Team USA (1B) vs. Team Switzerland (4A) (9:15am EST)
All time World Championship Series: USA Leads 15-8-1
USA’s 2015 WC Record: 5-1-0-1, 22 goals
Special Teams: 4/22=18.18%, (PP, 8th), 2/22=90.91 (PK, 4th)
USA’s Tournament Highlight: 4-2 victory in game three over the favoured Russians
Switzerland’s 2015 WC Record: 4-0-2-1, 12 goals
Special Teams: 2/33=6.06% (PP, 15th), 3/31=90.32% (PK, 6th)
Switzerland’s Tournament Highlight: Four overtime appearances gave them the extra points needed to advance
USA Player to Watch: Jack Eichel – Not only is Jack Eichel the youngest player on his own team, he’s actually the youngest player in the entire tournament at 18-years-old. The 2015 NHL Draft star wasn’t relied on a whole lot during the early stages of this tournament, but while playing on a team without a big time goal scorer, the youngster is finally finding his stride against much older competition. Competing in a big tournament against men for the first time, Eichel scored a huge goal in overtime in the final preliminary round game against Slovakia on Tuesday. His six points trail just Brock Nelson and Trevor Lewis on the team scoring charts, and if the Americans are to go far, he’ll likely be able to add to his offensive totals.
Switzerland Player to Watch: Kevin Fiala – After becoming just the third player in history to play in the Under-18, Under-20 and Men’s World Championships in the same year back in 2014, Fiala returned to the men’s stage in 2015 hoping to build on his two assist effort in a very limited role a year ago. His three points this year may not seem like a whole lot, but with a team with just 12 goals in seven games, finding the back of the net hasn’t been something that the team has done well. The Nashville Predators prospect knows a thing or two when it comes to playing against some of the young guns on the Americans, so this could be a good chance for him to break out of his shell and help his team battle until the end.
Prediction: Despite this game being between a team that had a ton of success versus a team that never seemed to control anything, this match will surely not be a blowout. The Americans have been one of the best teams throughout the tournament, getting some scoring help from some of the most unlikely of sources. The Swiss, however, don’t score a lot, but their defense has held up quite well. At the same time, Torey Krug, Seth Jones and Justin Faulk have all played well for the Americans, and with Connor Hellebuyck doing everything he possibly can in the American net, expect a tight 60 minutes with the Americans eventually coming out on top.
Team Canada (1A) vs. Team Belarus (4B) (10:15am EST)
All time World Championship Series: Canada leads 7-0-0
Canada’s 2015 WC Record: 7-0-0-0, 49 goals
Special Teams: 8/25=32% (PP, 2nd), 1/16=93.75% (PK, 3rd)
Canada’s Tournament Highlight: Comeback from 3-0 deficit to Sweden to win 6-4
Belarus’ 2015 WC Record: 4-0-2-1, 20 goals
Special Teams: 4/26=15.38% (PP, 11th), 5/25=80% (PK, 9th)
Belarus’ Tournament Highlight: 5-2 victory over the favoured Americans
Canada Player to Watch: Jordan Eberle – When the announcement that Sidney Crosby would be joining Team Canada became public, the hockey world was surprised that a player of his magnitude would go to a tournament that tends to have a bad rap in North America. But the one player that seemed to be forgotten about right away was Jordan Eberle, the same guy who basically took the World Junior Hockey tournament by storm back in 2009 and 2010. Tied for fifth in tournament scoring with 10 points in seven games (a single point behind four players in first) Eberle and Edmonton Oilers teammate Taylor Hall has seen some fantastic chemistry all tournament long, and having Sidney Crosby on your line doesn’t exactly hurt your chances. Canada has the best scoring team in the entire tournament, and if Canada is going to end up running up the score, you can count on Eberle being a factor.
Belarus Player to Watch: Kevin LaLande -In something that isn’t overly common with top tier teams, Belarus’ star goaltender is actually from Canada. A native of Kingston, ON., LaLande moved to Belarus to play with the KHL’s Dinamo Minsk back in 2011, a Belarussian team participating in the Russian league. Playing on a team that isn’t strong up front, LaLande has posted a 4-2-0 record in six games with Belarus, a solid record considering he has had to battle against injuries for a good portion of the tournament. It’s worth noting that LaLande’s SV% is .920, much better than the .902 that Mike Smith has heading into the quarter’s. If Belarus is going to steal a game, it’ll be because of LaLande’s play.
Prediction: Canada will win this won, but it wont be the blowout you may expect. If LaLande can hold up, and Belarus can get scoring from Alexei Kalyuzhny and the Kostitsyn brothers, it could end up being a close contest. However, don’t bet against Canada in this one.
Team Sweden (2A) vs. Team Russia (3B) (1:15pm EST)
All time World Championship Series: Russia leads 11-8-1
Sweden’s 2015 WC Record: 4-1-1-1, 34 goals
Special Teams: 7/30=23.33% (PP, 4th), 5/24=79.17% (PK)
Sweden’s Tournament Highlight: Hat-tricks from Filip Forsberg and Loui Eriksson early on
Russia’s 2015 WC Record: 4-2-0-1, 30 goals
Special Teams: 8/20=44% (PP, 1st), 3/18=83.33 (PK)
Russia’s Tournament Highlight: All 20 players have recorded at least a single point
Sweden’s Player to Watch: Oliver Ekman-Larsson – It’s easy to pick the guy who is tied for the top scorer as the top player to watch, but with the way Ekman-Larsson has played throughout, there is no question he’ll be named the top defenseman if everything holds up. Offensively, his 11 points are four more than Brent Burns has accumulated for Canada, the second top scoring defenseman in the tournament. If OEL can hold on for the remainder of the tournament, the Arizona Coyotes defenseman could become the first defenseman to lead the World Championships in scoring, a solid feat considering how close the title run has been this year.
Russia’s Player to Watch: Artemi Panarin – Again, Artemi Panarin is one of the top scorers, sitting tied for first with OEL and and Russian linemate Evgeni Dadonov. Panarin, a recent signing by the Chicago Blackhawks, has torn apart the this tournament to shreds, with his line of Dadonov and Vadim Shipachyov finding the net quite regularly. The KHL’s top scorer this past year, Panarin’s four goals at the Euro Hockey Challenge earlier this year was a good indication of what was to come. Who said you need top NHL talent to have a strong team offensively?
Prediction: This match is more fitting then you would believe. The past two champions at the World Championships, Sweden and Russia are two of the biggest powerhouses in hockey that seem to be competitive no matter who they suit up. Since November, the two teams have met four times at the Euro Hockey Tour, with Sweden winning three of the matches in a series where every single game was decided by a single goal. Expect the same thing to happen in the quarter-finals, but we personally give Russia the edge at the end as they look to defend their World Championship title from 2014.
Team Finland (2B) vs. Team Czech Republic (3A)
All time World Championship Series: Czech Republic leads 12-7-3
Finland’s 2015 WC Record: 4-2-0-1, 22 goals
Special Teams: 6/25=24% (PP, 3rd),
Finland’s Tournament Highlight: Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros set the all-time team shutout record after 14 periods of scoreless hockey
Czech Republic’s 2015 WC Record: 4-1-1-1. 27 goals
Special Teams: 7/31=22.58% (PP, 6th),
Czech Republic’s Tournament Highlight:
Finland’s Player to Watch: Joonas Donskoi – To most North Americans, Donskoi is an unknown entity. At the World Championships, however, he’s as clutch as it gets. In the final preliminary round game against the Russians, Donskoi score the goal to help force overtime, only to score on his second shootout attempt to lead his team to victory. Previously, Donskoi was able to secure the game winners against both Slovakia and Belarus, making himself easily one of the best players in the later stages of a game. Most of his offense doesn’t come until near the end of the game, so if Rinne can hold on just like he has for most of the tournament, expect the former Florida Panthers prospect to make some noise.
Czech Republic’s Player to Watch: Jaromír Jágr – There are a ton of great players that could absolutely take this spot, but Jagr playing at the top of his game at home, it’s hard to go against him. Jagr is doing everything right, setting players up, scoring goals and using his speed to make players 20 years younger look stupid. He’s also a national icon in the Czech Republic, with no player getting a louder reception prior or during a game. In fact, even when Jagr was sitting on the bench on Tuesday, not participating during the game, the crowd still made sure to let him know how much of an impact he has on the team. With a Euro Hockey Tour rival at the other end of the ice, and a chance at a final gold medal while playing at home at his finger tips, you can expect to see Jagr in key situations if the game ends up getting close.
Prediction: To some, this may seem like a pretty underrated match. With Russia/Finland and USA/Switzerland looking to have the most buzz right now, Finland and the Czech Republic should be a solid game thanks to their long standing rivalry on the Euro Hockey Tour scene. In the four times the two teams met during the year, the season series finished tied at two wins each. Both teams have some very obvious strengths, but with a championship medal meaning so much to the Czech’s this year, look for them to come out faster and harder than ever, taking the win in the process.
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