WJC Day Two: Czechs, Slovaks Win, Looking Ahead To Day Three

Written by Mike Salerno on .

Day two of the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship offered a moment of rest for most of the big-name teams, with only two games on the slate. Like yesterday's recap of a busy opening day, THS is keeping you updated on all the action and looks ahead to some intriguing matchups on Wednesday.

In the early game, Czech Republic downed Denmark, 7-0, on the strength of two goals by 2012 draft-eligible Tomas Hertl. Hertl, who currently plays for Slavia Praha HC of the Czech league, scored first two goals of the game as Denmark was unable to build off their strong first period against the United States on Monday. The Czechs put forth a strong effort despite playing without forward Martin Frk, who withdrew from the tournament due to lingering effects from a concussion suffered earlier this season,

Petr Mrazek recorded a rather easy shutout for the Czechs, facing all 12 shots he faced. He'll certainly be much more busy in tonight's matchup with Canada.

In the only other game of the evening, Slovakia came from behind to take down Latvia, 3-1, in Calgary. Tomas Jurco, the 2011 second round selection of Detroit, tied the game at one late in the second period, deflecting Martin Marinicin's shot from the point past Kristers Gudlevskis and Marek Tvrdon cashed in on a rebound early in the third to give the Slovaks the lead.

Both Latvia and Denmark sit at 0-2 and are considered long shots to qualify for the knockout round.

Looking Ahead To Wednesday's Games

USA-Finland: On Wednesday, the tournament has four games that could produce some interesting results. First, the Americans take on a Finland squad still smarting from an 8-1 drubbing in their opening game at the hands of Canada. Though the United States had a strong showing in their 11-3 victory against Denmark on Monday, they'll need to improve their penalty killing dramatically against the likes of the Finns' Mikael and Marcus Granlund and Joel Armia.

The Americans allowed a goal each of the three times they found themselves shorthanded on Monday. If they continue to yield goals with the man advantage, they won't be long for this tournament. Today's game could serve as a cruel reminder of that.

They may be without forward Connor Brickley, who suffered a deep cut on his leg in Monday's victory. Also, head coach Dean Blais has not announced if he'll start John Gibson or Jack Campbell in today's game. NHL Network's Dave Starman suggested during Monday's game that Gibson should get the start so that he is "battle-tested" should be have to be called upon later in the tournament.

Regardless of starting goaltender, expect the Americans to improve to 2-0, but the Finns won't be blown out again in this tournament.

UPDATE 1:45 P.M.: According to Mike Morreale of NHL.com, Gibson will get the start for the United States.

Sweden-Switzerland: As that game winds down, Sweden will faceoff with Switzerland in Group A action in Calgary at 5:30 EST. Like the Americans, the Swedish will need a stronger defensive effort than they gave in their opener to avoid an upset. The Swiss will pose a far greater offensive threat than Latvia, who solved goaltender Johan Gustafsson four times in only 13 registered shots.

Meanwhile, as we discussed yesterday, Switzerland put together a solid effort against Russia, firing 40 shots in a 3-0 loss on Monday. There's no doubt they're missing the presence of 2010 fifth overall pick Nino Niederreiter, but if they can hit the Swedes with another barrage of shots, expect a few to squeak by Gustafsson.

Look for Sven Bartschi, the 2011 first round pick of the Flames, to give the home fans a glimpse into the future with a big game. But will it be enough to get past Filip Forsberg and Mika Zibanejad? We think so. Switzerland turns Group A on it's ear with a 4-2 victory.

Canada-Czech Republic: Tonight's main event in Edmonton's Group B is slated for an 8 p.m. EST puck drop in Edmonton. Canada's impressive 8-1 victory over Finland on Monday took all the onus off the still-prevalent goaltending problem, at least for a day across the host nation.

The Canadians will be without Devante Smith-Pelly for the duration of the tournament. Expect Boone Jenner, a 2011 second round pick of Columbus, to fill some of those minutes. Also, expect highly-skilled Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick Brett Connolly to get more action as well.

With the Czechs playing the back end of games in consecutive days, avoiding a slow start is key. Even then, however, it's tough to see Canada dropping this game, unless Visentin really gives it away.

UPDATE 1:45 P.M.: Scott Wedgewood will be in goal for Team Canada tonight. Head coach Don Hay says he wants both goalies to get into a "real competitive game."

Russia-Slovakia: The final game on the slate is the second matchup of 1-0 teams when the Russians take on Slovakia in Calgary at 10 p.m. EST. Russia comes off a 3-0 victory in which they may have solved their questions between the pipes thanks to Andrei Vasilevski's 40-save shutout of Switzerland. Like the Czechs, Slovakia will be playing back-to-back days, which will certainly wear on them.

If Slovakia is to pull the upset, Jurco has to be a force. If not, look for Evgeni Kuznetsov, Nail Yakupov and the Russians to roll to 2-0.