MINSK – Sweden will skate in the gold medal game for the first time since 1999 after earning a 3-1 win against Russia in a hard-fought semi-final.
It is only the second-ever trip for Sweden to the golden game, and the country is still looking for its first gold at the event. It is Russia’s first appearance in the bronze medal game since 2003.
It was a completely different game from the speedy, skilled first semi-final game between USA and Finland. Instead, the large Swedes and Russians treated the full Palace of Sport Arena to a physical duel.
Sweden came out hard in the first five minutes, peppering Russian goaltender Andrei Vasilevski. But it was the Russians who struck first on their first power-play chance when Valdislav Kartayev forced the puck in past Swedish goaltender Johan Gustafsson. Sweden responded with a power-play goal of its own when Ludvig Rensfeldt tied the game at one mid-period.
The Swedes threw everything they had at Vasilevski in the second period, but the Russian netminder stood his ground and thwarted the Swedes' chances to take the lead. By the end of 40 minutes, Sweden held a 28-14 shots advantage.
Sweden’s persistence finally paid off 8:32 into the third period when Adam Larsson ripped in a shot from above the face-off circle during a Swedish power-play. Less than a minute later Mattias Granlund sealed the win with a deflected shot that bounced off virtually everything in sight before squeezing into the goal.
With the 3-1 lead, Sweden controlled the rest of the game as Russia had no chance to mount a counter attack and try for a comeback. A little melee with three seconds left showed the Russian frustration at missing the golden game.
Sweden will take on defending champion USA in the gold medal game on Friday. Sweden beat the U.S. in the preliminary round, 4-2. Meanwhile Russia will skate for bronze against Finland. Tomorrow’s only playoff game is the for fifth place between Switzerland and the Czech Republic.
Finland – United States 0-5 (0-1, 0-2, 0-1)
MINSK – The United States earned the chance to defend its World U18 Championship gold medal after earning a 5-0 win against Finland in today’s semi-final. Nick Shore scored twice and Jack Campbell was in net for the second American shutout of the playoff round.
The Americans have skated in the gold medal game six of the last seven years and in total have four golds to their credit at the U18 Worlds, including last year’s which came against Russia. For the Finns, the loss sends them to their second straight bronze medal game, which they won last year against Canada.
Shore kicked off the scoring with the only goal of the first period to give the Americans the early lead just over five minutes into action. The lead doubled when Matt Nieto streaked down the wing and put in a backhander 6:19 into the second period.
The tempo continued to pick up as the game wore on and the game had good flow and end-to-end action. The Americans went on the power-play late in the second period and spent the entire time camped in front of the Finnish net, but couldn’t get the 3-0 goal. But Adam Clendening made up for the lack of power-play output when he put in a picture-perfect wrist shot just as time expired. It was such a close call that goal could only be confirmed after a lengthy video review.
Despite getting out-shot more than two-to-one in the first 40 minutes, the Finns kept the Americans on edge with their fighting spirit. It was only when Shore put in the 4-0 goal midway through the third period that the Finns were visibly deflated. Just over a minute later Jared Tinordi made the American berth in the gold medal game crystal clear with the 5-0 closing goal.
USA now awaits the winner of tonight’s Sweden-Russia semi-final. The last time Sweden skated in the gold medal game at the U18 Worlds was in its inaugural year in 1999. At the other end of the spectrum, Russia is looking for its eighth gold-medal game appearance.
Canada – Latvia 5-1 (2-0, 1-1, 2-0)
BOBRUISK – Canada did what it had to do to stay in the top division at the World U18 Championship, earning a 5-1 win against Latvia.
With six points, both Canada and Slovakia will return to the top level next year, while Latvia and Belarus will move down to Division I next season. There is still one day of action left in Bobruisk tomorrow as Canada will take on Slovakia, while Latvia will face Belarus in what are now merely placement games.
It wasn’t necessarily a convincing win from the Canadians as a quick two goals coming less than a minute apart was the only offense they generated against the out-matched Latvians in the first period. In the second, the Canadian offense sputtered, putting just one additional goal in at the 6:11 mark of the period to make it a comfortable, yet slim 3-0 advantage.
Latvia got on the board with 18 seconds left in the second period with a power-play marker to cut the Canadian lead to two at the break. Canada found a way to pull away in the third period with two final goals, including a second marker from Jordan Weal to earn the 5-1 win.
(Nathan also is a writer for Maineiacs Post to Post and the Maine Hockey Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com)