My World Junior Diary – Day 06 – Upgraded again

Day six started in the usual way, I woke up way earlier than I wanted to, watched Sportscentre and grabbed a bite to eat before coming back to my room to write the previous days blog.

So after I uploaded yesterdays entry I looked at my City Pass ticket to find out what I haven’t done that is near to my hotel, so yesterday morning was spent in the Royal Ontario Museum.

The place is huge so I almost definitely saw less than 10% of the entire exhibit, I walked slowly through ancient Chinese and Korean relics on the ground floor, moving up a floor to a room that was fully of taxidermied animals ranging from a Panda to fish (I don’t think the fish were taxidermied, I think they were just plastic) It was pretty cool seeing animals from all parts of the globe, and not just those native to Canada.

Then there was the dinosaur exhibit because what museum is complete without it. This part was full of kids so naturally I didn’t stay long.

There was a part dedicated to armour from around Europe, so there was three suits of armour from 1600’s Germany, next to it was hockey kit, because Canada.

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I wasn’t at the museum too long because I had to get back to my hotel to get my wristband that would let me back into the hotel that evening. With it being New Years Eve in a big city, most hotels issued wrist bands to hotel guests to allow them access after a certain time, partly for security and also probably to cockblock a little.

So after I grabbed my wristband I grabbed lunch before walking back down to the Air Canada Centre (which despite being at nearly every day still impresses me).

This time it was the big one, not a single seat was available as the hosts Canada took on the United States of America. The winner topped Group A of the 2017 World Juniors.

The game started poorly for the Canadian kids, after three shots USA were in the lead. First Colin White scored on the powerplay less than five minutes in, then Jordan Greenway managed to slot the puck past Connor Ingram just over a minute later for a 2 – 0 lead for Team USA.

Canada did mange to respond much to the crowds delight in the second period. The Canadians were on the powerplay when Thomas Chabot found the back of the net to cut the US lead to one.

USA put the game to the bed when Jeremy Bracco potted in a rebound to give USA a 3 – 1 win over the Canadians.

Canada were poor from start to finish, with the exception of Thomas Chabot who was the only player to play a consistent 60 minutes.

Connor Ingram was okay in net for the Canadians, but coming into the tournament goaltending was a huge question mark for the Nation. But it was more the play of Mathew Barzal that irritated me and a few of the crowd around me.

There is no denying that the New York Islanders prospect is insanely talented, his speed and stick handling is one of the best in the tournament. But he was playing such a selfish game, and has been for a couple of games now. Instead of making the simple hockey play, passing across to the D or a dump and chase, he’s trying to blow by the defence and make the highlight reel play that just isn’t coming. A few times he bobbled the puck and nearly gave up breakaways because of his carelessness and it wasn’t unnoticed by the crowd.

But anyway, the Canadians were right afterwards when they said no medal was given out today, they still have a good shot at a medal, but this game must have left a sour taste in their mouth.

So the game ended and I walked out the arena and across the street to SportChek to do some late Christmas/Birthday shopping for my family, bought another $5 hotdog from the man with no teeth and queued back up for Slovakia V Russia, the last group stage game of the tournament before the knockout rounds begin on January 2nd.

So I made my way up to the 300 level, back up to the very back row, and I had been set down for less than a minute when the arena worker from the other day approached me.

I was getting a free upgrade again. This time I got the ladies name, Josie from Air Canada Centre, thank you for the two free upgrades that have really made this trip even more special than it already was.

So I walked back down the steps and was impressed that I wasn’t out of breath (It’s really high up) and down to Block 120, Row 7, Seat 3.

I was sat just behind the Slovakian bench and my opinion of the team has not changed. Only a few of them genuinely look 20 years or younger. The captain Erik Cernak looks like he could grow 5 o’clock shadow by breakfast time, he’s a big intimidating defenceman who has been one of the standout players for the Slovakians this tournament.

There was about 8,000 fans in the building for this game, and I think everyone sat next to me had been upgraded from the seats up in the 300s.

So the game got underway and Slovakia really held their own against the Russians.

Russia work so well as a unit, they rarely misplace a pass, the speed and skill is accompanied by a willingness to play a phsyical brand of hockey, they’re a fantastic group of players, but Slovakia were just as willing to mix it up against a superior opponent.

In the opening seconds, Kirill Kaprizov of Russia was in alone but saw his backhand effort ring off the post and out.

Seconds later, Oliver Pataky of Slovakia was down and in some pain as he took a puck up high making a block, something the Slovakians have done better than any other team in the tournament.

Slovakia survived the opening period without surrendering a goal as it remained 0 – 0, but midway through the second period the Russians broke the tie, with Denis Guryanov beating Matej Tomek for the goal.

Tomek blanked the Russians for the rest of the period, but was unable to stop Kirill Urakov in close as he put the Russians ahead 2 – 0 where the score remained.

So that was the Group stage done in both Toronto and Montreal where Group B was being played, and while there wasn’t many shocks in Group A, Group B was a different story.

USA topped Group A, followed by Canada, Russia, Slovakia and then Latvia were the team from Group A to go into the Relegation Round.

Group B was vastly different.

Sweden topped the group which was no surprise, but Denmark were one of the shocks finishing in second place, but Finland were the biggest shock of the tournament. After winning the tournament on home ice last year, Finland finished this year with just one win over the Swiss on the final day and will face Latvia in the Relegation Round. Finland have since fired their coaching staff.

So with the Quarter Final matchups set, I’ll get to watch Russia take on Denmark and USA take on Switzerland before my flight home on January 3rd.

But after a quiet New Year, it’s time to head back to the Hockey Hall of Fame tomorrow before watching the Toronto Maple Leafs take on the Detroit Red Wings in whatever bar I can find showing the game.

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