Palomäki, Hämäläinen lead clubs into weekend battle
Each week, World Hockey Hub highlights a few of the most exciting upcoming games in youth hockey. CSKA Moscow and Vityaz Podolsk kick things off with an ‘09 Top-10 tilt on Saturday. Jokerit Blue and Kiekko-Espoo EPS I tangle in a premier matchup between 2007s. The week concludes with Nacka HK dropping the puck in an ‘08 meeting with IFK Taby HC on Sunday.
‘10 CSKA goes for seasons sweep against Vityaz
Will No. 1 CSKA Moscow (34-0-0) ever lose a game this season? In two games thus far, CSKA has ended up in the win column against No. 9 Vityaz Podolsk (24-10-0) both times. It’s a tough task for Vityaz, let alone any Russian team, as this CSKA squad has been one of the best teams in youth hockey this season.
|Saturday, March 11|
Vityaz lost in the first game 4-3 before dropping a 10-2 decision in the second. But they have the talent to hang with a team like CSKA. If there is any club that can finally send CSKA home with a loss, it’s them.
For CSKA, look no further than to Nikita Siniken (51G, 61A) and Roman Andreev (52G, 43A). Much has already been discussed and written about these players already, but you can’t deny their incredible chemistry. Add to the fact they have found the scoresheet in every contest this season. The biggest task for Vityaz will be to shut them down and try to make up their production with the top players of their own.
Getting that task will be Kirill Pavlov (57G, 22A) and Artem Perepelov (21G, 14A).
Pete’s Pick: I’m torn. On one hand, I want to see how far CSKA can take their win streak. On the other hand, for a team to finally beat them would be an exciting narrative. But it’s not about what I want, it’s what happens on the ice. Given CSKA’s ability to beat teams in any fashion, coupled with them having the two best forwards of their birth year, they complete the sweep. Vityaz doesn’t make it easy though in a 5-3 final.
Craig’s Pick: I do think we’ve seen just a little bit of complacency lately from the No. 1 team in Russia. That may not be the best word for it, but either opponents are throwing their absolute best at CSKA or, CSKA is taking its foot off the gas ever so slightly. Either way, I think this game is close, and Vityaz even possesses a lead at one point, thanks to players like Pavlov and Alexander Trofimov. Ultimately, CSKA’s win streak survives and they escape with a 4-3 win.
Jokerit, K-Espoo squads meet as ‘09 schedule winds down
With group play entering its home stretch in Finland, No. 7 Jokerit Blue (17-10-2) and No. 9 Kiekko-Espoo EPS I (15-11-2) will look for some separation in the ‘09 Top 10 with a Sunday matchup.
|Sunday, March 12|
It’s been an up-and-down stretch for both clubs in group play to this point. With neither team able to put together a consistent string of success, this matchup may be the jumping off point they both need to finish strong.
In this stage of group play, Luka Ahola and Wilmer Hämäläinen’s five goals and 11 points lead Jokerit, with Veeti Palomäki scoring five goals and 10 points for K-Espoo. Since the start of the season, both players have notched five-point games this season, with Palomäki accomplishing the feat twice.
Pete’s Pick: I’ve gone back and forth on this one for a bit, but in the end I think Jokerit pulls out a win. They’ve skated with slightly more consistency and have competed well against some of the bigger opponents of the group. If this gets into a goal scoring contest, they have the depth to get them over the finish line.
Craig’s Pick: I always like to look at shared opponents as a good measure for upcoming games. Jokerit and Kiekko-Espoo have played six of the same teams in the last six weeks. Against those teams, Kiekko-Espoo is 3-3-0, while Jokerit is 2-3-1. Slight lean toward KE EPS right? Wrong. Jokerit may have a slightly worse record in those games but showed way more compete with each of those six games being winnable. I’m going with Jokerit here, 6-3.
‘08 Nacka looks to extend winning streak against Täby
It’s a heavyweight tilt among the ‘08 Swedes when No. 1 Nacka HK (28-5-6) drops the puck with No. 3 Täby HC (25-11-4) this weekend.
|Sunday, March 12|
Nacka enters this primetime bout winners of its last four. Täby is coming off a loss to Eskilstuna Linden Hockey in their last outing. In their last meeting back on Jan. 15, Nacka posted six goals en route to a 6-1 decisive victory. In that matchup, Oliver Sundberg, Mikael Kim and Arvid Ermeskog all collected multi-point performances. Sundberg stands as the team leader in overall points as well, and third scorer in group play with 13 goals and 15 points.
Finding the back of the net for Täby’s lone goal was team leader Mille Forslund, who has compiled nine goals and 18 points. Nacka held Forslund and his teammates to just 15 shots on goal, while they peppered Täby netminder Caspar Lampe with 33. Lampe has been one of the more solid goalies in the group, earning a 2.40 goals-against average and .909 save percentage. A testament to the impressive firepower from Nacka to get six past him.
Pete’s Pick: Täby’s defense didn’t have an answer for Nacka last time out, and I don’t think that changes here. While their goaltending numbers don’t jump off the page, that’s not a concern when your club is averaging 3.5 goals a game and have a plus-27 goal differential. Nacka takes another victory here, 5-1.
Craig’s Pick: Significant shot discrepancies always grab my attention. A more than 2-to-1 difference in their last meeting says a lot about how these two teams stack up. Nacka scored late on a power play and a penalty shot, which inflated the score a little bit last time out. I’ll take Täby to keep it closer than the first meeting, but Nacka is just too dominant, 4-2.