WJC QUARTERFINALS PREVIEW

2023-01-01 · 4 min read · IIHF World Championship/Hockey
Connor Bedard, Canadian junior ice hockey centre

Darren Calabrese/CP | The Canadian Press

The World Junior Championship quarterfinals matchups are locked in for Monday Jan 2nd. Latvia and Austria, last-place finishers in their respective groups, are the only teams eliminated. The Monday matchups are as follows:
  • Finland vs Sweden, 11 a.m. Est in Moncton, N.B.
  • Czechia vs Switzerland, 1:30 p.m. Est in Halifax
  • United States vs Germany, 4 p.m. Est in Moncton
  • Canada vs Slovakia, 6:30 p.m. Est in Halifax
The winners will play in the semifinals on Wednesday, then the final on Thursday. Let's take a quick look at each matchup and make our picks
Finland vs Sweden
  • This is likely the best matchup of the quarterfinals. The Nordic Nations get to rekindle their rivalry in a game that will leave one with a chance for glory, and the other with an incredibly disappointing finish. Sweden has seemingly been one of the tourneys strongest teams, only losing to Canada so far. They outlasted a tough Czech squad in a shootout, held on to beat Germany in a dominant performance that was only close because of high quality goaltending from Germany, and they blew out Austria in a big way. The Finns meanwhile have had a more up and down road. They lost their first game to the Swiss in overtime, then survived a pesky Slovak squad. Finland went on to handle Latvia with ease, before finishing with a tight loss to the USA. This feels like a matchup that could go either way, but I think one of these teams has the edge. The Swedes have more firepower up front, playing a more skilled-based game. They are a team focused on an up tempo game featuring precise passing. On the other hand, the Finns play a more structured and pro-style game. They forecheck effectively and rarely turn the puck over in the neutral zone. Finland wears opponents out with efficient cycle play and responsible 200-foot play. This should leave Sweden with the advantage as long as they can keep the game pace up.
  • Prediction: 3-2 Sweden
Czechia vs Switzerland
  • Czechia is the top seed heading into the WJC playoffs, which definitely came as a surprise considering both Sweden and Canada are in their group. Switzerland has been sneakily good with their only loss coming against the Americans, as they were able to grind out shootout wins against Slovakia and Latvia, as well as in overtime against Finland. Czechia plays a fast-precise game focussed on offence and generating chances at the net. Switzerland has relied on sound defensive hockey and waiting for a breakdown in the opponent's game for them to pounce on. If the Swiss are going to come out of this one with the win they are going to need to play their best hockey yet and probably get a couple of bounces to go their way. Czechia has had an impressive tournament and I don't expect that to disappear all of a sudden, especially given they upset Canada on the tournament's opening night with a quality performance. Before this tournament I thought Czechia could go on a deep run and I'm only more confident of that now. Barring an incredible game by the Swiss look for the Czechs to come out with this one with a resounding win
  • Prediction: 5-2 Czechia
United States vs Germany
  • While the Americans have not been as strong as expected leading to a bit of an up-and-down tournament particularly on offence, they still come into this game as the heavy favourite. The Germans have felt a bit overwhelmed throughout much of this tournament, the only game it seems like they have a serious skill advantage was against Austria; who's already been eliminated. The Germans have lost some serious star power over the last few years such as Tim Stutzle and Moritz Seider. Germany will need another outstanding performance from goaltender Nikita Quapp, who has had some really strong moments in this tournament. Even with the chemistry and offensive consistency issues the United States has displayed there's a good chance they best the German team with ease, as this is probably the most lopsided match up on paper. However, if the United States fails to take this game seriously and Quapp is capable of standing on his head for large stretches Germany might pull off an upset.
  • Prediction: 4-2 USA
Canada vs Slovakia
  • The last matchup is perhaps its most intriguing. The deep and talented Canadians take on a spirited Slovak squad, who have played hard throughout the tournament. Canada will be tough to beat though as they play a fast and physical game, intent on peppering the opposing goalie with shots. Let alone the fact it is pretty easy to argue that Canada's depth and skill out class most if not all other teams in the tournament, they currently have its two leading scorers in Connor Bedard and Logan Stankoven. Slovakia has been an exciting if inconsistent team centred around young talent and a couple of experienced vets. Slovakia plays an aggressive up-tempo brand of hockey that can lead to some defensive breakdowns, at their best moments they can beat anyone in this tournament. Canada cannot afford to take Slovakia lying down; they will need to come out hard from the puck drop and assert themselves as a skilled team that's not afraid to get physical and fight their way to the high danger scoring areas. Slovakia have already delivered one impressive upset this tournament, they have a chance of doing the same here. To do so they will need to get under Canada’s defence early, keep them away from the puck and continue to get steady goaltending from Adam Gajan; however, the odds are against them. Given Canada was upset once already in this tournament and Slovakia has already pulled off an impressive win as the underdog, this game could get interesting quickly.
  • Prediction: Canada 4-3
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By: Chase Howard

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