Hockey in the South: Semi-Finals Recap

The IIHF Under-18 World Championships were back in action after a night off in Texas. Wednesday saw the two semi-final games being played. Canada faced off against Sweden in the first game of semi-final Wednesday and Russia and Finland capped off the night. In the first game, we saw Canada continue their domination of the tournament by putting up another impressive 8 goal outing. In the second semi-final game, Finland and Russia played a much closer game than Canada and Sweden did.

Canada 8 vs. Sweden 1

The undefeated Canadian squad was heading into Wednesday’s night game after winning their quarter-final matchup against the Czech Republic 10-3. The Swedes were coming of an impressive 5-2 win over the hosts, the United States on Monday. Canada and Sweden had already faced off in the round-robin part of the tournament which Canada had beat Sweden 12-1. The game was set up to be an interesting match; would Canada continue their total domination or would Sweden upset the young Canadian squad?

The first period saw the two teams battling it out to a 0-0 tie heading into the second period despite two penalties in the first frame and Canada outshooting Sweden 14-5. Sweden’s Elias Salomonsson handed Canada an early powerplay but the Canadian squad was unable to capitalize on the man advantage. Francesco Pinelli, the Kitchener Rangers forward, served Canada’s first (of many) penalties in the latter part of the first frame with the Swedes unable to capitalize.

The second period started with a bang when 15-year-old Connor Bedard scored after walking into the Sweden end and unloading an impressive wrist shot from the hashmarks to give Canada a 1-0 lead. Less than 2 minutes later, Canada would find themselves in the penalty box and down two players on the penalty kill. Isak Rosen would score on the powerplay to tie the game up for Sweden. Canada, however, was not happy with a tie game, once again. Chase Stillman, an 18-year-old right winger, scored to give Canada the lead, once again. Heading into the third frame, Canada was leading 2-1.

The third period, just like the second period, started out on a high note for team Canada when Connor Bedard scored his second of the game. A beautiful top shelf wrist shot gave Canada a 3-1 lead only 45 seconds into the third. After Bedard’s second of the night, Sweden found themselves in quite a hole as they began taking penalty after penalty. Brennan Othmann was able to capitalize on one of Sweden’s 3 penalties of the period to give Canada a 4-1 lead. Francesco Pinelli put one behind Carl Lindbom to give Canada a 5-1 lead heading into the latter part of the third.

After putting up an impressive three assists already in the game Canadian captain, Shane Wright, put up his seventh of the tournament to further Canada’s lead to 6. Wright was not the only Canadian player to rack up the points in Wednesday’s matchup; Connor Bedard was putting on a goal-scoring clinic. With 5 minutes left in the third, Bedard scored his third of the night to give Canada a 7-1 lead and give himself the natural hat trick. Conner Roulette would score with 3 minutes left in the third to give Canada the 8-1 victory.

Connor Bedard has made quite a name for himself this tournament with 8 points (5 goals, and 3 assists) in the last two games for team Canada. With his hat trick in the semi-finals, Bedard now has 12 points in the tournament (6 goals, and 6 assists) which is only 2 behind the Hockey Canada record. Only the Edmonton Oilers’ captain, Connor McDavid, has more points as an underage than Bedard. Connor Bedard will be looking to tie or even beat McDavid’s record in Thursday night’s tilt against Russia. A friendly reminder that Connor Bedard is only 15 years of age and is not eligible until the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.

Canada will be moving on to the gold medal matchup while Sweden will be playing for bronze.

Finland 5 vs. Russia 6

The second game of the night saw Finland taking on Russia. Finland had won their way into the semi-finals after a 2-0 victory over Switzerland and the Russian squad with the victory over Belarus which ended as a 5-2 final. Russia had a quick start and did not waste anytime with putting one behind Aku Koskenvuo. Three minutes into the game, Danil Lazutin scored for Russia to give them an early 1-0 lead over the Fins. Only seconds after their first goal of the game, Ilya Kvochko, was given a delay of game penalty which would lead to a Finnish goal. Finnish captain, Samu Salminen, scored on the powerplay to tie the game up at 1. Later on in the first frame, Arseni Koromyslov, was caught for a trip which led to a Finnish penalty shot which was unsuccessful.

The tournament’s leading scorer, Matvei Michkov, scored seconds after the failed Finnish penalty shot to give the Russian squad the lead again. Verner Miettinen did not want to bring his Finnish squad into the second period down by one so at the 9:01 mark of the first, Miettinen scored to tie the game, once again. The fast-paced first period came to an end with the two teams heading into the second tied up at 2.

A relatively uneventful second period saw both teams running into penalty issues. Both Finland and Russia spent their respective time in the penalty boxes. Neither team was able to capitalize on the powerplay in the period. However, when the game was back to even strength, Russia’s captain, Nikita Chibrikov was able to slip two past Miettinen to give the Russian squad a 4-2 lead heading into the final frame.

With Finland’s dream of making a gold-medal game appearance dwindling, the third period turned out to be huge for the young Finnish squad. However, the Fins took an early penalty which led to Ivan Miroshnichenko scoring on the powerplay for Russia to further their lead to 5. After their fifth goal of the night, Russia’s Prokhor Poltapov found himself in the penalty box serving a 2-minute roughing penalty. On the ensuing powerplay, Joakim Kemell, slipped one past Sergei Ivanov to make the game 5-3.

At the halfway mark in the third, Ivan Miroshnichenko, scored his second game of the night to give Russia, a 6-3 lead with less than 10 minutes to go. Samu Salminen, Finnish captain, scored his second of the night to make it 6-4 heading into the final 9 minutes of the frame. Despite Finland’s efforts of pulling their goalie in the dying seconds of the period and Joakim Kemell’s goal with 3 minutes left to go, the Russians took the game, 6-5. Russia will be taking on Canada in the gold medal game while Finland tangles with Sweden in the bronze medal game.

Thursday night will see Canada taking on the Russian squad to see who the under-18 champion is after the bronze medal game, between Finland and Sweden, is played.

We, at Unbenched, will be back on Friday to recap the final day of the IIHF Under-18 World Championships from Texas.

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