World Under-18 World Championship Ramblings: Day Two with Russian Drama, Canada is Good, U.S. Gets a Scare

Tony Ferrari

2021-04-28

Photo courtesy of the IIHF

 

Well, this tournament certainly hasn’t disappointed! Day two was filled with action and unfortunately, it was a bit one-sided on a couple of occasions. Belarus showed that they aren’t going to be pushed around and put a thumping on the Swiss. Group A’s other game featured another blowout as Canada took a beating to the Swedes potting a dozen goals. Group B was a bit tighter as the Russian went from coming back against the Americans to blowing a lead against the Finns less than 24 hours later. The U.S. club got a scare from the Germans who just never seemed to stay down, right to the final whistle.

 

Group B

Finland 4-3 (SO) Russia

This was the best game of the day by far. Less than 24 hours after falling behind 5-1 against the Americans before an epic comeback to win 7-6 in overtime on an end-to-end game-winner by the captain, the Russian squad blew a 3-1 lead to the Finns late in the game and then lost in the shootout. The Russians really love drama apparently.

The Finns looked good in this one, playing a physical game and getting into Team Russia’s faces at every chance. They were trying to mitigate the skill gap between the rosters and they were successful most of the night. The Russian skill came to play though as Fyodor Svechkov, the top-ranked Russian on many 2021 draft boards, made a nice play in the neutral zone poking the puck free while defending transition. Ivan Miroshnichenko (2022) picked up the puck and found Svechkov driving the net and he buried the biscuit. Despite Finland’s efforts, Russia got on the board first.

 

 

After trading goals to open the second period, it was yet again Svechkov who was the catalyst in turning play around by making a solid defensive play and then being rewarded at the offensive end of the ice. He was the third man in the offensive zone but stayed trailing just enough that he opened himself up for a late pass from low-to-high and he found twine for the second time of the night as it looked like Russia had taken the momentum back. The highlight reel assist was courtesy of 2022 prospect Danila Yurov who has quickly made a name for himself at the U18s. Russia looked cozy with their two-goal lead but the Finnish team wore them down as the game went on.

 

 

Continuing to play physical, getting in on the forecheck and playing cohesive hockey as the Finns typically do, the feeling of something building began as they worked their way through the first few minutes of the third period. Two empty powerplays didn’t deter them and late in the third, with under three minutes to go, Finnish defenseman Aleksi Heimosalmi danced in off the blue line, found a lane, and got a puck on net. With the rebound popping free, Ville Koivunen banged in the rebound. As soon as they scored, the tying goal felt imminent despite the time not being on their side.

 

 

Just over a minute later, Koivunen gets the puck to 2022 top-three prospect Brad Lambert high in the zone who attacks high-to-low. He finds a passing lane through the slot just above the crease and Samu Tuomaala showed of the shot that makes him one of the top Finns eligible in this year’s draft. From a bad angle, Tuomaala ties it with just over a minute to play. This Russian team LOVES drama.

Overtime solved nothing so they were off to a shootout where the Finns scored twice with Koivunen scoring what would be the clinching goal on a dirty dangle. The Finns complete the comeback and the Russians go from one end of the spectrum to the other when it comes to emotional outcomes. Group B is going to be fun right to the end it seems!

 

 

USA 5-3 Germany 

This was a much closer game than many had expected. The U.S. put themselves in bad spots throughout this game and against any other team in the group, it probably would have come back to bite them. The ‘other’ Jack Hughes scored to open things up early in this game as he snuck in and grabbed a loose puck in the slot and beat the goalie clean. The German team was hosting a parade to the penalty box early in this game with three minors and a two+ten all in the first period. While the Americans did manage a powerplay goal on a nice shot from Ty Gallagher, the feeling that they missed an opportunity was evident, especially when the Americans turned the puck over near the end of the frame and the Germans, with a try-hard effort, found a way to get on the board to make this a 2-1 game after 20.

 

 

The second period had the U.S. take three minor penalties as they bogged themselves down in the middle frame. Sasha Pastujov was able to get on the board on a high-motor play of his own, working his way to the net before banging in a rebound. The U.S. lead expanded to two despite the mud that the game seemed to be played in. Just like the first period, however, the Germans came in late and brought the game within one. Bennett Rossmy would grab a hold of the puck after a high-pressure forecheck doesn’t allow the Americans to break out of their own end and he puts the puck in after it goes off both posts. The Germans were proving they wouldn’t go down without a fight.

 

 

After the third period opened with the youngest American Charlie Stramel scoring on a breakaway,  the Germans were able to again put pressure on the U.S. and pull within one as Sebastian Cimmerman was gifted a goal when he just threw it on net mid-way through the frame and Gibson Homer, the U.S. netminder, just whiffed on the soft lob. The Germans seemed to be getting every little break they needed to make this a game and the American club looked like it was in trouble.

 

 

The U.S. kept the pressure on, however, looking their best as a team in the third and Gallagher picked up his second on the game as the Americans finally got the bounce they’d been waiting for. Gallagher didn’t get all of the shot and the goofy puck found its way to the back of the net to give them a bit of breathing room with just about three minutes to play. This game wound up being a little too close for comfort for the U.S. U18s.

 

Group A

Belarus 7-1 Switzerland

Danila Klimovich was the star of the show for Belarus as he had a hat trick of powerplay goals. The story of this game was the Swiss penalty kill being unable to stop anything thrown its way by the Belarusian powerplay units. Klimovich was able to find space consistently, sneak in when the timing was right and the Swiss team had no answers. Klimovich wasn’t on the radar of many in the draft world but he’s certainly put himself on the map at this point. It will be interesting to see just how much a good U18s matter to NHL teams.

 

 

As with any blowout, there isn’t much sense in going step by step through the game but there was a highlight that everyone needs to see. Belarusian defender Dmitri Kuzmin – a player who I felt could make a name for himself at this event – certainly made sure scouts and analysts knew his name. The dynamically skilled blueliner walked in off the blueline, got below the goal line and behind the net, and pulled off the Michigan/lacrosse goal. If you didn’t know the name Dmitri Kuzmin, now you do. This kid is a ton of fun!

 

 

Canada 12-1 Sweden 

It was 12-1. It was rough right from the get-go. Shane Wright had a hat trick. Brandt Clarke looked excellent. Everyone but four players got on the board, three of which were defensemen. It was something. I think the easiest thing to do here is just to have you watch this highlight pack of the twelve goals. That may have been the worst game I’ve seen from most of the Swedish top prospects and they all had it on the same night. Canada has one of their strongest U18 rosters in years. It shouldn’t have been this ugly, but it was.

 

 

*****

 

Be sure to follow DobberProspects on Twitter for all of the latest on the World Under-18’s, we will be tweeting out the schedule and scores for every game and providing coverage throughout the tournament! You can follow me on Twitter @theTonyFerrari for more on the U18s and the 2021 NHL Draft in general!