Wednesday, April 21, 2010

IIHF U18 Semifinals & Relegation Update: USA VS. Sweden For Gold

The Americans are back in the U18 Gold Medal Game for the 2nd straight year as the Americans had their 2nd straight shutout by outscoring the Swedes and the Czechs in the QFS & SFS by a combined score of 11-0.

This is Jack Campbell's 2nd straight shutout and 3rd overall going back to the Canada Game where the Americans won that game 5-0 as well. On the Offense side of the puck as Nick Shore had another 3 points in the Game (2G 1A) while other players like Nieto and Tinordi also scored to put the Fins out of the game as the Americans had a balanced attack throughout the game.

Sweden is back in the U18 Gold Medal Game for the first time since 1999 as the Swedes scored twice in the third period to turn what was a close hard fought game into a decisive affair. If Sweden can beat the USA, it will mark a huge milestone as the Swedes have been looking to dramatically improve the Swedish Junior Program after several close calls which have included a pair of WJC Silver Medals plus an U18 Bronze Medal back in 2008.

Can Sweden find a way to get through what's been a rock hard defense for the Americans as the Americans haven't given up a single goal in the Knockout Rounds? Or will the USA successfully defend the U18 World Championships and win their 3rd straight major Junior Gold Medal which includes the last U18 World Titles and the WJC Gold back in Jan.

With Canada's win over Latvia today, this will send Latvia and Belarus down to the U18 Division 1 Tournament for 2011 as both Canada & Slovakia are both 2-0 in the Relegation Round. Canada & Slovakia will play for 7th place, while Latvia & Belarus will play for pride in their final games tomorrow.

From the International Ice Hockey Federation Website:

Semifinal #1: Finland 0 U.S.A. 5 (0-1, 0-2, 0-2)

Finland VS. U.S.A. Game Photos:

In Minsk, Belarus: The United States have earned the chance to defend its U18 World Championship gold Medal after earning a 5-0 win against Finland in today's Semifinal. Nick Shore scored twice and Jack Campbell was in net for his 2nd straight shutout of the playoff round.

The Americans have skated in the Gold Medal Game 6 of the last 7 years and in total has 4 gold medals to their credit at the U18 Worlds, including last year's which came against Russia. For the Finns, the loss sends them to their 2nd straight Bronze Medal game, which they won last year against Canada.

Shore kicked off the scoring with the only goal of the 1st period to give the Americans an early 1-0 lead just over 5 minutes into action. The lead was doubled when Matt Nieto streaked down the wing and put in a backhander 6:19 into the 2nd period.

The Tempo continued to pick up as the game whore on and the game had a good flow and end to end action. The Americans went on the power play late in the 2nd period and spent the entire time camped out in front of the Finnish net, but couldn't get the 3-0 goal. But Adam Clendening made up for the lack of power play out-put when he in a perfect wrist shot just as time expired. It was such a close call that the goal could only be confirmed after a lengthy video review.

Despite getting out-shot more then two-to-one in the first 40 minutes, the Finns kept kept the Americans on edge with their fighting spirit. It was only when Nick Shore put in the 4-0 goal midway through the third period that the Finns were visibly deflated. Just over a minute later Jared Tinordi made the American Berth in the Gold Medal Game crystal clear with the 5-0 closing goal.

USA now awaits the winner of tonight's Russia VS. Sweden semi-final. The Last time Sweden skated in the Gold Medal Game at the U18 Worlds was in its inaugural year in 1999. At the other end of the spectrum, Russia is looking for it's 8th straight Gold Medal Game Appearance.

Semifinal #2: Sweden 3 Russia 1 (1-1, 0-0, 2-0)

Sweden VS. Russia Game Photos:

In Minsk, Belarus: Sweden will skate in the gold Medal Game for the first time since 1999 after earning a 3-1 win against Russia in a hard fought semi-final.

It is only the 2nd ever trip to the Golden Game, and the country is still looking for it's first ever Gold Medal at this event. It is Russia's first appearance in the Bronze Medal Game since 2003.

It was a completely different game from the speedy, skilled first semifinal between the USA & Finland. Instead, the Large Swedes and Russian treated the full Palace of Sport to a physical duel.

Sweden came out hard in the first five minutes, peppering Russian Goalie Andrei Vasilevski. But it was the Russian who struck first on their first power play chance when Vladislav Kartayev forced the puck in past Swedish Goaltender Johan Gustafsson. Sweden responded with a power play goal of its own when Ludvig Rensfeldt tied the game at one mid-point.

The Swedes persistence finally paid off 8:32 into the third period when Adam Larsson and ripped in a shot from above the faceoff circle during a Swedish Power Play. Less then a minute later Mattias Granlund sealed the win with a deflected shot that bounced off virtually everything in sight before squeezing into the goal.

With the 3-1 lead, Sweden controlled the rest of the game as Russia had no chance to mount a counter attack and try for a comeback. A little melee with 3 seconds left showed the Russian Frustration at missing the Golden Game.

Sweden will take on the defending champion USA in the Gold Medal Game on Friday. Sweden beat the USA in the preliminary round, 4-2. Meanwhile Russia will skate for the Bronze Medal against Finland tomorrow. Tomorrow's only playoff game is the fifth place game between Switzerland and the Czech Republic.

Relegation Round: Canada 5 Latvia 1 (2-0, 1-1, 2-0)

Canada VS. Latvia Game Photos:

In Bobruisk, Belarus: Canada did what it had to do stay up in the Top Division at the World U18 Championship, earning a 5-1 win against Latvia.

With six points, both Canada & Slovakia will return to the top level for next year, while Latvia and Belarus will move down to Division 1 for next season. There is still one day left of action left in Bobruisk tomorrow as Canada will take on Slovakia, while Latvia will face the Belarus in what are now merely placement games.

It wasn't necessarily a convincing win for the Canadians as a quick two goals coming less then a minute apart as the offense they generated against the the out-matched Latvians in the first period. In the 2nd, the Canada Offense sputtered, putting just one additional goal at the 6:11 mark of the period to make it a comfortable, yet slim 3-0 advantage.

Latvia got on the board with 18 seconds left in the 2nd period with a power-play marker to cut the Canadian Lead to two at the break. Canada found a way to pull away with two final goals, included a 2nd marker from Jordan Weal to make it a 5-1 win.

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