KAZAN, Russia – The U.S. and Canada secured their spots in the semi-finals after quarterfinal wins agaisnt Finland and Germany, respectively. The Americans will face Russia while Canada will take on Sweden in tomorrow's semis. Meanwhile, the relegation picture is complete, as Slovakia and Switzerland will return to the top division in 2009.
United States – Germany 4-1 (1-0, 2-1, 1-0)
Tomorrow’s semi-final will be a rematch of last year’s gold medal game after the United States beat Germany, 4-1, to move onto the final four, where they will meet host Russia.
While it can’t be said that today’s win was a cakewalk for the Americans, it seemed as if they had things well in control against the Germans. Robbie Czarnik scored less than five minutes into the game to give the U.S. the 1-0 lead. Despite having three straight power play chances in the first period, the U.S. had to settle for the slim lead at the end of one.
Germany took advantage of early second-period penalty trouble and netted a five-on-three goal to tie the game at one. Unfortunately for the Germans, the strike only seemed to wake the sleeping giant as the U.S. put in two goals by the midway mark of the period to climb ahead 3-1. Kyle Palmieri put the finishing touches on the win with the lone goal of the third period, bringing the final to 4-1.
Last year, Russia edged the U.S., 6-5, in the gold medal game. It is the seventh straight year that the Americans have played in the U18 semi-final game. The nation is going for a record fifth-straight U18 medal. They have earned two silver and two gold medals at the World U18 Championship in the last four years.
Canada – Finland 2-1 (1-0, 1-0, 0-1)
Finland outshot Canada 36-20 and 26-12 over the last two periods, but all they could produce offensively over 60 minutes was Jani Lajunen’s shorthanded goal six minutes before the end. Canadian goaltender Jake Allen was excellent during his 35-save performance.
Defenseman Tyler Cuma scored at 15.03 to give Canada the lead and Cory Hodgson got the game-winner midway through the game, a power-play goal which gave the Canadians the much needed two-goal cushion. Hodgson also assisted on the first goal, while Ryan Ellis had assists on both.
It was Cuma’s first goal of the championship. Hodgson is tied with Matthew Duchesne in leading all Canadian players with seven points.
The Finns ended the game playing six-on-four. Canada’s Travis Hamonic got a minor penalty with 59 seconds left and Finland pulled goalie Rasmus Rinne for a sixth attacker, but they kept missing the net on the chances they created.
Despite the win, Canada failed to impress and Sweden will go into Monday’s semifinal as the favourite to reach the final. Canadian teams – especially in games against Sweden – relish that underdog role.
Switzerland – Denmark 6-1 (1-0, 4-1, 1-0)
After a four-goal eruption in the second period, Switzerland secured its spot in the next year’s U18 top division, skating to a 6-1 win against Denmark. The win sealed Denmark’s relegation fate as the nation moves back down to Division I next year.
With Slovakia also securing its spot among the elite in today’s early game, all that is left to be determined in tomorrow’s relegation games is final placement.
Six different Swiss players scored in the win, which included three power-play tallies. After a slow start, Switzerland got the offense rolling when Nino Niederreiter scored a two-man advantage goal late in the first period. After the goal, Switzerland took control in the second period, pulling ahead, 4-0, before Denmark added its only goal with 1:52 left in the period. The Swiss didn’t let the celebration last long as they restored the four-goal lead with 18 seconds left in the period. A final goal with 4:35 left in the game sealed Switzerland’s spot at the 2009 top event next year.
Switzerland will play Slovakia tomorrow for seventh place, while Denmark and Belarus will face-off for ninth place.
Belarus – Slovakia 1-6 (0-3, 0-2, 1-1)
Richard Panik scored Slovakia’s two first goals within the first 14 minutes and Adam Lapsansky added a third shortly after. Panik got his third for the game early in the second to make it 4-0 and at that point the game was virtually over. Miroslav Preissinger got Slovakia’s fifth before the second intermission. Tomas Hricina had Slovakia’s last goal with four minutes left.
Igor Ravenko scored the consolation goal for Belarus, who is on the verge of being relegated back to division I. Belarus' only chance to stay up is to defeat Denmark on Monday, providing that Switzerland loses to Denmark later today. One Swiss point in that game means that both Denmark and Belarus will be relegated. Slovakia outshot Belarus 29-19.Richard Panik (Slovakia) scores one of his three goals on Belarus goalie Alexander Borodulia.Photo: IIHF/HHoF/Pekka MononenClick here for scores and statistics.