Olen Zellweger and what we learned from the semifinals at the World Juniors
It’ll be Finland and Canada for gold at the World Juniors.
The semifinals took place Friday night with Canada besting Czechia and the Finland topping beating rival Sweden in a defensive battle.
Canada torched Czechia with a 5-2 win to advance to the gold-medal game, led by Kent Johnson (Columbus Blue Jackets) and his three points (one goal, two assists), and Olen Zellweger, who had three helpers.
“Overall, we played well and it is a great feeling [to have a chance to play in the gold medal game],” Canada goaltender Dylan Garand said. “Ever since my first year at World Juniors when we lost to the United States in the gold medal game, I have been waiting for this day to come. It is exciting to be in this moment, but we know the toughest test is still to come.”
Kasper Puutio, selected in the fifth round (No. 153) of the 2020 NHL Draft by the Florida Panthers, broke open a scoreless game in the second period and Juha Jatkola made 23 saves for the shutout shutout as Finland snuck by Sweden 1-0.
“It’s incredible,” Puutio said, according to the IIHF. “This is such a great group of guys. A lot of us have been playing together for six years and have faced a lot of adversity. I can’t describe this feeling now. It’s going to be hard to get some sleep, but we’ll be ready to go.”
Here is everything we learned from the semifinal matchups:
Zellweger’s performance helps the Canadians advance past Czechia
Canada’s theme of having a different player step up every game continued Friday with Olen Zellweger recording three assists against Czechia. Zellweger, drafted in the second round (No. 34) of the 2021 draft by the Anaheim Ducks, had a tough task of taking over the top-pairing duties during this summer tournament after Kaiden Guhle and Owen Power didn’t return, and he has shined all month long.
Zellweger has played big minutes all tournament long and has 10 points (two goals, eight assists) and has easily been Canada’s best defender.
Puutio’s long goal is enough for Finland to beat Sweden
It’s been a common theme all tournament long — Sweden started their matchup against Finland slow and came out a little flat. Puutio scored the only goal of the game and Sweden could never recover. Puutio has been strong for the Finns and while his goal was the difference, the loss fell more on Sweden’s inability to get anything going at five-on-five.
Puutio now has four goals and three assists and has been very impressive especially for a fifth-round pick.
Jesper Wallstedt shines despite the loss
Minnesota Wild prospect Jesper Wallstedt was widely considered the best goalie in this tournament and, despite losing 1-0 to Finland, he can try to hang his head on the fact that he did everything he could to help his team win this game. Wallstedt made 27 saves on 28 shots — including multiple breakaway and odd-man rush stops in the third and final period. He was amazing for Sweden and if not for a 23-save shutout by Jatkola, we could be talking about Wallstedt as a hero in this game.
Jiri Kulich and Jan Mysak
They’ve been discussed at length during this event, but Jiri Kulich (Buffalo Sabres) and Jan Mysak (Montreal Canadiens) were bright spots yet again for Czechia in their loss to Canada. Kulich recorded two assists and now leads Czechia with eight points (two goals, six assists) while Mysak scored to move up to seven points (four goals and three assists). The Czechs have a real shot at winning bronze if these two can show up and put pressure on Sweden in their bronze medal matchup.
DAY 1: JOAKIM KEMELL AND THE THINGS WE LEARNED ON DAY 1 OF THE WORLD JUNIORS
DAY 2: CONNOR BEDARD AND THE THINGS WE LEARNED ON DAY 2 OF THE WORLD JUNIORS
DAY 3: MASON MCTAVISH AND THE THINGS WE LEARNED FROM DAY 3 OF THE WORLD JUNIORS
DAY 4: OSKAR OLAUSSON AND THE THINGS WE LEARNED ON DAY 4 OF THE WORLD JUNIORS
DAY 5: WYATT KAISER AND THE THINGS WE LEARNED FROM DAY 5 OF THE WORLD JUNIORS
DAY 6: RALFS BERGMANIS AND WHAT WE LEARNED FROM DAY 6 OF THE WORLD JUNIORS
DAY 7: RIDLY GREIG AND WHAT WE LEARNED FROM DAY 7 OF THE WORLD JUNIORS
QUARTERS: ROBY JARVENTIE AND WHAT WE LEARNED FROM THE QUARTERS AT THE WORLD JUNIORS