There were only two games scheduled at the World Under-18 tournament Friday and I was struck at how similar they were despite the great disparity on the outcomes.
Sweden barely eked out a win in overtime against Latvia, while Canada hammered an overmatched Danish squad.
The Swedes were 19.1 seconds away from a disastrous upset thanks to the brilliant goaltending work of Mareks “Mittens” Mitens, who stymied his opponents after Sweden scored twice to take a quick 2-0 lead and appeared to be on their way to cruising to a big win. Alas for the Tre Kronor, though they owned territorial play and a major edge in shots for a large swath of the contest, but allowed the Latvians to surge ahead. Mittens was outstanding, and he turned what many of us thought would be a snoozer of a game into a genuinely enjoyable event.
It took Sweden’s best player in Alex Nylander, and a perfect laser 1-timer to avert what would have been a disastrous loss for them. As it stands, although they won in overtime, the international scoring system means they put themselves at a disadvantage. Full marks to Latvia and Mittens for raising their game when Sweden gave them an opening, but the pace and lack of urgency by the blue and gold (until the veryend)
contributed to the near-upset.
Conversely, Canada found themselves in a similar situation against another lower-end team in Denmark. After surging to a 2-0 lead, goaltender Stuart Skinner gave up two goals on three shots and it was a 2-2 game. Canada would then ratchet up the intensity, crash the net, and pound Denmark into submission. This of course after the lights went out at the Ralph Engelstad Arena just before the start of the second period, causing a more than an hour delay and effectively killing any momentum the Danes might have had. Canada jumped on them, powered by Jordan Kyrou’s four goals and future UND Fighting Hawks centet Tyson Jost’s 2 goals and 5 points in a stretch of about 25 minutes.
Canada scored many of their 10 goals just by crashing the net, and beating the Danes (who were often just standing around) to loose pucks. Canada did what Sweden wouldn’t, and it showed in the final result, as Denmark never mounted much of a threat after scoring twice to tie it in the first period.
Mittens and Latvia will likely get the same treatment from the USA that Denmark got last night, so it will be interesting to see how he fares in net with a team that is not going to give him the clear sight lines and room in the crease that Sweden did.
Select player observations:
Dante Fabbro, D– You can see how smart and mobile he is. Impressed with his lateral movement on the blue line and in getting pucks to the net with multiple helpers. He did whiff defensively on a rush when he tried to play the puck instead of the body and the Danish forward powered through him and right to the net, but overall, he stood out.
Jordan Kyrou, F– Everything he touched turned to gold, as he was engaged and involved, going to the net and getting rewarded for it. He showed off a good stick, especially in close, getting the dirty goals…4 of them to be exact.
Jakob Chychrun, D– You can see why he’s gotten so much attention with his size and skating. He didnt do much to stand out, but the talent absolutely is there.
Alex Nylander, F– Until he scored the tying goal, he was largely uninvolved and not all that impressive. He’s definitely got some wiggle in the way he can stickhandle through traffic, but he was out on the perimeter a lot and not using his teammates much. Then, in a split second, he unleashed a perfect drive and saved Sweden’s bacon.