IMATRA – Defending U18 champion Canada began its title defence with a 3-1 win over Sweden in Group B action at the 2014 IIHF U18 World Championship. Forward Jake Virtanen scored the game’s first two goals and Matt Barzal added a third in the victory.
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"For us playing on different teams all year and then going into this tournament we know that we have to come together quick," said Virtanen. "Sweden is one of the main contenders in the tournament and all the guys knew that and we were able to come together and play well as a team."
Armed with a 2-1 lead and a power play going into the third period, Canada seemed to have all the momentum on its side. Sweden managed to kill the penalty, but later on gave up the insurance goal thanks to a neutral zone interception by Barzal, who skated down the wing and cut towards the net to beat goaltender Linus Soderstrom with a deke between his legs.
The game started out pretty chippy as both sides sought to get under each other’s skin in the first period. Three roughing penalties were handed out and Canada’s Daniel Audette drew a game misconduct penalty for checking from behind.
Sweden fell behind 1-0 after giving up the opening to Virtanen in the high slot area for a wristshot right into the top left corner past Soderstrom’s glove.
Virtanen then made it 2-0 on the powerplay with a soft but accurate wristshot that beat Soderstrom again on the glove side.
"We hadn't yet played a game with our full group and the Swedes played very aggressive, but I like how our guys were able to maintain their discipline," said head coach Kevin Dineen.
Sweden got on the board with 9:03 to go in the second period, scoring just seconds into a man advantage after Daniel Audette was sent to the box for slashing. Defenceman Gustav Forsling got his stick on a hard shot from the point by Daniel Muzito Bagenda, deflecting it just enough to slip past Canadian goalie Mason McDonald to cut the lead to 2-1.
But the usually disciplined Swedes weren’t able to get back in the game, and late in the period a checking from behind penalty and game misconduct to forward Adrian Kempe hurt any chance to mount a comeback.
"We really didn't come out to play in the first period and in this kind of game that's just unnaceptable," said Swedish captain Gustaf Franzen.
Canada will have its second game against Germany on Saturday, while Sweden will have another tough matchup coming up against Russia.
Denmark – Finland 1-6 (0-3, 1-2, 0-1)
2014 IIHF U18 World Championship hosts Finland got their gold medal campaign started on the right foot, easily dispatching newly-promoted Denmark 6-1.
Playing in his second U18 tournament, Finnish forward Mikko Rantanen scored a hat trick and earned Best Player honours as the Finns outshot the Danes 41-11.
Sebastian Moberg, Sebastian Aho, and Kasperi Kapanen rounde out the scoring for Finland, which will be looking to keep the momentum going as it hopes to improve on last year’s bronze medal finish. Forward Jeppe Korsgaard had the lone goal for Denmark.
Aho opened the scoring 4:21 into the opening period, followed by Rantanen who potted his first to within a minute of each other. Denmark cut the lead to 3-1 early in the second but couldn’t muster and more offence as the Finns rolled to a 6-1 win.
Denmark will not have much time to rest as it will play against the Czech Republic tomorrow afternoon. On Saturday Finland will take on Switzerland, which earlier in the day upset the United States 4-2.