Originally posted on Red Light District Hockey  |  Last updated 1/3/12
No important world juniors game is without its controversy.

For 60 minutes, the Monday quarterfinal thriller involving Russia and the Czech Republic looked more like a goaltending clinic than a game. Petr Mrazek and Andrei Vasilevski made save after highlight save in a game that saw more than 80 shots between the two teams (Russia had 45, Czech had 39).

After a scoreless first period, both teams opened up the scoring in the second period, each putting one goal on the score sheet. Jakub Culek did the honors for the Czech Republic, and Danil Apalkov scored for Russia soon thereafter before both teams went another scoreless 20 minutes in the third.

In overtime, it took Russia just one minute and thirty seconds to take advantage of a distracted goaltender to send them to the semifinal against Canada. Czech forward Daniel Krejci (no relation to Boston Bruin David) was clipped with Nikita Kucherov's stick as he was following through on a shot (what would be considered a non-penalized high stick).

Though Krejci remained on the ice, seemingly injured, just behind where Mrazek was tending the net, the referees never blew a whistle. With Mrazek concerned about Krejci, hurt only a few feet away, Russian defenseman Grigori Zheldakov fired a shot past Mrazek to win the game.

After the game, a frustrated Krejci was baffled by the lack of a penalty on Kucherov. "The referee didn't do anything, I don't know why," Krejci said. Mrazek backed his teammate, saying, "Everybody will see high sticking on the highlights."

However, while the players grumbled over the officiating, Czech assistant coach Jiri Fischer doesn't buy the players' complaints. "Those are excuses," Fischer said. "We got scored on that's the bottom line." The Czechs will now play Slovakia for fifth place on Wednesday.

Russia will face Canada in a Tuesday semifinal: a re-match of last year's gold medal game that is sure to be a high-intensity, high-emotion match-up. Though just one Russian player, Yevgeni Kuznetsov, remains on the roster from that 2011 gold medal shocker, all the Russians know that the game will be an exciting one.

"We played hard (Monday) and everyone is excited," said Nail Yakupov. "We look forward to playing Canada."

Before Russia and Canada face off for a place in the gold medal game, Sweden and Finland will have their own semifinal game. 2011 World Championships sensation Mikael Granlund of Finland leads all players in tournament scoring with 11 points in five games (2g, 9a).

Meanwhile, Team USA was eliminated from medal contention after two straight losses against Finland and the Czech Republic following their Day 1 blowout against Denmark. The loss against Czech sealed USA's place in the relegation round of the tournament, which puts them in contention for 7th-10th place and in danger of non-participation in the 2013 tournament. Before that round began, USA had to play Canada in one more preliminary round game. USA lost 3-2, with goals from Charlie Coyle and Jason Zucker.

With points carrying over from preliminary round play, USA went into the relegation round Tuesday in second place (8th overall) among four relegation teams (other teams are Switzerland, Denmark, and Latvia). With wins in the round, USA could move up in the tournament standings, but their best possible result is still 7th place.

Their first relegation game against Latvia Tuesday resulted in a 12-2 win, in which Austin Watson and Nick Bjugstad recorded hat tricks. Watson tied an American juniors record with seven points in a single game. With the victory, USA avoids relegation for the 2013 tournament and secures their spot in the tournament. USA will play Switzerland on Wednesday to conclude their tournament play.
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