January 05, 2014
No. 1 Star: Rasmus Ristolainen - Team Finland
Overtime was all about Rasmus Ristolainen. Not only was the he player who scored the golden goal for Finland and giving them a 3-2 upset win over rival Sweden, but he also put together the three best shifts in the overtime period. Ristolainen, the defenceman selected No. 8 by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2013 NHL draft, chipped the puck and held it against the boards in the offensive zone against three Swedish players as he waited for his team to complete a change. Two minutes later, again at the point, he made a power move around Sweden's Andreas Johnson and set up a flurry of dangerous chances in front of goaltender Oscar Dansk, but teammate Artturi Lehkonen couldn't finish the play.
But it wasn't all for naught. On his very next shift, Ristolainen again started at his position from the right point, picked some speed and deked around three Swedish players including Dansk, and sliding the puck through Dansk's five-hole and sparking the Finland gold medal celebration in true Finnish fashion: by skating across the ice, taking his helmet off, and throwing it against the end boards at the other end of the ice.
Suffice to say, the tournament ended a lot better than it began for Ristolainen, who was questionable coming into the tournament coming off a concussion sustained earlier in the season in Rochester, and then a flu bug keeping him out of practice the week before Christmas.
No. 2 Star: Juuse Saros - Team Finland
The second star could have gone to a number of different Finnish defencemen, such as Esa Lindell or Ville Pokka, who won gold at the conclusion of a terrific tournament, but it's hard to credit a team for being stifling at defence when they allow 37 shots against, including 5 in a little over 9 minutes of overtime and 32 in regulation.
Juuse Saros, who was brought up by Kingston's Henri Ikonen as the key to the system before the tournament began, was A-plus Sunday afternoon, at one point during the game was complimented for having "no pulse in the Finnish net" by TSN commentator Ray Ferraro. Saros was key to a Finland PK which was solid all tournament: despite going just 4-for-6 in the gold medal game, the Finns allowed just three powerplay goals against all tournament long. The PK was a good response to the Finns aggressive and chippy play which the country was known for long before it became a factory for goaltenders. Saros is a Nashville Predators fourth rounder and didn't have a bad game all tournament, stopping 35 of 37 in the gold medal game and being named a tournament all-star, though his opposite Dansk was given the IIHF Directorate Award.No. 3 Star: Andrei Vasilevsky - Team Russia
Canada brought it Sunday, unencumbered by expectations and playing a little looser in the offensive end, but their scoring frustrations didn't subside, running into one of the better junior goalies on the planet. Vasilevsky, the Tampa Bay first rounder from 2012, stopped 30 of 31 shots, including 10 in the third period and only allowing a goal on a deflected puck in the slot to beat him.
For the second consecutive year, Vasilevsky was key in helping the Russians defeat the Canadians in the bronze medal game, in what is finally his last year of junior eligibility, said every other hockey federation in the world.
Honourable Mention: Filip Forsberg - Team Sweden - Another Nashville prospect, Forsberg, had seven shots on goal and had the Swedes best chance in the overtime, just missing the net at the conclusion of a magnificent rush that culminated in a hard wrist shot at the top of the slot. Forsberg was named best player for Sweden during the game and its most dangerous offensive player, and was probably an inch away from the golden goal himself.
Honourable Mention: Marvin Cupper - Team Germany - Not to be outdone, Germany defeated Norway 3-1 in Game 3 of the relegation round to keep their spot in the top flight of World junior championship play for the 2015 tournament in Montreal-Toronto. Cupper, who plays for Shawinigan of the QMJHL, stopped 34 of 35 pucks and held off a late flurry by the Norwegians, stopping 16 of 17 in the third period.
And as long as we're giving out honourable mentions to the Germans, three cheers for Prince Albert Raider and German team captain Leon Draisaitl, who played two consecutive games without a game misconduct. Chances are, he'll be back in the tournament next year, and probably on better behaviour. Draisaitil finished the tournament with 52 penalty minutes. In second place was Patrik Marcel of the Czech Republic, with 29.