LAPPEENRANTA – Switzerland got the party started in a big way at the 2014 IIHF U18 World Championship, posting its first-ever defeat of the United States in a men’s U18 tournament with a 4-2 win in the opening game.
Switzerland – USA 4-2 (1-2, 0-0, 3-0)
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The Swiss won the game thanks to some great defensive play and timely counter attacks from their top line. Denis Malgin had three points, including the game-winning goal in the third period and an empty netter, while linemate Kevin Fiala had a goal and an assist to help put away the Americans.
“We told the guys to stay patient and keep them on the outside and away from the slot, that we would get our chances,” said Swiss head coach Manuel Celio. “Players sacrificed, blocked shots, hockey’s pretty simple if you do those things but you still have to do them.”
Down 2-1 in the third period, Fiala tied the game up early with a goal coming off a two-on-one. Malgin took the puck into the USA zone and made a cross-ice pass to Fiala for the 2-2 score 46 seconds into the period.
The Swiss were then able to matchup up physically with the U.S. and kept the crease clean around their own net. The game winner came with less than five minutes to go when Fiala shot the puck at USA goaltender Alexander Nedeljkovic, who was unable to cover up the rebound before Malgin stole the puck away and roofed it home.
“We had to play defence first and focus on the counters,” said Malgin. “It’s great to get this win and we feel very satisfied with how we played.”
Things didn’t look so good for the Swiss early on as the Americans went right to work in the first period, looking dominant in the opening minutes and scoring five minutes in on a power play goal from defenceman Jack Dougherty, coming after Swiss forward Noah Rod checked Dougherty’s defensive partner Jack Glover in the head and took a ten minute misconduct penalty.
“We were pretty nervous in the beginning and they dominated us,” said Fiala. “But we came into the game and tried to keep the puck away from the net and we didn’t give up on the play. We played pretty good as a team and that’s how we won and we just need to keep this going.”
But after weathering US pressure for the first half of the period the Swiss caught a break when a shot from Julien Privet was coughed up by Nedeljkovic in front of the net and right to forward Damien Riat for the tying goal.
Team USA went back up by a goal with five minutes left courtesy of Kyle Connor, but the well dried up after that as Switzerland closed ranks around its net and frustrated the American offence the rest of the way.
“They played a good hockey game, they defended well worked really hard and were opportunistic, that’s a blueprint for winning any game.” said USA head coach Danton Cole.
Both teams get a day off before resuming action on Saturday. USA will face the Czech Republic while the Swiss take on the host nation Finland.
Russia – Slovakia 3-2 OT (1-1, 1-1, 0-0, 1-0)
IMATRA – Russia survived a scare from the underdog Slovaks in its opening game of the IIHF U18 World Championship, coming through in overtime 3-2. Kirill Pilipenko had the game-winner just 22 seconds into the extra frame.
Russian forward Yevgeniy Svechnikov scored his team’s first goal of the tournament, assisted by Ivan Nikolishin and Nikita Lyamin and coming just over 15 minutes into the opening period.
Slovakia equalized with less than a minute to go in the frame with a goal coming from defenceman Patrik Maier on the power play. The Slovaks then ran into penalty trouble through most of the second period, taking four consecutive trips to the box but managing to come out ahead after forward Kristian Pospisil scored a short-handed goal. But the Russians equalized while still on the same power play thanks to Pilipenko’s first goal late in the frame.
Going into overtime Slovakia was again short-handed as team captain Erik Cernak was whistled for a dely of game penalty with less than two minutes to go in the third. Then Pilipenko’s early OT winner gave Russia the win to open its 2014 U18 campaign.
Russia has a big matchup coming up on Saturday against Sweden. Slovakia will be in in tough against defending champions Canada.