Each week, World Hockey Hub highlights a few of the most exciting upcoming games in youth hockey. From the hottest rivalries to the biggest tournaments, we focus on matchups that will impact the landscape among top teams in the sport.
‘07 Kiekko-Espoo, Jokerit set for weekend series
No. 8 Kiekko-Espoo (19-2-1) will square off with Jokerit (18-4-0) for a two-game series beginning on Friday.
|Friday, November 25
Jokerit, the No. 5-ranked club in Finland, enters the weekend as winners of their last six. Leading the charge offensively has been Kalle Kulonummi with nine goals and 19 points and Rasmus Kämäräinen (13 goals, six assists). Rounding out the top three for the Helsinki-based program is Lauri Kouhia (nine goals, eight assists).
K-Espoo, also winners of five straight, comes equipped with not only the third-best scorer of their group in Aapo Vanninen, but also the top goalie in Magnus Loponen. Vanninen sits behind Oliver Torkki and Matias Vanhanen of No. 4 Finnish-ranked HIFK with 10 goals and 36 points.
One of the best at stopping the puck, Loponen has backstopped K-Espoo to the top of the group, compiling a 1.33 goals-against average and .938 save percentage.
For Jokerit, the true challenge will be finding a way to beat Loponen. With evenly spread scoring at the top of their lineup, it will make secondary production among their bottom six forwards all the more crucial.
Pete’s Pick: If Loponen starts both of these games, Jokerit will have a tough chance for victory. That being said, with balanced scoring throughout Jokerit’s lineup, that could be their biggest factor of pulling out a win. The games will be close, but I see K-Espoo taking both.
Craig’s Pick: With games on back-to-back days, you’re likely to see two different goalies get the start for both teams. The tandem of Sakari Savolainen and Pekka Korhonen have been very consistent for Jokerit. It’s a good one-two punch, and I like No. 5 Jokerit to earn a 1-1 split with top-ranked K-Espoo here.
Dynamo aims to prove themselves vs. CSKA
No. 5 Dynamo Moscow (14-6-0) will try to be the first 2010-born team to finally crack the armor of No. 1 CSKA Moscow (23-0-0) when they face off this Saturday.
It will be the second game of their season series, with CSKA narrowly escaping with a 5-4 victory back in September.
|Saturday, November 26
In that game, Dynamo opened the scoring just 30 seconds into the first period before CSKA rattled off three unanswered goals. Dynamo would respond with three of their own to take a 5-3 lead. CSKA would add two late tallies to secure the win.
Arseney Rychagov, one of Dynamo’s leading scorers with four goals and 15 points, assisted twice. Matvey Fedorenko found the back of the net as well, sitting second behind Rychagov with six goals and nine points.
CSKA has arguably not only been one of the best teams among 2010-born Russian squads, but in all of youth hockey. On an unprecedented 23-game win streak, they have fared well against all types of competition.
The main reason for their torrid start to the season? Goals…and lots of them.
Averaging close to seven goals per game, no other team has managed to match that rate of production. Look no further than Nikita Sininen and Roman Andreev as the main sparks to the incredible attack.
When looking at the stats the duo has been able to put up, one might think there is a typo at the numbers that pop up on the screen. Sininen’s 29 goals and 63 points and Andreev’s 30 goals and 55 points are spectacular figures. Consistency has been a factor in their ability to pile up the points. Sininen is riding a 16-game point streak, with Andreev’s personal streak at eight games.
Given the way things played out last time these two went head to head, Dynamo knows they can score against CSKA and skate with them. If they do a better job at game management and tighten things up defensively, they could very well be the first ones to take down CSKA.
Pete’s Pick: While it would be exciting to see someone finally take down CSKA, there are just too many things going right for them right now. Sininen and Andreev single handedly could take down Dynamo. Even if those two are not a factor, the remaining roster of talent is a tough task to handle for any club.
Craig’s Pick: CSKA could run the table this year among 2010s. This game — and another matchup next month with Spartak — is among only a few true tests remaining on the schedule. I think Dynamo threatens with a lead early but CSKA’s offense gets them out of trouble with a 5-3 or 6-4 type of win.
Cross-border matchups highlighted at International Silver Stick
With the International Silver Sticks tournament kicking off over Thanksgiving weekend,, there will be plenty of cross-border matchups between Canadian and American teams to keep an eye on.
In the 2009 division, No. 7 U.S.-ranked Mid-Fairfield Jr. Rangers (20-7-3) are set to battle the No. 11 Sun County Panthers (17-2-0) on Saturday.
|Saturday, November 26 @ 5:15 p.m. ET
Iroquois Park Sports Centre
Both teams are in the same group for round robin action, along with the Barrie Colts, Niagara North Stars and No. 16 Toronto Titans.
The two teams have split two other games this season, with the Jr. Rangers winning 6-3 on Oct. 29th. The Panthers pulled out a 3-2 victory the next day. With both clubs evenly matched, it will be interesting to see if the fireworks between them continue, this time in a tournament setting.
Pete’s Pick: Given the fact that Mid-Fairfield was able to put up six goals in their first meeting, they have the ability to put tons of pressure on the Panthers’ defense. While Sun County kept things close in the second game, I see the Jr. Rangers putting up the goals again next time out for the win.
Craig’s Pick: Special teams will be the difference in this one. Three of Sun County’s six goals in the series with MFJR have come on the power play. In the 3-2 win, the Panthers were 2-for-2 on the man advantage while Mid-Fairfield was shut out in four attempts. This game follows a similar trend. I like Sun County to cash in with a couple PPGs and a 4-2 victory. Both could survive pool play and advance to the elimination rounds of Silver Sticks though.
Canucks, Islanders meet in Group 4 matchup
Switching to the 2011 division in the Silver Stick, the No. 9 Elgin-Middlesex Canucks (14-3-2) will lace up the skates against No. 22 Middlesex Islanders (15-4-1) on Friday.
|Friday, November 25 @ 11:00 a.m. ET
Iroquois Park Sports Centre
The Canucks come into this game feeling great about the state of their game, currently in the midst of winning 10 straight.
Both clubs tend to score more than allow goals, and their goal differentials are indicative of that. The Canucks bring a plus-54 goal differential into the afternoon while the Islanders have recorded a plus-40 goal differential.
Pete’s Pick: I think the Canucks edge out a win here. Simply put, they are feeling confident in every aspect of their game. Middlesex tends to play in lower-scoring affairs, so if its defense can hold, I can see this being a close one. Regardless, Elgin gets the win.
Craig’s Pick: This one should be close, and likely low scoring. That favors Middlesex, in my opinion. They are 8-3-1 when producing three or fewer goals offensively. The Islanders are comfortable grinding out games, whereas EMC isn’t quite as battle tested. Nine of their 12 wins have been by three or more goals. If this turns into a dog fight, the Canucks could be in trouble. I like Middlesex to win a scrappy, ugly 3-1 game.