U.S. opens World U-18 Championship with victory

by Adam Kimelman / NHL.com
Team USA, the three-time defending champion, was one of four teams to win on opening day of the 2012 World Under-18 Championship in the Czech Republic on Thursday.

In a pair of games played at Kajot Arena in Brno, the U.S. scored three times in a 3:30 span early in the third period of a scoreless game en route to a 4-0 win against Finland, while Kerby Rychel had a goal and an assist to lead Canada to a 6-1 win against Denmark.

The U.S., the three-time defending gold medalists, got goals Nicolas Kerdiles, Matt Lane and Quentin Shore in quick order after the teams had played two scoreless periods.

Kerdiles, a forward with the U.S. National Team Development Program ranked No. 29 among North American skaters, started the run when he banged in a power-play goal 54 seconds into the third period. Just 2:10 later, Lane made it 2-0, and then after another 1:20, it was Shore scoring to make it 3-0.

Conner Carrick added a power-play goal later in the period, and goalie Collin Olsen stopped all 21 shots he faced.

"I'm really pleased with how the guys played tonight," U.S. coach Danton Cole said. "We played well defensively, worked hard and our special teams were great. We were solid all the way around."
Finland goalie Joonas Korpisalo, who plays for Jokerit's team in the Finnish junior league, made 33 saves in the loss. He's No. 3 on Central Scouting's final ranking of European goalies.

The U.S. next plays Saturday, against the Czech Republic, while Finland's next game is Saturday against Canada.

Rychel, who plays in the Ontario Hockey League for the Windsor Spitfires, is eligible for the 2013 NHL Draft.

Canada's Gemel Smith scored late in first period to snap a 1-1 tie and spark Canada to the victory. Scott Laughton, Mike Winther, Anthony Mantha and Mathew Dumba also scored for Canada, and Matt Murray stopped 15 of 16 shots in goal.

"It was everyone was on the same page today.  It was good to see that for the first game," Dumba, the team captain, told NHL.com via e-mail.

A defenseman with the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League, Dumba is No. 11 on Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters.

Oliver Bjorkstrand had Denmark's lone goal, while goalie Matthias Hansen stopped 42 of 48 shots.

Canada next plays Finland on Saturday, while Denmark plays the host Czech Republic on Friday.

Dumba said even with the big win, there are places the team needs to get better.

"That's one thing we strive for, is to get better each day of this tournament," Dumba said. "Everyone needs to get the systems down pat.  With a short-term competition, that's one of the challenges and we need to make sure everyone is on the same page."

At Zimni Stadion in Znojmo, Daniil Zharkov had a goal and two assists in Russia's 6-1 defeat of Latvia, while Alexander Wennberg -- eligible for the 2013 NHL Draft -- had a hat trick plus an assist as Sweden routed Germany 8-1.

Zharkov, who plays in the OHL with the Belleville Bulls, is No. 32 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters.

Russia scored twice in all three periods to win its tournament opener. Bogdan Yakimov and Vyacheslov Osnovin each had a goal and an assist, and Anton Slepyshev and Arseni Khatsei also had goals.

Andrei Vasilevski, Central Scouting's top-rated European goalie, stopped 17 of 18 shots.

Georgs Golovkovs scored Latvia's lone goal, and goalie Elvis Merzlikins stopped 34 of 40 shots.

Both teams next play Friday -- Russia against Germany, while Latvia faces Switzerland.

Germany scored the game's first goal, but Sweden responded by scoring the final eight.

Mattias Kallin had two goals, Sebastian Collberg had a goal and three assists and Christian Djoos had a goal and an assist.

Goaltender Oscar Dansk turned aside 29 of 30 shots. Dansk is No. 2 on Central Scouting's final ranking of European goalies.

Denis Shevyrin scored for Germany.

Germany next plays Russia on Saturday, while Sweden faces Switzerland.

Opening-round play runs through April 17, with the top three teams from each group advancing to the playoff round. Group A consists of the U.S., Canada, Finland, Czech Republic and Denmark; Group B is made up of Sweden, Russia, Germany, Switzerland and Latvia.

The gold-medal game will be April 22.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK