Czech Republic – Switzerland 5-6 (0-1, 4-4, 1-1)
MINSK – In a back-and-forth battle for fifth place, Switzerland came out on top with a 6-5 win against the Czech Republic. The fifth-place finish is Switzerland’s best since 2001 when the team was the surprise silver medalist. The sixth-place finish for the Czechs is a repeat from last year’s event.
There was no lack of action in the Palace of Sports Arena, especially in the second period when the teams combined for eight goals. Switzerland held a 1-0 lead at the end of the first. The Swiss opened the second period, jumping out to a 3-1 lead. The teams exchanged quick goals as Tomas Filippi brought the Czechs to within one, only to have his efforts erased less than a minute later when Dominic Lammer scored on an odd-man rush for the 4-2 goal.
The offensive duel continued when the Czechs put in two goals coming one minute apart to tie the game at four. Dominik Frk scored from point-blank range and Jrir Sekac took advantage of Swiss goaltender Lukas Meili’s poor position behind the net for the equalizer.
The high-scoring period ended with a 5-4 Swiss lead after Joel Vermin scored on a breakaway. He was tripped on his trip down ice and landed in the net just behind the puck. Vermin struck again 3:08 into the third period with another crucial goal. The 6-4 marker gave the Swiss the breathing space they needed to weather a late comeback bid from the Czechs, who got a shorthanded goal in the last 34 seconds to bring the final to 6-5.
Canada – Slovakia 4-2 (4-0, 0-1, 0-1)
BOBRUISK – Canada limped to a seventh-place finish at this year’s World U18 Championship with a 4-2 win against Slovakia. The win somewhat salvaged the Canadians disappointing tournament as they finished atop the relegation round group.
Both Canada and Slovakia will return to next year’s top division, both likely hoping to improve on this year’s finish.
Canada put in four goals in the first period and didn’t do much else through the end of the game, generating no additional offense for the next 40 minutes. Luckily for the Canadians, Slovakia was only able to put in two goals in response, one coming in the second period and the 4-2 goal coming in the third.
Slovakia ends this year’s U18 Worlds in eighth place.
Belarus – Latvia 4-5 (1-1, 1-2, 2-1, 0-0, 0-1)
BOBRUISK – Latvia and Belarus were both looking for their first win at this year’s World U18 Championship and it was Latvia that earned bragging rights with a 5-4 shootout victory.
The lead changed hands four times with the game-tying goal coming from Latvia with 4:07 left in regulation. That goal forced the overtime and eventual shootout, which Zemgus Girgensons won for Latvia.
The victory means that Latvia takes ninth place, while Belarus finishes tenth in the ten-team pool.
Both teams knew they were relegated entering the game, but nevertheless played an entertaining and competitive 60 minutes. Belarus went up 1-0 on the power-play only to have the lead erased 31 seconds later by a Latvian marker.
Latvia continued to build its momentum in the second period, moving ahead to a 3-1 lead, but Belarus closed the stanza strong with a goal in the last five minutes to close the gap to one goal.
It was Belarus’ turn to come out strong in the third period. They reclaimed the lead with two goals in the first 6:13 of action to take the 4-3 advantage. The fans in Bobruisk sensed that this could be the day for their team’s first win and urged Belarus on, but in a waning minutes of the game, Latvia’s Kristians Pelss put in the 4-4 goal to force the overtime and shootout.
World U18 placement so far:
6. Czech Republic
(Nathan also is a writer for Maineiacs Post to Post and the Maine Hockey Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com)