The opening day of preliminary-round action in the Ivan Hlinka
Memorial tournament, the first major under-18 men's hockey event to begin the 2011-12 international season, didn't start off too promising on Monday for Canada or the United States.
In Breclav, Czech Republic, Team Sweden scored three power-play goals, including two in the second period, en route to a decisive 5-1 victory over Canada at Alcaplast Arena in Group A of the tournament.
In Group B, the U.S. men's under-18 team yielded five unanswered goals on the way to a 6-3 loss to Finland at Zimny Stadium in Piestany, Slovakia.
Andre Burakowsky, Sebastien Collberg and Mattias Kalin scored power-play goals for Sweden. Collberg and Kalin connected in the second period when Sweden opened a 4-0 advantage. Filip Forsberg and Jesper Pettersonn also hit for Sweden in the opening match of the tournament, which features a plethora of top players with 1994 birth years. Charles Hudon converted an assist from Hunter Shinkaruk in the third for Canada, the three-time and defending champion.
"The most important aspect for us is that we've got to learn to stay out of the penalty box.We talked coming into this tournament about the ways the referees were going to call the game and I think our players got frustrated."
-- Canada U-18 head coach Steve Spott
Since becoming a six-to-eight-nation annual tournament in 2001, Canada has won the gold eight times and the U.S. (2003) and Sweden (2007) have won it once.
"The most important aspect for us is that we've got to learn to stay out of the penalty box," said Canada head coach Steve Spott
, referring to his team's 11 minor penalties for the game. "We talked coming into this tournament about the ways the referees were going to call the game and I think our players got frustrated.
"Hopefully we learned our lesson. The Swedes took advantage of our lack of discipline and we've got to be better than that."
The Finns pulled into a 3-3 tie with the United States with two late goals in the first before Aleksandr Barkov connected for a power-play goal with just 49 seconds left in the second to give his team its second lead of the game. Barkov, Teuvo Teravainen and Rasmus Kulmala each had a goal and one assist for Finland.
Jordan Masters, Nicholas Schilkey and Luke Johnson
scored goals for the U.S., and Cristoval Nieves chipped in with two assists.
"We were physical and attacked the net tonight," said U.S. coach Seth Appert. "But we turned the puck over too much trying to make big plays, and Finland really took advantage of that."
All four teams resume play on Tuesday. The United States will face Russia, Canada meets the Czech Republic, the Swedes battle Switzerland and Finland plays Slovakia.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale