FARGO-MOORHEAD, USA – To open the 2009 IIHF World U18 Championship, Sweden scored three first-period goals en route to a 7-0 win over the Czechs. Meanwhile, the defending champions from Canada started cautiously but walloped Germany 11-2. Finland beat Russia 7-4 and the US trounced Norway 8-0.
Czech Republic – Sweden 0-7 (0-3, 0-3, 0-1)
The Swedish-Czech opener at the Moorhead Sports Center was a chippy affair, laden with stick infractions and roughing penalties. The Swedes were clearly superior on special teams, capitalizing three times on the power play and once shorthanded.
Left wing Magnus Svensson-Paajarvi, who starred for Sweden at the 2009 World Juniors in Ottawa with seven points, led the onslaught with two goals and an assist. Jacob Josefson had a goal and three helpers, and Calle Jarnkrok added a goal and two assists.
Midway through the game, the Czechs yanked starting netminder Filip Novotny in favour of Marek Mazanec after the Swedes went up 5-0. Swedish goalie Robin Lehner, a product of Göteborg's Frolunda club, recorded the shutout.
Final shots favoured Sweden 39-12.
Sweden is bidding for its first medal at the tournament since 2007's bronze. Tre Kronor has never won the IIHF World U18 Championship.
Germany – Canada 2-11 (1-1, 0-7, 1-3)
For the third straight year, Canada opened the IIHF World U18 Championship with a lopsided win over Germany. The 11-2 victory at Fargo's Urban Plains Center completed the hat trick, so to speak, after Canada triumphed 9-2 in 2008 and 7-3 in 2007.
Canada's shooting percentage soared to improbable heights in the second period. After coming out of the first period in a 1-1 deadlock, the Canadians scored on seven out of their 16 shots on Germany's Dustin Haloschan in the middle frame to grab an 8-1 lead.
Centre Byron Froese, who placed third in team scoring with 57 points for the WHL's Everett Silvertips this season, paced the Canadian attack with three goals, including the eventual game-winner, and an assist. Cody Eakin and Ethan Werek both added a pair of goals. Canada outshot Germany 37-20.
The IIHF has organized the World U18 Championship annually each April since 1999. Canada is the defending champion from 2008.
Finland – Russia 7-4 (2-2, 4-2, 1-0)
In an exciting battle of offensive-minded teams, Finland outgunned Russia 7-4 on the strength of two-goal games by phenoms Teemu Pulkkinen and Toni Rajala.
Rajala also chipped in two assists, while Vladimir Tarasenko led Russia with a pair of goals and an assist.
The Russians held a 2-0 lead late in the first period, but the Finns tied it up with two goals in a span of 2:43, including a Pulkkinen power-play marker with 50 seconds before the buzzer.
Just 1:32 into the second period, Pulkkinen made the Russians pay again on the man advantage, and two quick goals by Jonas Nattinen and Rajala lifted Finland into a 5-2 lead. Kirill Kabanov cut the Russian deficit to 5-3 a minute after Rajala's goal, and then the teams traded quick tallies midway through the period to make it 6-4 heading into the third.
Rajala salted away the win at 5:30 of the third period with Finland's fourth power-play tally of the evening.
Mikael Granlund, the youngest player ever to represent Finland at an IIHF World Junior Championship (2009, Ottawa) at age 16, picked up three assists in the win.
Finland's Joni Ontio made 30 saves for the win, while Russia's Igor Bobkov stopped 34 shots.
Finland has not captured a medal at the World U18 Championship since 2006's silver. The Russians earned silver while hosting last year's U18 in Kazan.
Norway – USA 0-8 (0-2, 0-3, 0-3)
Norwegian goalie Lars Volden might have been the most exhausted man in North Dakota on Thursday evening. The USA fired a stunning 65 shots at Volden's cage en route to an 8-0 win over Norway in Pool B action, delighting the home crowd in Fargo.
American forward Kevin Lynch shone with two goals and an assist, and linemate Jeremy Morin had a goal and two assists. Ryan Bourque, the son of Hockey Hall of Fame defenceman Ray Bourque, assisted on the USA's first two goals. Goalie Adam Murray made 16 saves en route to the goose egg.
Consistent pressure was the USA's watchword in this game, as the Americans mustered more than 20 shots in each period (21, 21, 23). They led 2-0 after the first and 5-0 after the second, and capitalized twice with the power play.
In 2008, Norway earned promotion to the top level of the World U18 Championships, posting a perfect record of five wins against Latvia, Austria, Italy, Japan and the Netherlands.
The Americans have won five straight U18 medals, including bronze last year and back-to-back golds in 2005 and 2006.