FARGO-MOORHEAD, USA – In Monday's World U18 action, Finland pounded Norway 10-1, and the USA enjoyed a 12-0 romp over Slovakia. Earlier, Canada stunned the Czech Republic 4-3 in overtime, and Sweden slammed Switzerland 11-0.
Finland – Norway 10-1 (3-0, 6-1, 1-0)
One message from this game? Watch out for the new generation of Finnish snipers.
Finland's Toni Rajala notched three goals and four assists in the tournament's biggest one-man offensive outburst to date, as the Norwegians suffered their fourth straight loss. Teemu Pulkkinen racked up three goals and three assists, and Mikael Granlund had a goal and five assists.
The Finns, who hit double digits in goals for the first time at the 2009 IIHF World U18 Championship, moved into second place in Group B with six points. They close out their Preliminary Round Tuesday versus Slovakia. Norway is destined for the Relegation Round.
Granlund assisted on Finland's first two goals by Pulkkinen at 12:32 and 16:32, and then Erik Haula added the 3-0 marker at the buzzer.
Regrettably for the Norwegian penalty-killers, Finland's next two goals in the second period were both shorthanded efforts by Rajala, assisted by Granlund. Mikael Aaltonen made it 6-0 Finland halfway through the game, before Norway finally wrecked Finnish goalie's Erno Suomalainen's shutout aspirations when Petter Roste Fossen scored at 14:12.
But the Finns pumped in three more goals before the period ended, including the completion of Rajala's natural hat trick and two more Granlund assists.
To start the third period, Norwegian goalie Chris Henrik-Nygaard was mercifully replaced between the pipes by Lars Volden. The final 20 minutes were chippy and penalty-dominated, highlighted only by Pulkkinen's third goal to round out the scoring with 2:31 left. Final shots were 66-18 for Finland.
USA – Slovakia 12-0 (3-0, 4-0, 5-0)
Coaches love to talk about getting better period by period. The USA actually accomplished that feat versus the outmatched Slovaks, scoring one goal more each period en route to a 12-0 triumph in front of a happy Fargo crowd.
It was the largest margin of victory so far at this tournament. And it gave the Americans sole possession of first place in Group B.
On Tuesday, the USA will attempt to nail down top spot and a bye to the semi-finals with a win over Russia, while Slovakia must beat Finland that day for a shot at a quarter-final berth.
Versus Slovakia, top American gun Kevin Lynch set the tone with two goals to open the first-period scoring. After David Valek made it 3-0 with 3:46 left in the period, that was all the Americans really needed.
But they kept coming, and when John Henrion scored the 5-0 goal exactly halfway through the game, Slovak starting goalie Tomas Pek got sat down in favour of Juraj Holly. The USA simply responded by potting a pair of power-play markers before the end of the second period.
Five more goals followed in the third, including three with the man advantage. Jeremy Morin's solo effort with two minutes left completed the scoring at 12-0.
When the Star-Spangled Banner was played afterwards, the line about the “rocket's red glare” unavoidably brought to mind images of the red goal light flashing behind the Slovak net.
Besides Lynch, nine other American players had multiple-point games, including Kenny Ryan, Chris Brown, Drew Shore, Adam Clendening, John Henrion, Jeremy Morin, Ryan Bourque, Jon Merrill, and Jason Zucker.
Czech Republic – Canada 3-4 (1-0, 2-0, 0-3, 0-1)
Brett Connolly's second goal of the tournament at 1:53 of overtime lifted Canada to a comeback 4-3 victory over the Czechs in Fargo. With a scrum in front of the Czech net after shots by Byron Froese and Simon Depres, Connolly, a product of the WHL's Prince George Cougars, came in as the trailer and converted the rebound over Czech goalie Filip Novotny.
The Canadians, defending champs from 2008, now sport a perfect record with three wins, while the Czechs, barring a lopsided Swiss win over Germany on Tuesday, are likely destined for the Relegation Round.
Canada will face off versus Sweden on Tuesday in a battle for first place in Group A. The winner gets a bye into Friday's semi-finals, while the loser will take on the third-place team in Group B in Thursday's quarter-finals.
Remarkably, this was the first time in six all-time U18 meetings that Canada has beaten the Czech Republic.
Through 40 minutes, it looked like the Czechs would keep their streak alive. Despite failing to score on the power play with three consecutive opportunities in the first period, they drew first blood on Antonin Honejsek's third tournament tally at 15:35.
The Czech team's discipline was less than perfect, as they took checking-to-the-head penalties late in both the first and second periods. Yet they appeared to be on cruise control after building a 3-0 lead in the middle frame on goals by Michal Poletin and Daniel Horek.
However, Canada erupted in the third period, outshooting the Czechs 23-4. John McFarland kickstarted the rally at 2:06 on a setup from Byron Froese. Suddenly it was 3-1.
Just 10 seconds later, Ryan O'Reilly cut the deficit to 3-2. And when Czech goalie Filip Novotny was called for delay of game at 5:04, it took a mere four seconds of power play time before Erik Gudbranson beat Novotny and tied the game at 3-3.
After the remainder of regulation time solved nothing, could Canada complete its rally against the dispirited Czechs? Connolly answered that question with a resounding “Yes.”
Final shots favoured Canada 51-33.
Sweden – Switzerland 11-0 (3-0, 5-0, 3-0)
Magnus Svensson-Paajarvi is the hottest Swedish pro prospect not named Victor Hedman, and the fleet-footed winger demonstrated why on Monday in Moorhead, leading his team with five points in an 11-0 rout of Switzerland.
The result sets up a Canada-Sweden clash for top spot in Group A on Tuesday. Sweden's goal differential is 23-4 through three games, while Canada's is 23-6, so fans are expecting an exciting, evenly matched affair.
The winless Swiss, who have scored just three goals while allowing 25, will almost certainly head to the Relegation Round unless they create a three-way tie at the bottom of Group A by defeating Germany by an enormous margin.
Swedish goalie Johan Gustafsson earned the shutout in his tournament debut. Sweden outshot Switzerland 46-26.
Svensson-Paajarvi got the onslaught started at 5:40 with the first of four Swedish power play goals on the day. Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Patrick Cehlin extended Sweden's lead to 3-0 with late-period goals 31 seconds apart.
Svensson-Paajarvi scored his second of the game at 4:20 of the second period, crushing any Swiss hopes of a rally. When Sweden's lead soared to 7-0 after three goals in a mid-period span of 1:31, Swiss goalie Leon Sarkis was yanked in favour of Benjamin Conz. But it made no difference, as Carl Klingberg scored with the man advantage to make it 8-0 just over a minute later.
Three more Swedish goals in the final 10 minutes completed the shellacking. In addition to Svensson-Paajarvi's exploits, big offensive outings were enjoyed by Oliver Ekman-Larsson (2 G, 2 A), William Wallen (1 G, 3 A), and Anton Lander (4 A).
(Nathan also is a writer for Maineiacs Post to Post and the Maine Hockey Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com)