Welcome to the 2021 World Junior Championship predictions. Each day, Last Word on Hockey will take a look at each game and give our predictions of the results. Tuesday, December 29th is Day Five of the tournament and ends with Austria vs. Russia.
2021 World Junior Championship Predictions
Austria vs. Russia
What was going to be a menial challenge has suddenly become a rather important game for at least one team. The Russians suffered quite the upset at the hands of the Czech Republic, losing 2-0 on Sunday night. The team now sits with a 1-1 record, and their three points puts them third in Group B behind Sweden and the United States. Austria, however, sits at 0-2 after horrific losses to the United States and Sweden. While those teams are no slouch, Austria looked incredibly outmatched in both games. This game will be incredibly important for Russia to get back on track after their upset, and Austria will attempting to at least squeeze a point out of a reeling Russia squad.
The 2021 World Junior Championship has not been kind to Austria. They’re 0-2 and have yet to score in the tournament. They were demolished 11-0 by the United States and then 4-0 by the Swedes last night. However, it’s not all darkness for the Austrians. Their goalie, Sebastian Wraneschitz, leads the tournament in saves with 119 at the time of publishing. He’s faced an incredible 133 shots on goal through two games, an impossibly high amount. So while the Austrians may have caved in on defence, their goalie has still been able to perform as their backbone.
One player who’s had an underwhelming tournament so far is Marco Rossi. The lack of talent around the Minnesota Wild prospect has really hurt his ability to be effective. Though he can’t be blamed for Austria’s lack of success, look for him to be a stronger player as he gets his legs back under him. Compared to his teammates, he’s played little hockey this season as his CHL season has been held in jeopardy.
Their defence has been incredibly ineffective, with names like Luis Lindner, Lukas Necesany, and Niklas Wetzl failing to prevent any quality against the Austrian goalie. However, if Rossi and crew are looking for a chance to get on the board, this Russian team is coming off a disappointing offensive performance against the Czech Republic. If Russia continues its passive offensive habits, Austria could contend to make it a game.
However, it’s unlikely that the scenario plays out. The Russians are one to learn from their mistakes. Even if Austria can get going a bit, Austria will face their toughest opposition in goal yet in Yaroslav Askarov. He’ll look to build on his current.909 save percentage in the tournament and get another shutout against this Austrian team.
Moving up the lineup, Russia just has the top-end talent that Austria does not. Their list of first-round picks boasts Yegor Chinakhov, Rodion Amirov, Vasili Podkolzin, and Shakir Mukhamadullin. While no area of the Russians’ lineup screams truly elite (aside from Askarov), their depth can be counted on to be effective when it counts. They’ve seen goals so far from important pieces like Vasili Ponomaryov and Ilya Safonov.
However, the bigger picture shows some serious offensive woes for Russia. Only Ponomaryov has multiple points, and the majority of the roster has been held off the scoresheet entirely so far. The Russians will need to play catch-up to redeem their earlier performance. They’re hoping that their outing against Austria tonight will give them that opportunity.
While there have been some upsets already at the 2021 World Junior Championship, it won’t happen here. Russia has the more dominant roster in all areas of the game, and Austria’s serious lack of depth may significantly hamstring them against an angry Russian squad.
Prediction: Russia wins 7-0.
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