U18 teams prepare for Texas
by Martin Merk|17 FEB 2021
Czech defenceman David Jiricek is among the U18 players at the recent 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship who could also play at the U18 Worlds.
photo: Matt Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images
Same as the men’s senior and women’s senior national teams, also a few men’s U18 national teams got back in action during last week’s February International Break for their first international exhibition games in a long time.

For Belarus, the Czech Republic and Switzerland it was the opportunity to prepare for the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship that’s scheduled from 26 April to 6 May in Frisco and Plano in Texas, USA.

Belarus made the start with a camp in the Hungarian capital of Budapest. And it was a strong start at the Vasas Ice Centre with a 7-2 win against the Hungarian U18 national team and goals coming from seven different players.

For the next two games the Belarusian would take on the Hungarian U20 national team but for the beginning the opposition didn’t change much to the outcome as Belarus won 6-1 and again with all goals coming from different players.

Hungarian head coach Andras Horvath demanded from his player that fire must burn in their eyes and so it did for the last game. Belarus took the lead with a Miroslav Mikhailov goal at 9:36 but six minutes later Tamas Toth tied it up with a shorthanded marker. Belarus regained the lead through Yegor Klavdiev in the middle frame but at 3:20 of the third period Gergely Mattyasovszky tied it up on a man advantage. Despite outshooting their opponent 47-22, Belarus had to settle for a tie after 60 minutes, however, Yegor Sidorov scored 2:08 into overtime to get Belarus the third win in the third game.

Beside these exhibition games, the Belarusian U18 national team is also integrated in the second-tier senior league, Extraliga Division B, where it had 14 wins in 40 games against senior club teams. Zakhar Polshakov is a top-20 scorer in the league with 24 points (8+16) in 36 games while Tikhon Chaika is listed as second-busiest goaltender of the league.

Closer to the weekend more teams got involved that will play at the U18 Worlds.

The Czech U18 national team travelled to Piestany for two games with host Slovakia, which was relegated to the Division IA but happy to provide tight games against their neighbouring rival.

Filip Mesar scored a hat trick including the two opening goals to lead Slovakia to a 5-4 win in the first game. Petr Moravec scored two for the Czechs, who got their revenge in Game 2. Although the Czechs outshot the Slovaks 36-13, it was Slovakia that started again with a 2-0 lead, this time after already three minutes. However, the Czechs managed to tie the game in the middle frame and at 10:29 of the third period Jakub Brabenec scored the 3-2 game-winning goal on a power play.

Further west Switzerland held a camp at a new ice sports centre in Cham where the U18 national team used last week to prepare for the U18 Worlds with players born in 2003 and 2004 on the roster, while the U19 national team with 2002-born players preparing for next winter’s World Juniors was their opponent. Since both events will be in North America, the teams played on the country’s first North American size ice sheet.

The first game was a clear 7-1 win for the older players despite a 26-24 shot-on-goal advantage for the U18 team. In Game 2 the U18 national team was more efficient and beat the U19 team 3-2 thanks to Nathan Cantin’s overtime goal. The U18s also won the third game, 5-2, including two goals from Joel Marchon.

30 games so far for Team USA

Beside the European national teams, Team USA has been in action as part of the centralized National Team Development Program with a season full of games against NCAA Division I college teams and older junior opposition from club teams in the USHL.

Most recently the U18 national team based in Plymouth, Michigan had a 6-3 win and a 2-1 loss against the Arizona State University. Until now the team has played 30 games with 14 more games scheduled.

Among the players is one of the top candidates of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft with Luke Hughes, the top-scoring defenceman on his team with 32 points (6+26) in 30 games.


9 Feb. Budapest (HUN) Hungary U18 Belarus U18 2-7
10 Feb. Budapest (HUN) Hungary U20 Belarus U18 1-6
11 Feb. Budapest (HUN) Hungary U20 Belarus U18 2-3 OT
12 Feb. Piestany (SVK) Slovakia U18 Czech Republic U18 5-4
12 Feb. Cham (SUI) Switzerland U18 Switzerland U19 1-7
13 Feb. Piestany (SVK) Slovakia U18 Czech Republic U18 2-3
13 Feb. Cham (SUI) Switzerland U18 Switzerland U19 3-2 OT
14 Feb. Cham (SUI) Switzerland U18 Switzerland U19 5-2