Slovakia – Finland 2-5 (0-1, 2-1, 0-3)
MINSK – Thanks to two goals apiece from Teemu Pulkkinen Mikael Granlund, Finland earned its second win at this year World U18 Championship with a 5-2 decision against Slovakia.
Finland is now poised to make it to the playoff round, while winless Slovakia will need big games against both Russia and Latvia to keep its hopes for the playoffs alive.
Granlund picked up right where he left off after his four-point performance against Latvia, scoring the opening goal midway through the first period.
Slovakia found its scoring touch in the second half of the game. Lukas Cingel tied the game at one at the 32:47 mark and Michal Murcek gave Slovakia its first lead of the championship five minutes later. The period belonged to the Slovaks until Teemu Pulkkinen scored the 2-2 goal with 43 seconds left in the stanza, giving the Finns a fortunate finish to a rocky period.
Pulkkinen put in the go-ahead, game-winner 7:23 into the period, which got a hearty cheer from the full house in Minsk. Slovakia looked for another magic comeback like they had in yesterday’s game, but only met up with two late-period Finnish goals as Otto Pajanen and Granlund sealed the win, bringing the final to 5-2.
Both teams are in action tomorrow as Finland will take on Russia in what will likely decide first place in the group. Meanwhile Slovakia has a key game against winless Latvia. Should both teams end up in the relegation round, the points from that game would carry over to that round.
Belarus – Canada 3-11 (1-4, 2-2, 0-5)
BOBRUISK – Canada learned its lesson from its opening day loss against Switzerland and was able to put away Belarus with an 11-3 win.
At one point, Belarus had Canada in its sights closing to within one goal, but a poorly timed injury to starting goaltender Sergei Stepanov rattled Belarus and allowed Canada to surge ahead to the win.
The game was a little more than five minutes old and Canada already held a 3-0 lead. The trio of goals came from three different players on two different lines less than two minutes apart. Artem Levsha gave Belarus a glimmer of hope, scoring the 3-1 goal at the 13:02 mark, but it was quickly answered just over a minute later when Quinton Howden restored the three-goal pad with a shorthanded goal.
Canada’s Max Reinhart took a costly 5 +20 penalty at the end of the first period for kneeing, giving Belarus a window to stage a comeback. Just 24 seconds into the second period, Nikita Kardeshev scored on a five-on-three and Dmitri Zhevlochenko followed up with the extra-man goal four minutes later to make it a one-goal game.
Just as Belarus was challenging Canada, goaltender Stepanov went down with a hand injury and was replaced by Yan Shelepnev. The change shifted the momentum back to the Canadians, who quickly pounced with a pair of power-play goals. Ryan O’Connor and John McFarland scored the key goals to make it a 6-3 affair. It was the second goal of the game for both.
Canada left nothing to chance in the third period, hammering Belarus with a quick three goals in the first five minutes of the period to bring the tally to 9-3. There was little the sellout crowd could do but look on as the Canadians put in another two goals, including the McFarland hat trick, and skated on to the eight-goal win.
Canada will play North American rival USA tomorrow in what is an important game for both teams in their bid for a playoff round spot. Belarus will go for its first win of this year’s event against Switzerland.
NOTES: The tournament is only in its third day and at least one, and potentially two, goaltenders have left the event due to injury. Finland replaced Sami Aittokallio with Christopher Gibbon. Aittokallio, who was the back-up in the first game, was injured while training. Belarus netminder Sergei Stepanov is also not expected to return to play