After preliminary action wrapped up on Wednesday in Malmo, eight teams advanced to the playoff round at the 2014 World Juniors. All six Preds prospects playing in the tournament would be represented in the playoff round, but only five would advance to medal contention.
The quarterfinals opened for prospect Zach Stepan and the United States on Thursday afternoon, as they took on the Russians at Malmo Isstadion.
The teams combined for 30 shots and five goals in the opening period as the Americans took a 3-2 lead into the first intermission. Things got a little rough in the final 40 minutes of play, as the teams combined for 40 penalty minutes. The rough play would work in the Russians favor as they used two power-play goals to take the 5-3 lead after the second frame, before tallying an empty-net goal with 28 seconds remaining to secure the 5-3 victory.
With the loss, the defending champions are out of medal contention.
In the second quarterfinal game on Thursday, Saku Maenalanen came up big for his home country again, scoring twice in Finland’s 5-3 victory over the Czech Republic.
The Preds fifth-round pick in last year’s draft opened the scoring for Suomi just 2:54 into the first period, but the Czechs would rally from there, scoring three straight goals by the midway point of the second period.
Finland made it 3-2 with 1:55 left in the middle frame, and tied the game at 5:56 of the third. Maenalanen added an empty-netter in the waning seconds – his tournament-leading sixth goal – as the Finns took home the 5-3 win.
With the win, the Finns secured a spot in the medal round for just the second time in the last eight years. They will begin their quest on Saturday, as they face Canada in the semifinals.
The quarterfinals ended on Thursday night as Sweden and Slovakia battled at Malmo Arena. Filip Forsberg posted four points (2g-2a), his third multi-point game of the tournament, as the Swedes ran away with a 6-0 victory to advance to Saturday's semifinals against Russia. The four-point outburst gives Forsberg 11 points (3g-8a) in five games, tying him with Canada's Anthony Mantha (5g-6a) for the tournament scoring lead.
The host country will play for a medal for the eighth straight year. Most recently, Sweden won gold in 2012 and silver in 2013.
You can read more about the Preds prospects here at nashvillepredators.com, and you can watch select games from the 2014 World Juniors live on NHL Network and NHL.com.
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