Wednesday, April 14, 2010

U18: Top teams have no problem

Press Release

Group A
Sweden – Belarus 7-0 (0-0, 5-0, 2-0)
BOBRUISK – Thanks to a stellar five-goal second period, Sweden stayed unbeaten at this year’s World U18 Championship with a 7-0 thumping over host Belarus.

It was the opening game for the host nation, and the fans in Bobruisk turned out in droves, nearly selling out the modern arena. And while the fans may have been able to help stall the Swedish attack through a scoreless first period, there was little they, or the Belarus team, could do when the Swedes sparked to life in the second.

Sweden made up for the sluggish start with a lightning fast pair of goals to open the second. Ludvig Rensfeldt scored both goals, with the first coming just 56 seconds into the period and the second trailing three minutes later. The goal took a little of the spirit out of the near sell-out crowd.

Another quick duo of goals mid-period took the Swedes out to a 4-0 lead. Both goals came on the power play as Sweden capitalized on both extra-man chances of the period. Adam Larsson scored the 3-0 goal at the 31:08 mark, and it was followed by Max Friberg’s marker two minutes later. Johan Larsson put in the 5-0 goal just moments later to make it a 5-0 Sweden lead, effectively dashing any hopes that Belarus had for an opening game upset.

Johan Larsson put in his second goal op the opening shift of the third period, while Erik Thorell made it 7-0 four minutes later. Sweden out-shot Belarus 46-8.

Sweden is now in pole position to take first place in the group, although it still has two more preliminary round games. The first of those contests is on Friday against Switzerland. Belarus will look for its first win tomorrow against winless Canada.

Switzerland – United States 1-5 (1-1, 0-2, 0-2)
BOBRUISK – It was harder than they would have liked, but in the end the U.S. was able to earn its first win at this year’s World U18 Championship with a 5-1 win against Switzerland.

Austin Czarik was the man of the hour for the Americans. He scored the first two goals which came a critical point when the U.S. needed momentum and stability.

The Americans were whistled for five minors in the first period and spent most of the period killing the Swiss power play. Despite having 10 minutes with the extra man, Switzerland scored only once in the stanza – an even-strength goal from Gregory Hofmann. The lead stood for only 27 seconds as Czarnik put in the equalizer, one of the few bright spots for the Americans in the period.

Czarnik struck again 4:01 into the second period to give the U.S. its first lead of the game. The goal settled the Americans down and got them into their game plan as they took only one penalty the entire period. Bill Arnold put in a late bonus goal in the last 15 seconds to give the U.S. some breathing room at the intermission.

The U.S. continued to steadily improve and by the end of the game were easily able to put the Swiss away with two third-period goals. Adam Clendening and Jason Zucker each got their first goals of the tournament to pull the Americans through to the 5-1 win.

Both teams stand with a 1-1 record after the first two game days and have the day off tomorrow. On Friday, the U.S. will take on Canada, while Switzerland has Sweden.

Group B
Czech Republic – Slovakia 4-3 (1-0, 2-0, 1-3)
MINSK – The Czech Republic and Slovakia finished neck-in-neck at least year’s World U18 Championship in sixth and seventh place, but today, the Czech’s were the superior team with a 4-3 win against the Slovaks.

The closeness of the score was deceiving as the Czechs had the game well in hand through most of the 60 minutes until Slovaks rallied late in the game. But Slovakia didn’t really threatened for the win, with a 4-3 goal coming only in the last five seconds.

Slovakia lived dangerously the entire first period, spending much of the time down a man and defending their own zone. The penalty trouble finally caught up with them in the last 14 seconds of the period when Michal Vachovec put in a two-man advantage goal to give the Czechs the slim 1-0 lead.

The Czech Republic’s Petr Zamorsky picked right up right where his team left off, scoring the 2-0 goal just 1:37 into second period. Martin Frk put in the 3-0 goal before the midway mark of the game.

The Slovaks struggled after falling behind, but created a small spark of hope late in the third period when Marek Tvrdon put in a quirky, odd-bounce goal just as a two-man advantage expired. A pair of Dominik’s exchanged goals in the waning minutes – Dominik Uher for the Czechs and Dominik Simcak for the Slovaks – to make it a 4-2 affair.

The Slovaks pulled goaltender Dominik Riecicky in favor of the extra attacker in the last minute and were buoyed by a Czech penalty. The extra two men allowed Simcak to put in the 4-3 goal with five seconds left in regulation, but despite the excitement it gave the crowd, the goal was merely academic as the last five seconds ticked off the clock.

Slovakia takes on Finland in tomorrow’s game in Minsk and the Czechs have the day off.

Latvia – Russia 0-9 (0-2, 0-4, 0-3)
MINSK – Russia stayed unbeaten, and virtually unchallenged, at this year’s U18 World Championship with an easy 9-0 win against Latvia. Russia has two wins in two games, while the Latvians are winless in their two outings.

Russia’s first power-play was representative of the entire game. They scored just 25 seconds into their first extra man chance, facing little resistance. Nikita Nesterov scored the opening tally on the rebound. Less than three minutes later Vladislav Namestnikov doubled the lead with his second goal of the championship. After taking another pair of late-period penalties, Latvia was lucky to escape with just the 2-0 deficit at the end of stanza as Russia swarmed the offensive zone.

The Latvian luck ran out in the second period as the Russians poured in four unanswered goals. Namestnikov put in another two goals and an assist in the flurry to complete a hat trick. His third goal 5:51 into the period prompted Latvia to pull goaltender Vadims Miscuks in favor of Kristers Gudlevskis.

The change did little to help the Latvian cause as Russia put in another three goals in the third period, cruising to the shutout win. Evgeni Kunetsov scored twice in the period, and closed the game with the pair of goals and an assist. Andrei Vasilveski earned the shutout bragging rights in net.

Both teams are idle tomorrow. Unbeaten Russia has a big game against Finland on Friday that could be the key to taking first place in the group. Meanwhile, Latvia will also resume play on Friday against the Czech Republic – a win is critical for the Latvians if they want to avoid the relegation round.

(Nathan also is a writer for Maineiacs Post to Post and the Maine Hockey Journal. He can be reached at

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