The preliminary stage of the 2024 World Juniors is over. After a week of intense hockey between the best ten nations, only eight remain in contention for gold. The quarterfinals are here and in the third match of the day, gold medal favourites USA, will face Latvia. An underdog that wasn’t expected to be here but suddenly is in for the match of their life so far. In the last match, the host from Sweden will be expected to make the medal games in their showdown against Switzerland. Follow along as we break down the last part of the quarterfinals.
2024 World Juniors Predictions
USA vs. Latvia
This match should be a breeze for the USA to win. On paper and when applying logic to the match is David versus twenty Goliaths. The USA is looking primed to take their first gold since 2021, where they found a way to play their best hockey at the perfect time. Meanwhile, Latvia surprised everyone when they made it to the quarters instead of Germany—winning 6-2 and overtaking Germany on the last day to avoid relegation. Setting them up for a game where they really can’t lose.
What makes this 2024 World Juniors Predictions easy is the way they are playing. The USA started the tournament slowly with an underwhelming 4-1 win over Norway. A game where they never quite got going and where Norway for 40 minutes was creating just as many chances as the Americans. The difference was goaltending from Trey Augustine, but since that game, Team USA has been soaring. They steamrolled Switzerland and won a tight but deserved game against the Czech in the shootout and then followed it up with a masterclass against Slovakia. A team many saw as dark horses, but whom the Americans beat 10-2. A statement win and blowout that shows they are hitting their form at the perfect time. A form they want to continue with a comfortable way into the semifinals.
Player to Watch
Overall team USA is dominating the top-scoring lists of the tournament with Gavin Brindley and Frank Nazar being especially noticeable all tournament. However, one player who has yet to truly make his make on the tournament is Gabe Perreault who in four games only has three assists. A slight disappointment and a player USA would love to get going. Especially with his linemates Will Smith and Ryan Leonard. Against Latvia, he should get the chance to show both his passing and shooting, which made him such a highly valued pick in 2023. The quality is there and if he gets going, it’s going to be hard for anyone to stop the Americans.
Latvia wasn’t supposed to be here, but found a way to defy the odds. After the first three games, they were dead last with a goal differential of -20 and had yet to score a single goal. However, during their own gold medal game, against Germany to avoid relegation goals and strong play showed up. After a stunning 6-2 win, followed by a Canada win in regulation over the Germans the following day, the New Year celebrations were extra special for Latvia who found a way to stay among the ten best nations in the world. Now they have to find a way to create a miracle beyond any other if they are to replicate the fairy tale run from the 2023 World Championships
Player to Watch
Dans Locmelis was huge for Latvia in their game against Germany as he put up three assists. The captain led by example and the Bruins’ prospect was tremendous all game, with high intensity, work rates and strong puck movement that had the Germans on their heels. Against Team USA he won’t be as dominant offensively, but his tenacious work and fight might be what keeps the game respectable. Locmelis will force the Americans to work for their chances and goals when he is on ice. A task that is all you can ask of any Latvia when they face the top seed of the tournament.
It is safe to say, the first of our 2024 World Juniors Predictions is an easy decision. This is simple. The USA is going to run rings around the Latvians, who will be trying their best to stay in the game. However, once the barrier around Deivs Rolovs breaks, the game is over. It will be a blowout, but afterwards, Latvia can hold their head high as they secured a spot for the 2025 World Junior Championship
Prediciton: USA wins 10-1
Sweden vs. Switzerland
The host comes into the quarterfinal with a bit of a bruise on the morale after a surprising loss to their bitter rivals from Finland. In a game they were leading until the last minute of regulation, they ended up losing in overtime. This loss will need to be avenged against Switzerland, who booked their way into the quarterfinals after a win over Norway.
Sweden was amazing for three games, where they were picture-perfect defensively. The Swedes looked unbeatable with great goaltending, strong structure and an electric home crowd. However, the game against Finland changed the perception a bit. During the Finns, the Swedes looked sloppy on the puck and gave up some very uncharacteristic chances. The quarter-final game will be a chance to make amends to the Swedish crowd and make a statement before the medal rounds. A win that shows they are poised to win for the first time since 2012.
Player to Watch
One of the players who needs to improve for Sweden is their captain Liam Ohgren. He has had a rough season with injuries and only just returned in time to join the World Junior team. Many thought it would be a great boost for the Swedes, but so far he has been a nonfactor in the tournament. For a player of Ohgrens qualities only having a single assist in four games is just not good enough. Ohgren on his day could be the best player in the tournament, but so far his been invisible. That has to change now that the stakes are that much higher.
It was an up-and-down tournament for Switzerland, but they made it to where they wanted to be. Among the top eight nations and in the quarter-finals. While they looked good in three out of four games so far, the beating they took from Team USA taints the tournament for the Swiss. They were very respectable against Slovakia, and Czechia and used the momentum and confidence from that to beat Norway 6-3. Tonight they will be the underdog again and try to silence everyone in Gothenburg although the odds are heavily stacked against them.
Player to Watch
Once again the focus on today’s game will be on the captain, Jonas Taibel. The Austrian-born forward has played tremendously well this tournament and he will need to find another five levels to create anything against the structured Swedes. His work rate and ability to play in all situations will also be extremely important as he will be part of the penalty kill that has to find a way to stop the Swedish penalty kill. While it’s extremely unlikely he can, it’s the only hope Switzerland has to create the upset.
The second of our 2024 World Juniors Predictions is an easy decision. This should be another simple game to call. Sweden is the better team, with far more depth and quality in the roster. While I do think the Swiss defence can hold Sweden away for the first period, it will unreval and from there Sweden will simply control the game and cruise to the semi-final.
Prediction: Sweden wins 5-0
Main Photo: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
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