American youngsters impress in Sweden
by Andy Potts|12 NOV 2019
Matthew Beniers was the scoring leader of Team USA at the U18 Five Nations in Sweden.
photo: Steve Kingsman / HHOF-IIHF Images
Team USA’s under-18 national team won the Five Nations tournament in Sweden after sweeping its European rivals to take top spot. The Americans faced some tough battles along the way, edging the Czech Republic 1-0 in their opening game and needing a shootout to get past a stubborn Finnish team. But when it came to the winner-takes-all showdown against the host in Sundsvall, Team USA was just too strong.

An even first period tipped in the USA’s favour thanks to a power-play goal from Matthew Beniers in the 16th minute. That paved the way for a middle frame that brought two unanswered American goals as Sweden struggled to stay in the game. The host, who half a year earlier had won the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship on home ice, got on the scoreboard in the third thanks to Gabriel Sall’s second of the tournament but otherwise found no way past Drew Commesso in the U.S. goal.

Commesso’s form was one of the highlights of the competition: he won all three of his games and allowed just three goals along the way. He stopped 29 of 30 shots against Sweden to backstop his team to victory in the game and the tournament.

Beniers was his team’s leading scorer with 6 (3+3) points in the tournament. However, two Finns led the scoring for the competition. Kasper Simontaival topped the charts with 8 (5+3) points, boosted by an impressive return of four goals and two assists in a 7-4 victory over Switzerland. Juuso Maenpaa also did well against the Swiss, with a goal and three helpers taking him to 7 (3+4) for the competition.

Slovakia triumphs in Denmark

Denmark hosted a four-team tournament in Orestad and Hvidovre, two suburbs of Copenhagen. The Danes welcomed Slovakia, Germany and Belarus for the U18 event.

Slovakia finished on top of the table, winning all three of its games in the round robin event. The Slovaks began with a statement of intent, jumping to a 3-0 lead inside 13 minutes of their opening game against the host nation. Simon Nemec, Jakub Kolenic and Samuel Rehak did the damage on the way to a 6-1 victory. Next came a 2-1 win over Belarus before the decisive encounter with Germany. Here, Slovakia trailed twice but rallied in the closing minutes to claim a 4-2 verdict. Jakub Ragan got the game-winner in the 55th minute.

Although Slovakia topped the table, the leading scorers in the competition came from Belarus. Sergei Kuznetsov led the way with six assists, ahead of a 5 (2+3) point contribution from Stanislav Gerasimov. The Belarusian tally was boosted by a 9-0 drubbing of Denmark in the last game of the competition, a result which condemned the host to fourth place in the table.

Shootout win puts Austria on top

The four-team competition in Asiago, Italy, went right down to the wire. The decisive game between Austria and Hungary needed a shootout to separate the teams. In the event, the Austrians got the verdict to secure top spot in the competition after Oskar Maier, Marco Kasper and Lorenz Lindner converted their attempts. Earlier in the game, Maier gave the Austrian a third-period lead but Hungary recovered to force the tie. 

Austrian head coach Roger Ohman said: “We played very well against Hungary and deserved to win the competition. Unfortunately, we had too many penalties in each game, even though our PK did well.”

With 6 (2+4) points, Maier was the tournament’s leading scorer. Slovenia came third with a win over Italy and overtime loss to Austria and Hungary. The Italians failed to pick up a point.

Latvia wins mini-series in Norway

In the weekend’s other games, Norway hosted Latvia for three exhibition match-ups. The home team won the first encounter 3-1, with Lucas Loob Trygg claiming the game-winner. However, the shot count saw Latvia up 31-19 and the following day the Baltic nation found a way to turn that into goals. A 5-1 victory, paced by two goals for Karlis Krustins and garnished with a pair of empty-net efforts, tied the mini-series. The Latvians also won the third and final game, claiming a 3-2 verdict on a power-play goal from Deniss Vilmans late in the second period.

November International Break - U18 Category

Five Nations Tournament in Sweden
6 Nov. Sundsvall (SWE) USA - Czech Rep. 1-0
6 Nov. Sundsvall (SWE) Sweden - Switzerland 5-2
7 Nov. Njurunda (SWE) Czech Rep. - Switzerland 1-0
7 Nov. Kovland (SWE) Sweden - Finland 4-1
8 Nov. Sundsvall (SWE) Czech Rep. - Finland 2-3 SO
8 Nov. Sundsvall (SWE) Switzerland - USA 2-6
9 Nov. Sundsvall (SWE) Finland - USA 2-3 SO
9 Nov. Sundsvall (SWE) Sweden - Czech Rep. 3-1
10 Nov. Sundsvall (SWE) Switzerland - Finland 4-7
10 Nov. Sundsvall (SWE) Sweden - USA 1-3
Standings: 1. USA 11; 2. Sweden 9; 3. Finland 6; 4. Czech Rep. 4; 5. Switzerland 0.
Four Nations Tournament in Denmark
7 Nov. Orestad (DEN) Denmark - Slovakia 1-6
7 Nov. Hvidovre (DEN) Germany - Belarus 2-1
8 Nov. Orestad (DEN) Denmark - Germany 0-4
8 Nov. Hvidovre (DEN) Belarus - Slovakia 1-2
9 Nov. Orestad (DEN) Slovakia - Germany 4-2
9 Nov. Hvidovre (DEN) Belarus - Denmark 9-0
Standings: 1. Slovakia 9; 2. Germany 6; 3. Belarus 3; 4. Denmark 0.
Four Nations Tournament in Italy
8 Nov. Asiago (ITA) Slovenia - Hungary 3-4 SO
8 Nov. Asiago (ITA) Italy - Austria 3-6
9 Nov. Asiago (ITA) Austria - Slovenia 5-4
9 Nov. Asiago (ITA) Hungary - Italy 4-2
10 Nov. Asiago (ITA) Hungary - Austria 1-2 SO
10 Nov. Asiago (ITA) Italy - Slovenia 2-3
Standings: 1. Austria 7; 2. Hungary 6; 3. Slovenia 5; 4. Italy 0
Other games
7 Nov. Hamar (NOR) Norway - Latvia 3-1
8 Nov. Hamar (NOR) Norway - Latvia 1-5
9 Nov. Hamar (NOR) Norway - Latvia 2-3