Three stars from day one of WJC: Joakim Kemell directs attack for Finland

Eight months after day one of the 2022 World Junior Championship… it’s day one of the 2022 World Junior Championship. Competitive hockey in August – who would have thought?

While some details of the fan-favorite tournament may be slightly different from what we’re all used to, the essence remains the same: ten countries come together to showcase the exceptional talent in their youth programs.

The rescheduled tournament opened on Tuesday with three games. Here is a three-star ranking of the most impressive individual performances from Day 1 in Edmonton:

3rd Starring: Simon Latkczy, Slovakia

The first match of this summer’s edition of the World Youth Championships was far from boring, thanks to an abundance of goals coming from a clash between Czechia and Slovakia, the first encounter between them since 2015.

As Slovakia enters the tournament after a stellar year of hockey – from the country winning bronze at the Olympics to producing the first two selections in the 2022 NHL Draft – the team came out hot for the first period. Using Czechia’s initial slowness to their advantage, Slovakia were able to take a 2-0 lead over their opponents, with goals from Servac Petrovsky (Minnesota Wild) and Matej Kaslik.

Being behind by two must have served as a wake-up call for the Czech Republic as the team quickly tightened things up to end the first and open the second – looking more like a team with 12 NHL draft players (nine more than Slovakia). Czech keeper Jan Bednar (Detroit Red Wings) also looked better set up in the net throughout the second which undeniably played a role in helping the team get an unanswered four against Slovakia to take the scoreline. at 4-2, just under eight minutes later. the third.

After a series of penalty shootouts (from both sides), Slovakia were able to take full advantage of a two-man advantage, then another, to rally and level the game at four apiece. With less than two minutes left in the game, Gabriel Szturc scored what ended up being the game winner, getting a shot high over Simon Latkoczy’s glove to take it 5-4. Latkoczy, a 20-year-old undrafted player from Trencin, SVK., faced 52 shots on goal in the game, saving 47 for a save percentage of 90.38.

The University of Nebraska-Omaha commit was the only player on the ice during the second period, actively preventing the Czech Republic from getting completely blown, during which he faced 25 shots on net. Latkoczy blanked Slovakia in the second period and allowed only one goal in the third. His team will look to use the victory to build momentum as they attempt to break their 16-year medal drought at the World Junior Hockey Championship.

Honorable Mentions:

Michal Gut, Czechia – 1 goal, 1 assist

Jan Mysak, Czechia (Montreal Canadiens) – 1 goal, 1 assist

Matej Kaslik, Slovakia – 2 goals

Rayen Petrovicky, Slovakia – 1 goal, 1 assist

2n/a Starring: Luke Hughes, USA

Entering the tournament as defending champions from 2021, the United States took on Germany in the final slot of the day. They returned to the tournament with four of the same players from their win that year, in addition to five of the six coaches.

With a roster bolstered by 20 players drafted from the NHL, compared to the four from Germany, a dominating performance from the United States was definitely something we could have seen coming. After countless shots on goal for the USA and none for Germany, the scoring was finally opened from the point by 18-year-old Luke Hughes (4th overall, New Jersey Devils, 2021) halfway through the First period. Third (and last) brother of Hughes to play in the World Juniors, Luke is the first to score a goal in the tournament.

The first period ended 2-0 after Logan Cooley (3rd overall, Arizona Coyotes, 2022) extended his team’s lead as Germany took a five-minute major. The German keeper was put to work, facing 25 shots. USA then continued to control the game early in the second period, scoring twice within seconds to extend their lead to 4-0. Hughes got the first assist in the third.

While it looked like the United States had added to their goal collection 11:30 into the second, a goalkeeper interference challenge by German coach Tobias Abstreiter resulted in a decision overturned after a lengthy review. However, the United States managed to redeem themselves with their fifth goal of the night leading directly into the third period.

Things changed a bit in the last half of play, with the United States finally giving up the number of goals scored and Germany finally getting one. Joshua Samanski, in a game worthy of highlights, broke Kaiden Mbereko’s offer for a power-play shutout. Facing just 11 shots on goal the entire game, the United States cruised to victory over Germany 5-1, for the seventh time in a row.

Honorable Mentions:

Sasha Pastujov, USA (Anaheim Ducks) – 2 assists

Riley Duran, USA (Boston Bruins) – 1 goal, 1 assist

Nikita Quapp, Germany (Carolina Hurricanes) – 45 saves

Joshua Samanski – 1 goal

1st star: Joakim Kemell, Finland

After winning an Olympic gold medal for the first time this year, Finland entered their competition with Latvia ready to prove that the country’s reputation as a hockey powerhouse is also reflected in its junior team.

It wasn’t much of a secret, given that the U-20 team has played for a medal in the last three WJC tournaments (gold in 2019, bronze in 2020 and bronze in 2021). As Latvia found themselves back in the competition for the first time since 2017, also coming up against a 20-player NHL draft roster (compared to their three), was certainly a little less inspiring.

Although Latvia was not initially part of the tournament in December, they entered in place of Russia, which is currently disqualified from all IIHF competition. While Finland clearly dominated the game offensively, Latvia managed to fight fair, using their fiery style of play to slow down their opponents when possible.

Joakim Kemel, 18, opened the scoring for the second game of the day, with a shot from the faceoff circle right into the run. Kemell, of Jyvaskyla, FIN., quickly scored a second goal, converting a pass from Roni Hirvonen (59th overall, Toronto Maple Leafs, 2020) tight on a 2-on-1 giving Finland a 2-0 lead to complete the first period. Their lead increased to 4-0 in the second thanks to goals from Brad Lambert (Winnipeg Jets) and Hirvonen.

The possibility of a shutout for Leevi Merilainen (71st overall, Ottawa Senators, 2020) ended just over a minute into the third after Klavs Veinbergs (224th overall, Tampa Bay Lightning , 2022) managed to pass the goalkeeper. After what appeared to be Finland’s fifth goal of the match, until it was deemed not to have crossed the goal line, the team managed to score two more to win the game 6-1.

Kemell was credited with the first assist on Finland’s two goals in the third period. The striker, who went 17eoverall in the 2022 NHL Draft, had an incredible chance to score a hat trick with less than two minutes left in the game, forcing the Latvian goaltender to make an equally incredible save. At the end of day one, Kemell is tied for first in points and goals.

Honorable Mentions:

Aatu Raty, Finland (New York Islanders) – 1 goal, 3 assists

Roni Hirvonen, Finland (Nashville Predators) – 1 goal, 2 assists

Martins Lavins – multiple blocked shots, hits

Bruno Bruveris, Latvia – 33 saves


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