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WORLDS DAY 1: Kakko impresses in debut

Kaapo Kakko scored two goals in his Men's tournament debut, leading Finland over Canada 3-1

by Amanda Stein / newjerseydevils.com

For full coverage of the Devils competing in this month's World Championship and their individual and country's performances, visit our international page at newjerseydevils.com/worlds.

FINLAND 3, CANADA 1

Canada: Damon Severson & Mackenzie Blackwood
Finland: Kaapo Kakko

In the opening game of the tournament for both Finland and Canada at the 2019 World Championship, top European prospect Kaapo Kakko put the hockey world on notice.

A two-goal appearance from Kakko downed Team Canada, with Finland pulling out the 3-1 victory.

Kakko scored the game's opening and closing goal.

Watch: Kakko Goal

At 6:47 of the first period, Kakko took a shot from his backhand, as he was falling to the ice, with Canadian defenseman Brandon Montour's stick in the way of his skating stride. Kakko split the Canadian defensemen and beat goaltender Matt Murray to put Finland up 1-0, before Canada tied the game less than two minutes later on the power play.

Finland broke the 1-1 tie at 2:36 of the third period while New Jersey Devils defensemen Damon Severson was serving a cross-checking penalty.

Kakko added the empty-netter, to secure Finland's 3-1 win over Canada.

Severson made his debut with the national men's team and was part of the starting lineup for Canada. He was held off the scoreboard and was paired with Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse.

Canada outshot Finland 26-21.  

Next: Canada's next matchup is Sunday at 2:15 p.m. EDT against Great Britain. Finland play on Saturday at 2:15 p.m. EDT against Slovakia, featuring Devils prospect Marian Studenic.

SLOVAKIA 4, UNITED STATES 1

United States: Cory Schneider, John Hynes, Jack Hughes
Slovakia: Marian Studenic 

Team USA opened their tournament in hostile territory, facing off against the home team in a packed stadium in Kosice. Slovakia got the crowd going early in the first period when Matus Sukel scored for the Slovak's just 4:02 into the game. Sukel beat New Jersey Devils goaltender Cory Schneider in close to give Slovakia a 1-0 lead and was assisted by Devils prospect Marian Studenic who fed Sukel the pass from behind Schneider's net. This is the first appearance with the mens national team for Studenic. 

Team USA would even the score at one heading into the second period before Slovakia scored three unanswered goals to defeat the United States 4-1 in their opening game. 

Studenic logged 12:50 of ice-time, ended the night with one assist and was a plus-1. 

Top ranked North American draft eligible prospect Jack Hughes suited up for Team USA, with the men's national team for the first time in his career, and the youngest player in USA Hockey history at the World Championship. Hughes had two shots against Slovakia and played a total of 13:30. 

Next: Team USA face France on Sunday morning at 6:15am EST while Slovakia are right back into it on Saturday afternoon at 2:15pm against Finland. 

CZECH REPUBLIC 5, SWEDEN 2

Sweden: Jesper Bratt

The defending World Championship champions, Sweden, opened up their tournament with a 5-2 loss to the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic ends a remarkable streak for the Swede's, who had been on a 17 game winning streak at the tournament, champions the last two years. The last time Sweden lost a game at the IIHF Worlds was in May 2017. 

The Swede's and Czech's were tied 2-2 heading into the final 20 minutes, before the Czech Republic opened the flood gates with three unanswered goals on 12 shots in the third period.

New Jersey Devils forward Jesper Bratt is a member of this years Swedish squad, joining the men's national team for the first time in his career. Bratt missed the final 15 games of New Jersey's season with an injury and this was his return to meaningful competition for the first time since March 5th.

He finished the game with 11:44 in ice time and picked up an assist on Sweden's second goal. Bratt took a shift on Sweden's second wave of the power play, after he drew the high-sticking penalty to put Sweden on their first power play of the game. 

Next: Bratt and his fellow Swede's are back in action on Sunday against Italy at 10:15 am while the Czechs are back on the ice on Saturday at 2:15 pm versus Norway.

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