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Stars prospect Guryanov scores OT winner, Russia takes bronze at World Juniors

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The Russian junior hockey team has gone from heartbreak to celebration within the span of 24 hours to close out their World Juniors tournament.

After losing in a shootout to the U.S. in the semifinal on Wednesday, Russia rebounded with a 2-1 overtime victory against Sweden on a sudden goal early in the extra period to capture the bronze medal Thursday.

Dallas Stars prospect Denis Guryanov, who plays professionally for the Texas Stars in the American Hockey League, scored the winner just 31 seconds into overtime. He stole the puck inside the Swedish blue line and beat Flyers prospect goalie Felix Sandstrom on the back hand.

This result extends streaks for both teams.

Russia has now won a medal in each of the last seven world junior competitions, while on the other hand, Sweden has now finished fourth in three consecutive years.

Buckle up: Canada will face USA for gold at World Juniors

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Team Canada and Team USA will renew their rivalry, and this time it will be for a gold medal at the 2017 World Juniors.

Team USA punched its ticket to the championship game after a nerve-wracking semifinal shootout victory over Russia earlier on Wednesday. A few hours later, the opponent for Thursday’s finale was determined.

Despite trailing twice in the first period and a goaltending change, Canada advanced with a 5-2 victory in a thriller versus Sweden later in the evening. Julien Gauthier, taken 21st overall last year by the Carolina Hurricanes, scored the winner, jamming in a loose puck past Felix Sandstrom.

Gauthier scored the empty-netter late in the third period, eliminating any possibility of a miracle Sweden comeback.

Earlier anxiousness of Canadian hockey fans was replaced by jubilation in the end. But it didn’t start out so well for Canada.

Sweden jumped out to the lead on a short-handed goal, as Joel Eriksson-Ek beat Connor Ingram with a shot off the wing, an attempt that Ingram should’ve stopped.

The Swedes regained the lead two minutes later, as Carl Grundstrom slid the puck through the legs of Ingram. He was replaced in net by Carter Hart, a prospect of the Philadelphia Flyers, immediately after Sweden’s second goal.

But Canada took over in the second period, and continued that into the third, never really sitting back on the lead.

Now, it’s Canada vs. USA for the gold. These teams met in the round robin, with Team USA scoring the win on New Year’s Eve.

Pre-game reading: About all those empty seats at the World Juniors in Montreal

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— Up top, Oilers captain Connor McDavid speaks to reporters ahead of tonight’s big game against Columbus. (He’s more exciting on the ice than in an interview.)

— There were plenty of empty seats in Montreal yesterday for Canada’s quarterfinal win over the Czech Republic at the World Juniors. Which begs the question — are ticket prices just too high? Because they certainly aren’t cheap. “On Tuesday, the worst seats at the Bell Centre — the Blue level — were being sold for $82.50 per ticket for Canada’s semifinal against Sweden.” (Yahoo Sports)

— Here’s Toronto Star columnist Bruce Arthur on the attendance issues: “Coming back to Montreal so soon after the last time was a problem. Ticket prices were cut from the last time but they were still expensive, and Montreal has never considered this tournament the event that some other parts of the country do. This is a Habs town even more than Toronto is a Leafs town, and it doesn’t have Toronto’s money, to boot.” (Toronto Star)

— From Elliotte Friedman’s latest “30 Thoughts” piece, a reminder that Jan. 1 brought more than a New Year. “Now that we’ve passed Jan. 1, teams can re-sign players signed to one-year contracts. Montreal went first with backup Al Montoya, who got a two-year extension. The most intriguing will be the Canadiens’ decision with Alexander Radulov, who has been tremendous. Vancouver has Erik Gudbranson, RFA, out with injury. You can expect Edmonton to take a run at keeping Kris Russell. Same with Toronto and Nikita Zaitsev, although he’s a restricted free agent. Word is the KHL would love to get Zaitsev back, but he likes it in the Ontario capital.” (Sportsnet)

— Sean McIndoe, aka Down Goes Brown, comes up with a list of five outdoor match-ups we’ve yet to see, but should. At number 1? The Canadiens versus Maple Leafs. Each team has already played in multiple outdoor games, but the long-time rivals have yet to face each other in one. Perhaps that will happen next season at Montreal’s Molson Stadium, the home of the CFL’s Alouettes. That venue is reportedly being discussed. (The Hockey News)

— Pierre LeBrun continues his series on the upcoming expansion draft, this time with a look at the San Jose Sharks. “The first decision San Jose will have to make is whether to go with the 7-3-1 (seven forwards, three defensemen, one goalie) or 8-1 (eight skaters and one goalie) protection format. I bet that won’t get decided until after the season. It’s a tough call. If you go 7-3-1, it means you protect just three defensemen — Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and probably Justin Braun — which then leaves the likes of Paul Martin, Brenden Dillon, Mirco Mueller and David Schlemko among those exposed.” (ESPN)

Enjoy the games!

PHT Morning Skate: Russia scored the weakest goal you’ll see at the World Juniors

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–Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol has been impressed with Steve Mason‘s performances this year, but could the team go in a different direction starting next season? Mason will be an unrestricted free agent in the summer and there’s a slight chance Philadelphia could go after another goalie. (Courier-Post)

–Many believe the Rangers have had success this season because of their speed, and it’s definitely an important aspect of their game, but forward Chris Kreider says it’s the communication that’s made all the difference. “When we’ve been successful, we’re working smart and as a five-man unit and breaking pucks out. There’s a lot of moving parts, but a lot of it has to do with communication. When it’s quiet out there, when it’s dead, when we’re not talking to each other, it’s hard,” Kreider said. (Newsday)

Chris Pronger sat down for a post Winter Classic alumni game Q & A with ESPN.com. He discussed a number of things, including how he deals with the head and eye injuries that put an end to his playing career. “I try to stay in shape as best I can, work out as best I can. It’s really just about managing symptoms or what the onset of symptoms can be caused from. For instance, in the (alumni) game, I put a tinted visor on, which has really, really helped,” said Pronger. (ESPN)

–The 2017 Winter Classic between the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks took place at Busch Stadium yesterday afternoon. You can watch the highlights of the “Vladimir Tarasenko show” by clicking the video at the top of the page.

Nolan Patrick is expected to be the first overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, but Swiss forward Nico Hischier’s play at the World Juniors may have changed that. “(Hischier) was the best player we’ve seen in this tournament,” Team USA coach Bob Motzko said. “We tried all four lines against him and I thought he was playing every shift because every time he got out there, the ice was tilted. It was the first thing we said when we got into the lockerroom, ‘That’s the best player we’ve seen in the tournament.’ ” (The Hockey News)

–With Shea Weber heading back to Nashville for the first time since the off-season trade that saw him to go Montreal for P.K. Subban, the CBC looks at how the trade has panned out for both teams so far. Weber got off to a quicker start, but Subban was starting to find some rhythm before injuring his back. (CBC)

–There’s no doubt that Team Denmark was the underdog going into yesterday’s quarterfinal game against Team Russia at the World Junior Championship. To advance to the semis, they needed to be perfect. Let’s just say goalie Lasse Petersen didn’t exactly give them a chance to move on. Check out the first goal he allowed in the 4-0 loss. It was U-G-L-Y. (BarDown)

World Juniors: Thomas Chabot helps lead Canada to semifinal

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After a disappointing showing at the 2016 World Junior championships that saw them fail to get out of the quarterfinals, Canada is headed back to the semifinal in 2017 thanks to a 5-3 win over the Czech Republic on Monday night that probably was not as close as it seemed.

Canada will play Sweden on Wednesday in Montreal. The winner of that game will play the winner of the United States-Russia game in the Final. The United States advanced to its semifinal with a close win over Switzerland.

Ottawa Senators prospect Thomas Chabot, a first-round pick in 2015, was probably Canada’s best player on Monday with a goal and an assist, while Julien Gauthier, a first-round pick by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2016, added a pair of goals in the win.

Chabot was especially dominant from the blue line logging a game high 25 minutes and finishing as a plus-three. His assist on Gauthier’s second goal came after he made a fantastic play at the top of the slot to gain control of a loose puck, hop over a sliding Czech Republic defender, then move the puck to Kale Clague.

Chabot started the season with the Senators and appeared in one game before being sent back to the Saint John’s Sea Dogs of the QMJHL in early November. He has 20 points (five goals, 15 assists) in 15 games since returning. If he develops the way the Senators hope they could have one heck of a puck-moving tandem on their blue line with him and Erik Karlsson.

Even though the Czech Republic managed to keep the game close on Monday this still never really felt like one that Canada was in any serious danger of losing.

They dominated the game territorially from the start and more than doubled the Czech Republic on the shot chart, owning a commanding 41-19 advantage by the end of the game.

Canada goalie Connor Ingram had a tough start to the game allowing two goals on the first six shots he faced, including one that was the result of a fortunate bounce for the Czech Republic when the puck hit a referee in front of the net. That, more than anything else, kept the game closer than it probably should have been given the way the two teams played.