DAY 7 – SATURDAY, DECEMBER 20 George Sorensen (G) – Denmark
Honourable mention goes to U.S. forward Thomas Novak, who had three points – including the gold medal-winning goal in overtime – to give the Americans their third consecutive gold, but the Danes would not have even got the game to an extra period without George Sorensen. The Danish netminder was absolutely spectacular from the first puck drop; he made 17 saves in the first period, added 22 more in the second, 16 in the third and five in overtime. Add it up, and you have a tournament-record 60 saves, breaking the record of 55 set by Belarusian goaltender Anton Mitskevich in 2006. Sorensen stopped the first 32 shots he faced, and equaled Mitskevich’s total in regulation before his OT stops pushed him past the record.
DAY 6 – FRIDAY, DECEMBER 19 Ilya Samsonov (G) – Russia
As if there was any other choice. Ilya Samsonov was a one-man show for the Russians in their 2-0 bronze medal game victory over Canada East, turning aside each and every one of the 46 shots he faced. Samsonov didn’t have to be spectacular, but he was solid, making 16 saves in the first period, 13 in the second and 17 more in the third; the 46 stops set a World Junior A Challenge record for saves in a shutout, breaking the old mark of 44 set by Oscar Dansk – the Columbus Blue Jackets prospect went 44-for-44 to blank the United States on the opening day of the 2011 tournament in Langley, B.C. Samsonov also became the first Russian netminder to earn a shutout at the tournament, in the team’s 39th WJAC game.
DAY 5 – THURSDAY, DECEMBER 18 Thomas Novak (F) – United States
Seven different U.S. players scored goals. Twelve skaters recorded at least one point. So pick a player, any player when it comes to choosing one standout. How about Anthony Angello, who scored the game-winning goal and got his team-leading fifth point? Maybe Ryan Zuhlsdorf, Christian Wolanin or Dakota Joshua, who had two assists each? But Thomas Novak scored a goal, added an assist and always seemed to be around the puck, helping the U.S. to yet another gold medal game appearance at the World Junior A Challenge. The Americans will play for gold for the sixth time in their last seven trips to the tournament, and are one win away from winning three consecutive gold medals for the second time ever.
DAY 4 – WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 17 Blade Mann-Dixon (G) – Canada East
He may only be 5-foot-7, but Blade Mann-Dixon was absolutely huge for Canada East on Wednesday night, finishing with 38 saves to lead the easterners over Canada West for the first time ever and into a semifinal showdown with the United States on Thursday night. Mann-Dixon made 16 saves in the first period and nine in the second, and turned aside all 13 shots he faced in the decisive third period, none bigger than his diving stop on Canada West captain Rhett Gardner with five minutes to go and his team nursing a one-goal lead. The Antigonish, N.S., native has been lights out in his last two starts, against the only two teams in tournament history to win gold; he has stopped 91 of 96 shots, good for a .948 save percentage.
DAY 3 – TUESDAY, DECEMBER 16 Tyson Jost (F) – Canada West
He was there in the beginning, he was there in the end, and he wasn’t too bad in between, either. Tyson Jost was the straw that stirred the drink for Canada West on Tuesday night; he opened the scoring just 99 seconds after the puck dropped, got the game-winner in the shootout and added an assist in between, helping the Canadians to their first win of the tournament and setting up the much-anticipated all-Canadian match-up in Wednesday’s quarter-finals. Jost is well accustomed to playing on the big stage; he helped the Okanagan Rockets win bronze at the 2014 TELUS Cup, Canada’s National Midget Championship in April, and starred for Canada White at the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge just last month.
DAY 2 – MONDAY, DECEMBER 15 Nikolaj Ehlers (F) – Denmark
Three goals. Game-winner in the final three minutes. One shorthanded, one on the power play and one at even strength. Just another ho-hum game for Nikolaj Ehlers. Less than 24 hours after scoring twice in a win over Canada West (earning #WJAC2014 Star of the Day in the process), Ehlers was one better against Russia on Monday. He scored shorthanded with less than a second left in the first period to bring Denmark even, gave the Danes their first lead on a third period power play and showcased his speed and quick hands late in the game, scoring the game-winning goal for the second day in a row to almost single-handedly lead his country to a second straight win, to first place in Group B, and to a spot in the semifinals.
DAY 1 – SUNDAY, DECEMBER 14 Nikolaj Ehlers (F) – Denmark
The first player to compete in the World Junior A Challenge after he was a first-round pick in the NHL Entry Draft, Nikolaj Ehlers showed why the Winnipeg Jets used the No. 9 pick on him last June, leading Denmark to a victory in its tournament debut. Ehlers was on display from the very first shift, rattling a wrist shot off the crossbar just 30 seconds in, scoring a power play goal early in the second period and using his speed to blow past a Canada West defenceman before sliding in the game-winner on another man advantage with three minutes to go in the third. The Danes’ win over a perennial favourite put the tournament on notice that they’re not treating this as just a World Juniors warm-up; they’re in Kindersley to win a gold medal.