With the World Junior Hockey Championship nearing its conclusion, things are heating up, which is probably a welcome change for fans enduring the frigid climate in Ufa, Russia. Earlier this morning, as in the ungodly hour of 4 AM eastern time, USA easily handled the Czech Republic in their quarterfinal clash to the tune of a 7-0 victory. Panthers prospects Rocco Grimaldi and Vince Trocheck had quiet games with neither players making the scoresheet. Most of the damage was done by John Gaudreau, currently playing for Boston College and a 2011 draft pick of the Calgary Flames, who tallied a hat trick.
The victory means the US team will face Canada in the semifinals tomorrow morning, Jan. 3rd, again at 4 o’clock AM eastern time. The early start means fans across North America will be groggily tuning in, coffee cups in hand to root for their teams. I personally would recommend an early nap from about 5pm to midnight followed by an epic four hour pre-game to get into the right “frame of mind” to enjoy what should be an epic clash at an extremely un-epic hour. In all seriousness, the USA-Canada semifinal should be thrilling TV and hopefully it will be a showcase of Florida Panthers talent. A rematch of the preliminary round clash which Canada took 2-1, Trocheck and Grimaldi will be opposing fellow Panther prospect Jonathan Huberdeau. Huberdeau has been steady throughout the tournament tallying two goals and five assists for a Canada team that features many future NHL stars as well as current NHLers such as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
In the other quarterfinal match, Russia eked out a victory over Switzerland in a shootout win 4-3 (SO). Russia will face Group A champion Sweden in their semifinal match following the USA-Canada game.