With the Playoffs and Relegation Rounds getting underway tomorrow. Here's a look at how the rest of the Group Stage went as I was out of town this weekend and unable for the most part to keep an update on the tournament.
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There's tons of pictures from this event. You can either go through the regular, or you can select from ind. teams & games from this year's U18 World Championship.
Sweden & Finland Semifinal Bound
With the Northern European Powers winning the groups. Their looking to bring home the first U18 Gold Medal to Scandinavia for the first time since 2000 when the Finns won back-to-back Gold's in 1999 and 2000 when the IIHF First started this tournament. Sweden has never won this event in this history and haven't medaled since 2007 when they won Bronze when the Tournament in Finland.
Finland sweeped Group B with a 7-2 win over Latvia, 5-2 win over Slovakia, a huge 5-4 win over Russia that basically decided the Group and marked the return to possible greatness for the Finnish Junior Program after taking a bit of a dip the last few years, including being in the relegation round when they hosted the tournament back in 2007.
To finish the Group Stage, all they needed was a point to claim Group A and a 4-3 OT Win over the Czech Republic did that. The Finns finished with an impressive 11 out of a possible 12 points and are looking dangerous to win their first World Junior Gold Medal since they won the 2000 U18 World Championship.
Sweden had a similar run where a comeback win against the USA helped them go to a perfect Group Stage with a big 7-0 win against Belarus where a huge 2nd period with 5 goals blew the game wide open. The Swedes continued to score big time with a 10-2 win over Switzerland where 4 goals in both the 2nd & 3rd period ended the Swiss Hopes of another upset after the Swiss upset Canada on opening day.
Finally against Canada, Sweden did the unthinkable as in addition to winning the group, they sent Canada down the relegation round after the Canadians who have a repetition of underachieving in this event, beat them 5-4 despite a 4 goal 3rd period by Canada to make the end of the game interesting.
Can Sweden finally win a major Junior Event after several close calls and a big commitment to improve the Swedish Junior Program in both the League and National Team Programs? This may be their best shot yet.
Finland will be facing the USA VS. Czech Republic Winner while Sweden will face the Russia VS. Switzerland Winner in the Quarterfinals. Can the Swiss pull off another big win in the U18's like they did against Russia in the WJC earlier in the season?
USA Comes back Strong, Canada down to the Relegation Round
After the Americans opening day loss to Sweden, the Americans came back with 3 straight wins where they outscored the opposition 17-2 with big wins over Switzerland, Belarus & and a strong shutout win over Canada for them to finish 2nd in the Group Round and are looking dangerous to beat the Czech's and have a shot of successfully defending the U18 World Championship.
The Americans are looking for a strong performance in the Quarterfinals against the Czech Republic that they beat arch Rival Slovakia 4-3 and surviving a comeback attempt against Latvia 5-4. The Czechs have shown that they can be dangerous this year as they were down 2-1 midway through the 3rd period before Russia pulled away late. Also, losing in a SO to Group Winners Finland 4-3. So it may not be as easy as in recent years for the Americans.
Last year the Americans took down the Czechs 6-2 where a 4 goal 2nd period ended the Czech Hopes. So they have done well against the Czech Republic in recent years. A win tomorrow and it would be a game against Finland in Wednesday's Semifinals which should be a great showdown assuming the Americans can beat the Czechs tomorrow.
Canada on the otherhand has been bad in this tournament. Despite their history of not doing well in this event. Being in the relegation round is no excuse for the Canadians as getting upset 3-1 by Switzerland led to a huge downfall with them getting thumped by the USA 5-0 and being down 4-0 going into the 2nd intermission against Sweden. Even through a 4 goal comeback in the 3rd made things interesting, it wasn't enough to get them the win.
It would be a huge shock to see the Canadians go down to Division 1 at any tournament, but at least an 11-3 win over Belarus has them going into the Relegation Round against Latvia and Slovakia with a win and an +8 Goal Differently. Expect them to survive with ease, but you have got to think that Hockey Canada is not happy with this showing.
Canada will be playing Slovakia and Latvia in the Relegation Round as the Canadians will look to crush the Slovaks and Latvians as both teams will be looking to survive and be back for next year's World U18 Championship.
Here's links to Game Stories involving Team USA from the USA Hockey Website.
Game 1: USA VS. Sweden: www.usahockey.com/Template_Usahockey.aspx?NAV=TU_04_02_04&id=285548
Game 2: USA VS. Switzerland: www.usahockey.com/Template_Usahockey.aspx?NAV=TU_04_02_04&id=285618
Game 3: USA VS. Canada: www.usahockey.com/Template_Usahockey.aspx?NAV=TU_04_02_04&id=285706
Game 4: USA VS. Belarus: www.usahockey.com/Template_Usahockey.aspx?NAV=TU_04_02_04&id=285778
Battle for Survival between Slovakia, Latvia and Belarus
With Canada in the Relegation Round, expect the battle for survival to be a 3 horse race between Slovakia, Latvia and Belarus. The Slovaks find themselves in the best position as they have a win over Latvia and a win over Belarus who's basically been a no show exception for the game against Switzerland where they lost 3-2.
Latvia may be in the most trouble, despite being able to play well against the Czech Republic, they will have to face Canada on Wednesday. Then face Belarus to end the Relegation Round on Thursday Night, but by then, if Slovakia and Canada win their games. It would be basically for pride and to determine 9th and 10th so the game would mean nothing at all towards who would stay up and who would fall to Division 1 for 2011.
The Division 1 Tournaments just wrapped up over the weekend and the two teams that will be getting promoted will be Norway & Germany for next season.
Here's a look at the Final Group Stage Standings. Also the Playoff & Relegation Round Matchups.
Group Stage Standings
1. Sweden 4-0-0-0 12 PTS 26-8
2. U.S.A. 3-0-0-1 9 PTS 19-6
3. Switzerland 2-0-0-2 6 PTS 9-18
4. Canada 1-0-0-3 3 PTS 16-16
5. Belarus 0-0-0-4 0 PTS 6-28
1. Finland 3-1-0-0 11 PTS 21-11
2. Russia 3-0-0-1 9 PTS 20-7
3. Czech Rep. 2-0-1-1 7 PTS 13-15
4. Slovakia 1-0-0-3 3 PTS 10-15
5. Latvia 0-0-0-4 0 PTS 9-25
Relegation Round Standings
1. Canada 1-0-0-0 3 PTS 11-3
2. Slovakia 1-0-0-0 3 PTS 4-3
3. Latvia 0-0-0-1 0 PTS 3-4
4. Belarus 0-0-0-1 0 PTS 3-11
Relegation Round Schedule
4/15: Belarus 3 Canada 11 (1-4, 2-2, 0-5)
4/17: Slovakia 4 Latvia 3 (1-0, 2-2, 1-1)
4/20: Slovakia VS. Belarus
4/21: Canada VS. Latvia
4/22: Canada VS. Slovakia
4/22: Latvia VS. Belarus
U.S.A. VS. Czech Republic
Russia VS. Switzerland
Finland VS. USA/Czech Rep. Winner
Sweden VS. Russia/Switzerland Winner
5th Place Game (Thursday)
Medal Round (Friday)
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