Finland – Czech Republic 4-3 (0-1, 1-2, 2-0)
MINSK – All Finland needed was one point to clinch first place in its preliminary round group and they got two with a 4-3 shootout win against the Czech Republic. The Finns rallied from a two-goal deficit in the third period to earn the crucial win.
With the first-place finish in Group B, Finland has an automatic berth in the semi-finals. Russia ends the group in second place and will face Switzerland in the quarterfinals, while the Czechs take third place and will take on USA in its quarterfinal game.
Finland got caught on its heels early in the game, as Petr Holik put in his fourth goal of the championship to give the Czechs the 1-0 lead just 1:19 into action. The goal stood as the lone marker until Finland’s Petteri Hallinen struck 2:35 into the second for the equalizer. But soon after the goal, Finland’s Miihkali Teppo took a costly holding penalty that paved the way for the Czechs to reclaim the lead with a power-play goal. Jiri Sekac extended the lead to 3-1 at the 33:21 mark to close the second period scoring.
Finland put on the pressure in the third period, which was filled with end-to-end action. Mikael Granlund pulled the Finns to within one on the power-play, injecting new life into the Finnish team. The Finns swarmed the Czech net after the goal and were rewarded with the game-tying goal when Mika Partanen finished the odd-man rush with four minutes left in regulation.
The goal stood through 60 minutes, sending the game to overtime – the first of the tournament. With a power-play in overtime, the Czechs had the chance to win, but could not take advantage of the extra man. Instead it was Finland taking the two points in the shootout, converting on all their chances.
The entire tournament has a day off tomorrow to allow teams to make the move to or from Bobruisk and Minsk. The playoff round will be played in Minsk and all relegation round games will be held in Bobruisk.
Russia – Slovakia 3-1 (3-1, 0-0, 0-0)
MINSK – Russia kept its hopes to win its U18 preliminary round group with a 3-1 win against Slovakia. The Slovaks’ slim hopes to make the playoff round were killed with the loss as they are now in the relegation round.
Efim Gurkin scored twice in the first period as the Russians jumped out to a strong 3-1 lead at the end of 20 minutes. It was clear from the first shift that the Russians weren’t going to let the chance at first place in the group, and an automatic spot in the semi-finals, pass them by after Nikita Nesterov scored on a breakout play on the opening shift of the game.
Things slowed considerably in the rest of the game as the Russians went into maintenance mode, while the Slovaks tried to find their way into the offensive zone, but had little luck against the defensive-minded Russians.
Slovakia takes the three points it earned against Latvia with it to the relegation round. Russia must await the outcome of tonight’s Finland – Czech Republic game to find out if they are automatically into the semi-finals. Finland can clinch first place in the group with a win against the Czechs.
United States – Belarus 7-1 (2-0, 3-1, 2-0)
BOBRUISK – Host Belarus is still looking for its first win at the World U18 Championship after falling 7-1 against the United States. The result did nothing to alter USA’s second-place finish in Group A and Belarus’ place in the relegation round.
Five different U.S. players scored in the shutout win. Jason Zucker, Rocco Grimaldi and Brandon Saad paced all players with a goal and an assist each.
It took most of the first period for the Americans to get on the board, but they rallied with two quick goals to take the 2-0 lead just before the break. Another pair of goals in the first four minutes of the second period doubled the lead to 4-0.
Luke Moffat put in his first goal of the event to bump the advantage to 5-0. Shortly after, Belarus spoiled the shutout when Artur Abmiotka put in a power-play goal to end the period on a positive note.
The U.S. continued to find little resistance from the Belarus defense in the third period, putting in two power-play goals in the first five minutes to make it a 7-1 affair.
The U.S. will make the move to Minsk tomorrow and will face the Czechs in Tuesday’s quarterfinal. Belarus will play its first relegation round game against Slovakia.
Canada – Sweden 4-5 (0-2, 0-2, 4-1)
BOBRUISK – Sweden finished its U18 preliminary round group with a perfect record after skating to a straight forward 5-4 win against Canada.
There was nothing on the line in today’s game as Sweden already had the top spot from the group, and the berth to the semi-finals, already secured while the Canadians knew they were relegation round bound. Both teams’ number-two goaltenders got the start in net.
The Swedes had the win well in hand when Canada decided to start challenging them for the three points in the last 10 minutes of the game. Canada scored four goals in the final stanza, but fell just shy of tying the game as Sweden hung on for the 5-4 win.
The game started with little drama as the squads stuck to the basics and approached the game with little flare. Sweden held a 2-0 lead by the end of the first period. Victor Rask scored the 1-0 goal just over four minutes into action and John Vestin doubled the lead mid-period when he capitalized on Sweden’s first power-play chance of the game.
A mid-game marker from Ludvig Rensfeldt put the Swedes up 3-0 and was the end of the game for Canadian goaltender Kent Simpson, who was replaced by traditional starter Calvin Pickard. The main excitement of the game came towards the end of the period when 10-minute misconducts were handed out like candy as the Canadian frustration surfaced. In total 34 penalty minutes were doled out in two separate scrums, resulting in a Swedish power-play which they used to score the 4-0 goal.
Ryan O’Connor launched the Canadian comeback with a power-play goal in the opening of the third period. Christian Thomas quickly followed with the 4-2 goal for Canada, but Matthias Granlund put in his second goal, which proved to be the key goal of the game as the five goals were just enough to stave off two late-period goals from Freddie Hamilton and Quinton Howden.
All teams have a day off tomorrow before play resumes on Tuesday when Canada takes on Latvia in its first relegation game. With the quarterfinal bye, Sweden does not skate again until Wednesday in the semi-finals.
(Nathan also is a writer for Maineiacs Post to Post and the Maine Hockey Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com)