U18s: Big win for USA

Huge goal with 21 seconds left halts Russian comeback

17.04.2011
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Kunteisstadion im Sahnpark Crimmitschau Saxony Germany

Rocco Grimaldi (#23) and his linemates jump for joy as they celebrate the late game winning goal. Photo: Matthew Murnaghan / HHOF-IIHF Images

As dusk settled over Crimmitschau, the local residents were treated to a battle between the two top seeds in Group A, Russia and the USA. Thanks to a pair of regulation victories the Americans had a one point advantage over the Russians, who needed a shootout to overcome Germany on Saturday and would need to beat the U.S. in order to have a chance at the top seed. With the 4-3 victory however, the U.S. is virtually guaranteed the top seed, while the Russians will play for a quarterfinal berth against Switzerland.

In Dresden, the Swedes and Finns met in a game that would decide the course of both teams through the rest of the tournament. The Swedes' surprisingly dominant 5-2 victory has set them on their way to a playoff seed, while Finland’s loss could mean either a third seed or even a trip to the relegation round.

Earlier in the day, a 3-2 victory by Switzerland over Slovakia has given the Swiss a chance to avoid the relegation round.

For the Slovaks, the loss will mean a trip to Dresden later next week to play for the right to participate in next year’s top division championships. The Czechs, who won 3-2 against Norway, also still have a chance to make it to the playoffs, while the Norwegians are destined to travel to Dresden for the relegation round.

USA vs. Russia 4-3 (2-0, 1-1, 1-2) Game Sheet Photos

The highly anticipated battle between the Americans and Russians did not disappoint. A large Russian contingent in Crimmitschau was on hand to cheer their team, but were soon silenced when an ill-advised Russian pass in their own end ended up on the stick of Team USA’s Travis Boyd. In a tough position with his back to the net, Boyd turned and backhanded home the opening goal.

Russia, which earlier on had been putting pressure on U.S. goaltender John Gibson, was not allowed anywhere near the U.S. goaltender and forced to take shots from bad angles. Soon after the opening goal the Russians then took a penalty for kneeing. On the power play USA captain Robbie Russo got a pass to open linemate JT Miller to the left of Russian goalie Andrei Vasilevski. Miller sniped the puck to the near side, giving the Americans the 2-0 advantage.

The second period began with more of the same, as the U.S. swarmed around Vasilevski’s net. Although a Russian goal brought the crowd back to life, they were quieted again after Reid Boucher got the puck off the draw and shot on Vasilevski, who gave up the rebound to Miller for his second score of the game.

But as anyone who watched this year’s World U20 Championship can tell you, you can never quite count out the Russians. They proved it again in this game, beginning early in the third period when the Sarnia Sting’s Nail Yakupov notched a power play goal to cut into the U.S. lead.

That goal sparked a momentum shift to the Russian side, and Gibson found himself having to make a number of great saves to keep his team ahead. But the Russians would not be denied the tying goal, and with just under five minutes remaining forward Nikita Kucherov got the puck at the point and fired a blast to the top right corner of Gibson’s net to send the Russian crowd wild.

The goal put the Americans on their heels, and Gibson was forced to come right back and make two great saves to prevent the go-ahead score. But then, with only 21 seconds left in regulation and overtime looming, USA forward Rocco Grimaldi won a clean faceoff in the Russian zone and got the puck out to Reid Boucher at the point. Boucher then loaded up and blasted a shot, hitting the crossbar and going in for the game winning goal.

“Scoring that goal for my team to win it felt great,” said Boucher. “It gives us a lot of confidence going forward and a bit of momentum going into the next game.”

Sweden vs. Finland 5-2 (1-1, 3-0, 1-1) Game Sheet Photos

A matchup between old rivals didn’t go as well as planned for the Finns. Sweden opened the scoring with a power play goal in the opening minutes of the first period, thanks to a great effort by Jeremy Boyce Rotevall, who scored his third goal of the tournament.

Although Finland was able to reply with a power play score of their own from Tomas Kalella, it was clear that the Swedish forwards were outplaying their Finnish counterparts. The floodgates opened for Sweden in the second frame, as Emil Ljunberg, William Karlsson, and Mika Zibanejad scored to put their team up by three.

Team Finland never recovered after that, managing just a single goal in the third period and giving up another to Karlsson.

It was an uncharacteristic loss for the Finns, who had been playing relatively well up to that point with a win over Norway and a close loss to the Canadians. The top line of Finland, which aside from Kalella’s goal was completely shut down. Sweden’s forwards were also all over the Finnish goalie, and outshot their opponents 40-14.
Slovakia vs. Switzerland 2-3 (1-2, 0-0, 1-1) Game Sheet Photos
The Swiss and Slovaks faced off in the early game in Crimmitschau. Both teams, stuck at the bottom of the Group A standings, badly needed a win in order to put themselves into a position to miss the relegation round.

Switzerland drew first blood with their top line less than two minutes into the game, as forward Tanner Richard scored off with help from linemates Lino Martschini and Alessio Bertaggia. Slovakia managed a quick response, notching a power play goal courtesy of Denis Hudec with Tomas Nechala and Peter Ceresnak on the assists.

A goal in the middle of the period by Sven Andrighetto put the Slovaks behind again going into the second intermission.

With lots of defensive play and no score in the second period, the Slovaks found themselves staring at a trip to the relegation round in the final frame. Two minutes into the period, however, Team Slovakia’s Peter Boldun got the puck from Martin Gernat, cut in towards the net from the left side of the goal, and banged the puck away at Swiss goalie Luca Boltshauser until a rebound came to his stick for the tying goal.

Following Boldun’s equalizer things began to turn in the Slovak’s favour as the Swiss began to get into penalty trouble. But just when it looked like Slovakia might get the go-ahead goal, a miscue in the Slovak zone allowed for Swiss forward Christoph Bertschi to intercept the puck, make a great move to get past the last defender and get just enough of the puck to push it past goaltender Patrick Rybar for a shorthanded goal. That one mistake proved to be Slovakia’s undoing, as the Swiss held the fort through the rest of the game for the 3-2 victory.
Norway vs. Czech Republic 2-3 (1-0, 1-2, 0-1) Game Sheet Photos
It has been an up and down tournament for the Czechs, who found themselves with only four points in two games, having notched a surprise victory against Sweden but failing to show up in their second game against Team Canada. For the Norwegians, something had to be done to find a way to take pressure off of their goaltending, which has had to face an astounding 133 shots on goal through the first two games.

With Steffen Soberg, who has played very well despite having to face a barrage of shots, in net for Norway, the team was able to slow down the number of scoring chances for the Czechs, though they still managed 15 shots on net in the first period. Although Norway by comparison had only five shots, they made one of them count with a marker by Andreas Heier early in the period.

After a tight checking first period, the game opened up in the second frame. Czech Republic forward Martin Frk scored the equalizer early in the period, as the Czechs put up 19 shots on net. Consequently, Norway had only six shots but still managed to convert one with a goal from Jorgen Karterud.

But as with past games the Norwegians allowed too much pressure to be put on their goaltender, who had to face 51 total shots in the whole game and allowed two more goals in the second and third periods to give the Czechs a 3-2 win and a shot at avoiding the relegation round.

ADAM STEISS
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