There were no surprises at the start of the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship, as both Canada and Russia took care of business in their opening games. Team Canada defeated Denmark 6-1 and Russia dominated Latvia through three periods to also claim a 6-1 victory.
Denmark – Canada 1 - 6 (1-3, 0-2, 0-1)
BRNO – Canada took advantage of timely scoring and a balanced attack to secure its first victory of the 2012 U18 tournament, scoring five unanswered goals on its way to a 6-1 win over Denmark.
After keeping the game within reach in the opening twenty minutes, the Danes regressed in the second frame, playing the puck with caution, taking penalties and allowing Canada to dominate puck possession. By the end of the period, two power play goals from William Carrier and Kerby Rychel gave the Canadians a 5-1 cushion.
Captain Matt Dumba added another tally early in the third period as Canada cruised through the rest of the game.
“As the game went on we started to pick things up and became really aggressive and assertive,” said Dumba. “It was good to see that the team came out and played a solid 60 minutes.”
The Canadian offence looked to be in solid form in its opening game, with each line getting at least one goal. Canada got on the board early on in the first period, when Reichel skated down the right boards and dropped a pass back to linemate Scott Laughton. Laughton’s wristshot beat goaltender Matthias Hansen to the near side and gave Canada the 1-0 lead just 55 seconds into the game.
Denmark managed to answer just over the halfway mark on a power play goal from Oliver Bjorkstrand. He managed to convert when teammate Yannick Vedel shot at goaltender Matt Murray from close range on a two-on-one, forcing the Canadian goaltender to give up the rebound to Bjorkstrand for the easy goal.
With the score knotted up at 1-1, Denmark defenceman Christoffer Lindhoff tried to fire a shot in from the point in the Canadian zone. But the puck bounced right back out after hitting Canadian forward Gemel Smith who was defending on the play, allowing Smith to take off for the Danish net on a breakaway and beat Matthias Hansen between the legs.
Canada would make it 3-1 before the end of the first period, thanks to a nice setup by Branden Troock to Mike Winther in front of the net. It was overall a solid performance by the Canadians, who finished in fourth place in last year's tournament in Germany and are looking to get back on the podium.
“We’re trying to get everybody on the same page and playing well together, which is a challenge since we’ve only had several days together as a team,” said Team Canada head coach Jesse Wallin. “Our motto is continuous improvement from the last game, and I thought that we managed to do a lot of things well today but also that there are a few things in our game that we can sharpen.”
The Canadians now take a 1-0 record to Breclav for their second game of the tournament against Finland on Saturday. Denmark will play against the host Czechs on Friday in Znojmo.
Latvia – Russia 1 - 6 (0-2, 0-2, 1-2)
ZNOJMO – Russia came out strong in its opening game, pouring in six goals for a 6-1 win against Latvia. Goaltender Andrei Vasilevski made 14 saves in the game but was denied the shutout thanks to a late third period goal from Latvian forward Georgs Golovkovs.
Coming out of a dominant first period in which they pressured Latvia with 17 shots on net, Russia added two more goals to their tally in the second frame, the first coming from forward Danil Zharkov when he fired a puck on the net that caught Latvian goaltender Elvis Merzlikins off guard. Then four minutes later and with his team on the penalty kill Zarkhov stole the puck and took off for the Latvian net on a two-on-one, dishing the puck over to Vyacheslav Osnovin for the short-handed goal and the 4-0 lead.
Latvia’s best chance to score came in the second period when a miscue led to a two-man breakaway, but Edgars Kulda’s shot sailed just wide after a pass from Golovkovs left him with an open net.
Following Russia’s fourth goal, the game slowed down and neither team threatened the opposing net, until just under two minutes into the third period when Osnovin scored his second goal of the game, jumping on a rebound given up by Merzlikins after a shot by Zarkhov. Captain Anton Slepyshev added another to help his team seal the 6-1 victory.
Through most of the game the Latvians simply couldn’t match the Russians’ attack and failed to produce enough pressure on Vasilevski. The pressure started early for Merzlikins as Russia built a 2-0 lead in the opening period thanks to goals from Bogdan Yakimov and Arseni Khatsei. Yakimov struck first on a two-on-one breakaway 7:33 into the game, with an assist from Kirill Maslov. Then with under five minutes left in the period, Yakimov’s shot from the blue line deflected off of a Latvian defender and into the net.
Russia now has a day off before traveling to Znojmo for a game against Germany. Latvia will try to regroup in time for its second preliminary round game versus Switzerland on Friday.
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