The IIHF U18 World Hockey Championships got underway today in the Cities of Minsk & Bobruisk Belarus as the Americans are looking to defend their U18 World Championship that they won in Fargo, North Dakota and Moorhead, Minnesota last season.
It was a very dramatic first day as the Swiss are looking to win their first ever International Junior Medal after finishing in 4th place at the WJC back over the Holidays. Also, after going up 2-0 early in the 2nd period, the Swedes who finished 4th last year were able to comeback to win 4-2 on the opening day.
Russia is looking to win the U18 Gold after finishing with the Silver Medal last year which was a result of a blowout after the USA beat them 5-0 in the Gold Medal Last year. Also Finland were able to crush Latvia who were promoted from the U18 Division 1 Tournament last year with a strong 2nd period.
By Jenny Wiedeke of the International Ice Hockey Federation Website: www.iihf.com
Group A in Bobruisk
Sweden 4 U.S.A. 2 (0-1, 1-1, 3-0)
Sweden came back from a 2-0 deficit to beat defending U18 Champion United States, 4-2, in both teams opening game at this year's U18 World Championship.
The Americans controlled the first half of the game, but basically fell flat when the Swedes started applying pressure mid-game.
Sweden took an early first-period penalty and paid the price when Chase Balisey gave the Americans the 1-0 lead just 3:36 into action. The Teams exchanged penalties and not much else until Brandon Saad doubled the U.S. Lead 2:24 into the 2nd period. Ten Minutes later, Sweden finally got the puck past American Netminder Jack Campbell with a power play goal, making it a 2-1 affair.
Sweden continued to chip away at the Americans and its patience finally paid off when Henri Snall put in the equalizer 6:29 into the third period. The goal provided a huge momentum shift, as the Swedes had just killed off a penalty just over a minute before Snall Struck, which proved to be the Americans best chance to seal the win.
Johan Larsson delivered the death blow to the Americans with 10:46 left in regulation. The U.S. was rattled by the 3-2 goal and never recovered to challenge for the tying goal. The Americans pulled Campbell in the last 40 seconds, but it was only resulted in the empty net goal for Sweden, bringing the final to 4-2 while Sweden captain Larsson had a hat trick.
The Americans will take on Switzerland tomorrow in a game where both teams have unexpected records. Meanwhile, the Swedes will be the first team to play against host Belarus. The crowd tomorrow in Bobruisk is expected to be a sell-out.
Canada 1 Switzerland 3 (0-2, 1-0, 0-1)
It's only day one and the U18 World Championship already had its first major upset as 8th ranked Switzerland stunned Canada 3-1.
Switzerland jumped out to a surprising 2-0 lead in the first period against a flat Canadian Team that was caught on its heels. The defensemen were the Stars for the spunky Swiss as Dario Trutmann assisted on both first period goals, while his D-partner Samuel Guerra put in the 2-0 goal with 2:27 left in the first period.
Canada worked it's way back into the game, cutting the lead in half midway through the 2nd period when Quinton Howden scored. Although the shots were relatively even, Switzerland had the better chances throughout the game with several breakaways and a few post shots. Canadian goalie Calvin Pickard was largely responsible for keeping his team in the game.
But there was little that Pickard could do in the waining moments of the game to help his team get the tying goal when he was pulled in favor of the extra attacker. Despite spending much of the nail-biting minute in the Swiss Zone, Canada couldn't get the 2-2 equalizer. Joel Vermin got credit for the Swiss empty netter with 5 seconds left after he was slashed on the breakaway, giving Switzerland the 3-1 win.
Switzerland will need to keep its miracle skates sharp tomorrow when it takes on defending champion USA. Canada has the day off to regroup.
Group B in Minsk
Czech Republic 1 Russia 4 (0-1, 1-1, 0-2)
It wasn't flashy, but Russia earned its first win at this year's World U18 Championship with a 4-1 decision against the Czech Republic.
It was a near sellout in the Sports Palace as the fans turned out at the end of a long Belaruisan Holiday weekend to cheer on their Russian neighbors. Sergei Barbashev rewarded their efforts 7:01 into action with the first Russian Goal.
Midway through the game Maxim Shalunov increased the Russian lead, but the two goal lead would not last through the 2nd period as Michal Vachovek cut the advantage in half with the power play goal in the last minute of the 2nd period. It was a much needed boost for the struggling Czech Team, which had four power-play chances in the period, yet was out-shot nearly two-on-one.
But any thoughts that the Czechs had a comeback were squashed when Viktor Antipin scored on a five-on-three and gave Russia a 3-1 lead at the 48:49 mark. Vladimir Namestnikov brought the final to 4-1 with three minutes remaining. Russia out-shot the Czechs 40-15.
The Czechs have a key game against Slovakia tomorrow, while Russia takes on Latvia.
Finland 7 Latvia 2 (2-1, 4-1, 1-0)
Finland opened the U18 World Championship with an easy 7-2 win against newly promoted Latvia.
Finland pulled away in the 2nd period with a 4 goal output. Top prospect Mikael Granlund was the set-up man, getting 4 assists in the game, including three in the 2nd period surge.
Despite the lopsided score, Latvia played well against the Finns, keeping the shot tally balanced. The ulitmate decider was the special teams on both sides. Finland was superior in the 2nd period with three extra-man advantage goals, allowing them to jump to a 6-2 lead.
Until Granlund and the Finnish Power Play struck, the game was close. Latvia put in a five-on-three goal to tie things at 1-1 midway through the 1st period before Finalnd's Mikael Salmivitra scored a rare equal-strength goal to give the Finns a 2-1 lead at the end of the first period.
The 2nd period was all Finland, with the exception on one shorthanded breakaway by Latvia's Maris Dilevka midway through the 2nd period. A final Finnish power play goal with just over two minutes left in the third period from Miihkali Teppo brought the final to 7-1.
Latvia returns to action again tomorrow against Russia, while Finland has the day off.
Tournament Standings After Day 1
1. Switzerland 1-0-0-0 3 PTS 3-1
2. Sweden 1-0-0-0 3 PTS 4-2
3. Belarus 0-0-0-0 0 PTS 0-0
4. U.S.A. 0-0-0-1 0 PTS 2-4
5. Canada 0-0-0-1 0 PTS 1-3
1. Finland 1-0-0-0 3 PTS 7-2
2. Russia 1-0-0-0 3 PTS 4-1
3. Slovakia 0-0-0-0 0 PTS 0-0
4. Czech Rep. 0-0-0-1 0 PTS 1-4
5. Latvia 0-0-0-1 0 PTS 2-7
Day 2 Schedule on 4/14
Switzerland VS. U.S.A.
Sweden VS. Belarus
Latvia VS. Russia
Czech Republic VS. Slovakia
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