It's the playoffs. Checking gets tighter, and every action becomes more important. Those who shine brightest aren't always the ones who make the prettiest plays. With that in mind, here our the three stars ...
Sometimes, the defensemen get overlooked in a short, single game knockout event, but this Washington Capitals prospect was able to make a tremendous impact in leading the USA to their first U20 World Junior Hockey Championship final since they won gold in 2004 with a 5-2 win over Sweden. He broke up many Swedish rushes, he blocked shots on the penalty kill, he started effective breakouts ... and he scored the game-winning goal. Sure, Markstrom should have had it; but at the end of the night, Carlson had a goal and an assist and was a plus-5.
It was a rare game for the Canadians, in that the standout individual performances from their forwards weren't as significant. Instead, it was defenseman Marco Scandella's big shorthanded goal in the second period that put the Swiss on their heels. The Minnesota Wild prospect also later added an assist on Taylor Hall's second goal, as Canada won the game 6-1 to advance to the final.
No. 3 Star: Tomas Knotek, F, Czech Republic
It hasn't been an easy tournament for the once powerful Czechs, but they'll get another shot at it next year thanks to their 10-2 win over Latvia. This undrafted Halifax Mooseheads forward scored a hat trick and added an assist to help guarantee that both the Czechs and Slovakia will return to the top tournament next year, with Austria and Latvia relegated.
Honorable Mentions: F Jerry D'Amigo (USA) again just misses the 3 stars cut, scoring two goals, one shorthanded, and one four-on-four. ... F Taylor Hall (CAN) had two goals, including our play of the day. ... F Anton Lander (SWE) scored twice on rebounds. ... F Robert Kousal (CZE) had a goal and three assists.