Canada downs Swedes, Swiss upset Americans in first day of Under-18 World Championships



Canada picked up a huge three points downing their international rivals from Sweden 3-1 to open the IIHF Under-18 World Championships this evening in Imatra, Finland.

Jake Virtanen of the Calgary Hitmen scored twice and Mason McDonald of the Charlottetown Islanders had 24 saves as Canada improves to 1-0-0-0 and takes a one-point lead in Group B heading into the weekend.

The first period saw very little in the way of scoring. The lone goal came from the Canadian side when Virtanen at the 6:45 mark with Kington Frontniac defenceman Roland McKeown picking up the lone assist. Shots on goal in the first period were 11-4 in favour of the Swedes.

The second period opened with Canada taking advantage of an early power play that allowed Virtanen to pick up his second goal of the game just 63 seconds into the period. Sweden would finally find their way onto the score board with 9:03 remaining in the second period when Gustav Forsling scored just four seconds into a Swedish power play to make it a 2-1 game. Daniel Muzito Bagenda and Axel Holmstrom picked up the lone assist on the play. Shots on goal in the second period were 10-7 in favor of the Canadians.

Canada would add to their lead early in the third period when Seattle Thunderbirds forward Matt Barzal would score his first of the tournament at the 3:07 mark to make it a 3-1 game. Despite being out-shot 7-4 in the third, the score would remain the same as the final buzzer sounded to give the Canadians the win.

Mason McDonald of the Charlottetown Islanders stopped 24 of 25 shots for the victory while Linus Soderstrom allowed three goal on 18 shots in the loss.

Special teams saw Canada go one-for-seven on the power play while Sweden was successful once in five man-advantages.

Other games played on the opening day of the tournament saw Switzerland upset the United States in Group B action by a 4-2 score with the Swiss scoring three unanswered goals in the third period after being down 2-1 in the first period. Denis Malgin had a three-point (2-1) game for the Swiss while goaltender Gauthier Descloux stopped 48 of 50 shots faced for the win. Jack Dougherty and Kyle Connor picked up the goals for the Americans while Alexander Nedeljkovic of the Plymouth Whalers stopped 16 of 19 shots in the loss.

In Group A, Russia needed just 22 seconds of extra time to get past Slovakia by a 3-2 score. Kirill Pilipenko scored twice for the Russians, including the overtime winner while Alexander Trushkov stopped 15 of 17 shots for the win. Patrik Maier and Kristian Pospisil scored for the Slovaks and Adam Huska stopped 33 of 36 shots in the loss.

The final game of the day in Group B action saw Finland plow through Denmark 6-1. Mikko Rantanen had a hat trick for the Finns while Kaapo Kahkonen stopped 10 of the 11 shots he faced to pick up the win. Jeppe Korsgaard had the lone goal for Denmark while Thomas Lilie allowed six goals on 41 shots for the loss.

The tournament continues tomorrow with Germany taking on Slovakia in Group B play while the Czech Republic plays their first game of the tournament against Denmark in Group A. Canada is back in action Saturday, April 19 when they take on Germany.

Note: All statistics taken from the IIHF website.