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U.S. wins fourth-straight U-18 gold @NHLdotcom

Top 2012 NHL Draft prospect Nicolas Kerdiles scored twice and added three assists Sunday as the U.S. routed Sweden 7-0 and won its fourth straight gold medal at the 2012 IIHF World Under-18 Championship in the Czech Republic.

Kerdiles, a left wing with the U.S. National Team Development Program Under-18 team, is No. 29 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for this year's draft.

In a game played at Kajot Arena in Brno, Daniel O'Reagan and Ryan Hartman each had a goal and an assist, and goalie Collin Olson stopped all 27 shots he faced for his third shutout in five games.

Olson, also with the USNTDP, is No. 21 on Central Scouting's final ranking of North American goalies. He was named the tournament's best goaltender after allowing just four goals on 116 shots, and leading the tournament with a .966 save percentage and 0.80 goals-against average.

"It started with the goaltending," U.S. captain Seth Jones, considered a top-five pick for the 2013 NHL Draft, told the IIHF website. "Olson and [backup Jared] Rutledge were outstanding, allowing four goals total in the whole tournament, that's unheard of. They really set the tempo and the defense came behind them."

Sweden goalie Oscar Dansk, No. 2 on Central Scouting's final ranking of European goalies, allowed three goals on 21 shots before being pulled from the game 12:47 into the second period.

Thomas DiPauli's goal with 1:15 left in the first period put the U.S. ahead, but then O'Reagan, J.T. Compher and Kerdiles scored in the second to blow the game open.

"Things turned for us in the second period," U.S. coach Danton Cole told the IIHF website. "We were able to get a good forecheck going and forced them into making a few mistakes that we were able to capitalize on and I think that turned the game for us. I though our guys did a great job, they played hard and skated very physical."

Hartman scored 18 seconds into the third, and Connor Carrick and Kerdiles added goals to close the scoring.

It's the third straight year the U.S. has beaten Sweden to win the gold medal.

This year's final, however, was a bit easier for the U.S. than last year's tournament. In 2011, the U.S. came back from a two-goal deficit in the third period to tie the game and send it into overtime. A little more than six minutes into the extra period, defenseman Connor Murphy fired a shot from the blue line that went off the cross-bar and into the net to win gold for the U.S.

"Yeah it is," Jones, a member of that 2011 team, said when asked if this year's win was sweeter. "I've been with this group of guys for two years and it's incredible to win this one. At the National Team Development Program we focus on strength building and physical development and I can't tell you how far I've come personally through the program and how far the team has come through this program."

Earlier in the day, Canada won the bronze medal when Hunter Shinkaruk, a top prospect for the 2013 NHL Draft, capped a hat trick with an overtime goal in a 6-5 defeat of Finland. It's Canada's first medal of any kind at the World U-18s in four years.

Also, Russia got a pair of goals from Arseni Khatsei for a 4-1 win against Germany in the fifth-place game.

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