U-18 World Championship Roundup: Opening Day Begins With USA, Sweden, Switzerland, Czech In Front

A pair of near-comebacks highlighted Day 1 of action in Texas – a day of U-18 World Championship play that didn't lack excitement or drama.
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Russia Pulls Off Miraculous Comeback Over USA

At one point, it looked like the United States had walked away with an easy win against a major rival. Instead, Russia invoked nightmares against their opponents and pulled off an incredible 7-6 comeback effort in overtime to win an important Group B matchup between two tournament heavyweights.

It was a perfect start for the Americans, who had two goals within the first 5:24 of play to put Russia on their heels. At 2:56, Ryan Chesley's knuckle puck from the blueline somehow beat Kirill Gerasimyuk to make it 1-0, only to have Dylan Duke get one on the power play from a Lane Hutson feed shortly after. Danila Yurov answered back, though, with a low wrister on Gibson Homer, giving Russia a bit of life around the midway point of the first. At 16:44, Sean Behrens kept USA's perfect man-advantage run with a power-play goal of his own, once again taking a feed from Hutson before scoring in free ice. 

But the second period is where everything completely changed. Just 1:27 into the second, Ethan Straky finished off a nifty passing play between him, Isaac Howard and Charlie Stramel to make it 4-1 and chase goaltender Kirill Gerasimyuk from the Russian net. Sasha Pastujov scored three minutes later on Valeri Brinkman's first shot against and gave USA the massive 5-1 lead. 

Think it was over then? Think again. Russia then controlled the puck through most of the second period, with Matvei Michkov scoring his first goal with the U-18 team at 26:16 when he jammed in the puck off of a Nikita Novikov rebound, putting Russia back in the goal column. Two minutes after that, Vsevold Gaidamak tipped in Nikita Chibrikov's shot after Chibrikov left the box from a 10-minute misconduct from the first period for an elbow to the head. 

The flurry of goals worked in Russia's favor, and at 33:09, Michkov was credited with his second of the night. This time, the top 2023 NHL draft prospect scored a power-play marker on his trademark wrist shot, putting Russia within one. It looked like Russia was going to find a way to tie in the period, but Dylan Duke took a bit of the momentum away by re-directing Pastujov's shot to make it 6-4. 

Of course, the craziness wasn't done, as with under a minute to go in the middle frame, 2022 NHL draft prospect Ivan Miroshnichenko ripped home a one-timer to make it 6-5 – the seventh goal overall in the second period that took 54 minutes to complete.

It was starting to look like USA would hold on, but with five minutes to go, Miroshnichenko had other plans. Instead of taking a hard shot like with Russia's fifth goal, he instead re-directed Fyodor Svechkov's shot after Svechkov won the battle to steal the puck. The goal forced overtime – because, of course – and Russia was able to finish off the game with a short side goal from Chibrivkov to finish off the huge comeback.

USA will have a chance to bounce back with a game against Germany on Tuesday, but the loss could be a killer in the eventual fight to win the group. The extra time win for Russia was the first of the tournament, but with just two points awarded for an OT win, they sit behind the Czech Republic for first in Group B.

Quick Goals from Swiss Enough to Beat Latvia

Latvia spent most of the game trying to play catch up and it was too little too late in the end, with Switzerland holding on for the 4-2 victory on Monday.

There wasn't much action in the opening 10 minutes, but a pair of goals just 23 seconds apart gave the Swiss a big advantage early in the game. At 12:02 on the power play, Lian Bischel crushed a slap shot off of a drop pass from Attilio Biasca to open the scoring. On the next play, Liekit Reichle converted on a pass from Louis Robin to put the Swiss up nicely early in the game and forcing their opponents to claw back for the rest of the period.

Another duo goal-scoring effort in the second played into Switzerland's favor. At 24:42, Lian Bischel took Biasca's feed and extended Switzerland's lead to three goals and half a minute later, Robin got one of his own. But with just over two minutes to go in the second, Latvia scored a pair themselves to cut the lead in half. Neither team could capitalize on third period chances and despite a flurry of opportunities by Latvia, Switzerland would hold on for the 4-2 victory.

Belarus Showed Muscle, but Sweden Too Strong

The score wasn't indicative of how close the game truly was, but in more typical Tre Kronor fashion, Sweden finished off with a big 5-1 win over Belarus to start off on the right foot in Texas.

Belarus held on to their own in the early minutes of the game, but a power-play goal at the 5:00 mark of the first period but the Swedes in front. Anton Olsson found Isak Rosen all alone after Rosen cheated in a bit from the blueline, ripping a slap shot past Ivan Zhigalov to open the scoring for his nation.

Belarus couldn't keep up with Sweden's pace and early in the second, it showed. Fabian Lysell, one of the top forwards for the 2021 draft, took the puck from his own zone and rushed past the entirety of Belarus' defensive effort before backhanding a shot past Zhigalov for the 2-0 goal just 1:50 into the middle stanza.

Belarus would answer back just before the halfway point of the contest. At 28:32 on the man advantage, Danila Klimovich – who missed a breakaway goal on a between-the-legs attempt just minutes earlier, one-timed a pass from Yegor Sidorov to put Belarus on the board in a game they truly were hanging in. But 10 minutes later, Arvid Eljas got one of his own for the Swedes to restore the two-goal lead – a deficit Belarus wouldn't come back from. Sweden would finish with a 5-1 win with two late goals, showing their real strength against a team that had nothing left to give.

Czechs Take Advantage of Special Teams to Stop Germany

The Czech Republic has started the tournament off in a big way with a 3-1 victory over Germany – with all four goals coming thanks to special team efforts.

The first period was scoreless, with both teams taking a couple of penalties each to slow the pace of the game down. But on the first real scoring chance of the second, the Czechs took advantage of the power play to make it 1-0. Just 49 seconds into the middle frame, Lukas Pajer finished off a tic-tac-toe play by Jakub Kos and Jakub Brabenec, beating German netminder Nikita Quapp for the opening goal.

The Germans were hanging on, mainly due to the play of goaltender Nikita Quapp. But a defensive miscue on the power play meant the Czechs entered the third period down 2-0. Gabriel Szturc took advantage of two defensemen fumbling the puck in front of the German net and beat Quapp blocker side – a moment the Germans would not recover from.

Germany can take solace in playing a perfect game at 5-on-5, but their discipline caught them out again midway through the third. This time, Martin Rysavy's one-timer blasted past a sprawling Quapp and in for the 3-0 goal. The Germans would get a penalty shot chance late in the third but came up short, but Yannick Proske scored a power-play goal with under five minutes to go to put the Germans on the board. It wasn't enough as Tomas Suchanek stood tall the rest of the way, holding on for the 3-1 victory.

The win could be a big moment for the Czech Republic en route to a potential quarter-final berth. For Germany, they'll need to steal a few points along the way this week to ensure moving on, but with just one team being eliminated in each group – and with Germany looking like the weakest of the strong B-side – they'll need some help along the way.

Three Stars

1. Lane Hutson, D (USA) Three assists on the man advantage for Luke Hughes' replacement on the power play. Not too shabby for one of seven 2004-born players on USA.

2. Nikita Chibrikov, RW (RUS) – A 10-minute misconduct didn't stop him when it really mattered. Won the game for Russia and added two other points.

3. Louis Robin, RW (SUI) – A goal and an assist for the Swiss and was generally one of the standout players for his nation. Continuing on from a good run with the team prior to the tournament.

Day 2 Matchups: 

Finland vs. Russia - 5:00 PM ET 
Switzerland vs. Belarus - 5:00 PM ET
Canada vs. Sweden – 9:00 PM ET
USA vs. Germany – 9:00 PM ET

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