia vs Canada
Of course, Canada comes into almost every World Juniors game that they play as the favorites. On Tuesday, the same was said in their rematch of the Gold Medal Game from last year.
This game ended up being a wild ride. Czechia took a 1-0 lead when Jakub Stancl (St. Louis Blues) scored a first-period goal. Czechia then built on that lead later in the period when Tomas Cibulka made it 2-0. Canada was not in a good spot.
When Matthew Wood and Jake Furlong scored in the second period for Canada to tie the game, however, it felt like that was where they would take over.
Canada dominated the third as you'd expect but they just couldn't beat Czech goalie Michael Hrabal (Arizona Coyotes). They outshot them 12-6 in the period and had a power play.
With 11 seconds left in the third period, Stancl scored his second goal of the game to give the Czechs a 3-2 lead. That allowed them to stun Canada and advance to the semis.
Canada is out and the Czechs are on to the next round. It was an unlucky play that ended the game as Stancl put it on the net and it deflected into the net off a Canadian defender but it counts just the same.
Canada only had two players be over a point per game guy. Macklin Celebrini, who will be the number one pick in the 2024 NHL Draft, had eight points in five games which is very good for one of the younger players in the entire tournament. Brayden Yager (Pittsburgh Penguins) is the other one as he had five points in five games.
This Canada squad is a good team but they don't have the talent depth that they had last year (or will in 2024-25). The Czechs took advantage and now we get to keep enjoying them.
USA vs Latvia
Team USA was the only team that played on Tuesday that secured a drama-free win. They defeated Latvia 7-2. The Latvian squad deserves credit for playing hard in this tournament and they didn't even come close to being relegated. They are a good hockey country.
The Boston College line of Gabe Perreault (New York Rangers), Will Smith (San Jose Sharks), and Ryan Leonard (Washington Capitals) dominated in this game. They combined for six points and were a big part of the win.
Seamus Casey (New Jersey Devils) had one of his best games of the tournament as he had three assists. Having that type of vision and ability has been very important for Team USA. Lane Hutson (Montreal Canadiens), who had an assist in this game, has been a big factor in that as well.
Oliver Moore (Chicago Blackhawks) scored his first goal of the tournament as well. The play that Cutter Gauthier (Philadelphia Flyers) made to find Moore was incredible. It was a beautiful pass and a beautiful shot.
Team USA has the most dynamic group on paper in the tournament. They showed it against a weaker team in Latvia to advance to the semifinals. It is a Gold Medal or bust for them at this point.
Sweden vs Switzerland
Everyone thought that Sweden was going to dominate this game against Switzerland. The Swiss are a very good hockey country but they don't have the history or firepower of Sweden historically.
The Swiss have developed a few elite NHL players over the years like Nico Hischier, Roman Josi, and Timo Meier amongst others so they should be taken seriously.
The Swedes learned that the hard way on Tuesday. They took a 2-0 lead but allowed the Swiss to come back to tie the game.
There was some very bad officiating at the end of the game and it did no favors for the Swiss. In overtime, Sweden earned a power play and they won the game.
Detroit Red Wings first-round pick (2023) Axel Sandin Pellikka scored the overtime winner to move the Swedes onto the next round. He shot the puck through traffic on the man advantage and it had eyes.
Sweden has as good of a chance as anybody to win the whole thing. They might not be as flashy as the American team but they play a strong team game and have tons of talent. They will be fun to watch in the semifinal.
As for the Swiss, they need to keep their head up. They keep pumping out these respectable teams and are producing good players. In the coming years, they should continue to cause chaos just as they did in this game.