World Juniors Medal Round Preview, will USA Prevail?

Maybe, Maybe Not

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IHOCKEY-JUNIOR-USA-LAT / BJORN LARSSON ROSVALL/GettyImages
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The Quarterfinals were quite exciting, with Czechia upsetting (mild upset at that though) team Canada and Switzerland almost doing the same to host country Sweden (Sweden won 3-2 in OT). We will now move on to the medal round.

The final 4 teams are now set and here are the matchups for tomorrow's games:

9am (EST) on TSN / NHL Network: Sweden vs. Czechia

1:30pm (EST) on TSN / NHL Network: USA vs. Finland

In a prior preview, I listed 6 teams as clear medal contenders and so far that is holding true for me. I really though Slovakia had a chance, but the upstart teams in Finland and Czechia had something to say about that. Both teams are dangerous here and can't be overlooked by the favored Swedes or Americans.

While the common consensus is that Friday (Gold Medal game) will see Team USA take on Team Sweden, I wouldn't be so sure. Finland has excellent forwards and Czechia has maybe the best player in the tournament in Buffalo Sabres prospect Jiri Kulich. Kulich, a late 1st rounder, just scores goals. With 9 points in 5 games he is the favorite to end the tournament as its leading scorer. Add in Seattle Kraken 1st rounder Eduard Sale and team Czechia has 2 dynamic wings to try and crack the vaunted Sweden defense.

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IHOCKEY-JUNIOR-NOR-CZE / ADAM IHSE/TT/GettyImages

In the USA matchup, the Americans will have to try and stop the trio of Halttunen, Lassila, and Nyman for team Finland. The 3 forwards have dominated over the 5 games to the tune of 19 points between the 3 of them. This will likely determine the game if they (USA) can limit their chances. It won't be easy though, as team USA doesn't sport the size that Finland has on the wings.

I could make a case for anyone of these 4 teams to walk away with Gold Friday. That's the exciting part of this tournament. Are Sweden and USA the favorites? Sure, but don't count out Czechia or Finland just yet.