photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Matt Zambonin
The 48th IIHF World Junior Championship is over, and after 29 games the mighty Americans proved superior to all others. But over the two weeks of the tournament there were no shortage of highlights provided by all ten teams. Herewith are the finest moments from Gothenburg.
10) Luka Radivojevic, 16, scores for Slovakia
The youngest player in the tournament at 16, Radivojevic took a pass at the point from Servac Petrovsky and fired a cannon on goal that beat Martin Lundberg of Norway cleanly. Radivojevic thus added his name to the exclusive list of 16-year-olds who have scored in World Junior play.
9) Mathis Rousseau makes an incredible save
Canada and Finland opened their tournament on Boxing Day, and with the game scoreless late in the first period Finland had a two-on-the-goalie situation. Janne Naukkarinen waited and fed a pass across to Lenni Hameenaho, who got the puck up in the air for a sure goal. But goalie Mathis Rousseau stretched across and somehow got his glove on the shot. Soon after, Canada scored and went on to win, 5-2. Not a better save occurred the rest of the tournament.
8) Jani Nyman scores Shoot Out winner
The Finland-Sweden game on New Year’s Eve was another classic. The Finns jumped out to a 2-0 lead, only to see Sverige tie it up. Suomi went ahead 3-2, but again Sweden came back and then went ahead, 4-3. In the third, the Finns tied the game late, with Noa Vali on the bench for an extra skater. In the shootout, it all came down to the last shot, and Nyman didn’t disappoint, roofing a backhand for the win just a couple of hours before the end of 2023.
7) Norway fights to avoid relegation
The Norway-Germany game on January 4 was vital for both teams. The winner stayed in the top pool for 2025; the loser demoted to Division I-A. Germany went ahead 1-0 in the first, but Norway tied. Germany went ahead 2-1 in the second, but again Norway tied. In the third, Germany went ahead by two goals, enough, it seemed, to subdue their opponents. But, no! The Norwegians scored two late goals to force overtime. Finally, in the short fourth period, Moritz Elias gave Germany the win, but what an effort by Norway.
6) Eriks Mateiko keys huge win for Latvia
Latvia’s tournament started out in unexpected—and humbling—fashion. Not only did they lose their first three games, they did so without scoring even one goal. Their tournament came down to a final round-robin game against Germany, with everything on the line. A win would take them to the quarter-finals, but a loss would send them to the relegation game. Eriks Mateiko got them on the road to the former, scoring just 2:46 into the game. His teammates added two more before the end of the period, and they rolled to a 6-2 victory. They lost in the quarters to eventual champions U.S., but they exonerated themselves for a poor start with a big win when it mattered most.
5) Ostlund keeps puck onside for highlight goal
It looked offside. For sure, it wouldn’t count. Canada would challenge. In a key battle between the co-favourites in Group A, Sweden held a slim 1-0 lead in what was shaping up to be a goalies’ duel. Then, midway through the second, Noah Ostlund took a pass at the Canada blue line, went in alone, and scored. But what made this goal exceptional was his ability to remain in full flight and somehow keep his back skate on the blue line while he got the puck under control. Canada looked at the replays and had time to challenge, but wish as they might, they knew the play was onside. Good call by the linesperson; great play by Ostlund.
4) Oswald scores as Germany beats Finland
It was one of those pre-game notes no team likes to hear. In their all-time U20 history, Germany had a record of 0-25 against Finland. When they scored the early first goal, things looked promising, but Finland tied and then went ahead early in the second. More of the same. But in the span of 98 seconds, the teams combined for three goals. Germany tied it, Finland went ahead. After some back and forth, Germany tied the game again, 3-3, and then at 14:38 of the second Veit Oswald scored the go-ahead goal. Germany played near flawless defence the rest of the way, led by goalie Philipp Dietl, who was often sensational, and Germany skated off with their first-even win against Suomi.
3) Czechia stuns Canada
Canada had won gold the previous two years and been in the gold-medal game the last four. A quarter-finals game against Czechia didn’t seem particularly worrisome, and, in fact, it was a repeat of the 2023 gold game, which Canada had won. But Czechia raced out to a 2-0 lead through 20 minutes, to give clear indication they would not go down without a fight. When Canada tied it in the second, it looked like the mighty champions would roar past their opponents once again. Canada dominated the first half of the third, but Czechia weathered the storm and overtime looked inevitable. As the clock counted down—15, 14, 13—it was all but certain. And then Jakub Stancl fired a quick shot at goal, just in case. Well, it hit a stick, bounced off the post, and in. Lucky to be sure, but they all count. Canada was going home, and Czechia advanced thanks to Stancl’s heroics with 11.7 seconds left in the game.
2) Fortescue pass & Howard finish for brilliant goal
This might not seem like the best goal of the tournament, but it was two brilliant plays that illustrated the kind of team the U.S. brought to Gothenburg. It started off with a simple play from Sweden. They came in over the U.S. line on the left side. Rasmus Rudslatt had the puck along the boards and saw a teammate head to the corner, so he backhanded a puck there. But his backhand was a little firm and Drew Fortescue got there first. As he did, he looked up ice and saw Howard near the blue line, already breaking. But standing almost right beside him was Swedish defender Tom Willander who anticipated a pass through the middle and moved to cut it off. The second Fortescue made the hard, fast pass, Willander was badly out of position. Howard corralled the puck, went in alone, and scored a beauty through Havelid’s pads for a 2-1 U.S. lead. They never looked back, and no goal had looked so beautifully executed all tournament.
1) Hamara leads Czechia in an amazing comeback for bronze
Bronze-medal games are tough to play, and truth be told they can sometimes be tough to watch. The Finland-Czechia game for third place started out slowly, Finland ahead 2-1 after the first period. The Czechs tied it early in the second, rallying from 2-0 down, but then Finland rattled off three in a row to make it 5-2. Game over, right? Well, maybe, but Czechia found a little life with a goal late in the second. Now it was 5-3 with one period to go. Jiri Kulich made it 5-4 early in the final period, but Finland settled down and looked to be in control. And then everything fell apart. Ondrej Becher tied the game at 18:04 with an extra skater on the ice, so with the score 5-5 overtime loomed and Finland looked deflated by the blown three-goal lead. Just 15 seconds later, however, Tomas Hamara’s point shot went all the way, and the Czechs had a 6-5 lead. They added two empty-net goals a record two seconds apart, and won the bronze medal with an 8-5 win. Down 5-2, they reeled off six straight goals, including four in 50 seconds, also a World Junior record.