U18WC: Quarterfinal Recap, Brief Look Ahead

After Thursday night’s games, just four teams remain in the hunt for the gold medal at the 2011 IIHF World Men’s Under-18 Championship. Russia defeated Finland, 5-2, while Canada squeaked past Germany, 4-3.

Russia will meet Sweden at 2:30 p.m. (8:30 a.m. EDT) and Canada will take on the U.S. at 6:30 p.m. (12:30 p.m. EDT). Needless to say, the four best teams in this tournament are still playing. In my opinion, that’s as it should be.

Coming up after the jump, a look at both quarterfinal match-ups and a brief look ahead.

Canada-Germany

Team Germany came to play last night and weren’t intimidated a bit by Canada. In fact, Germany had a 3-2 lead for a good part of the third period, but just wasn’t able to hold on.

You might be shocked by the scoreline, and frankly so was I. The crowd was certainly a factor again for Germany last night. The players were feeding off of it. Canada looked a little over-confident at the start, but soon realized it wasn’t going to be an easy night.

IIHF.com has a pretty good rundown of the game here.

Team Germany had a bit more jump in the quarterfinal. I think part of the confidence came knowing that Tobias Rieder was going to be in the lineup. He played sparingly, but scored a big goal for Germany and remained a threat on the ice, even if he wasn’t 100% healthy.

It was just a gutsy effort from Germany, while Canada looked a little sluggish until it got down to crunch time. The atmosphere was tremendous and the home crowd showered their team with love, even after the heart-breaking loss.

The German players remained on the ice 30-40 minutes after the game, taking a curtain call because the fans wouldn’t leave. Team Germany also unveiled a banner that said “Danke Crimmitschau” (Thanks Crimmitschau). One of the German players took the microphone and led the crowd in chants. It was one of the coolest things I’ve seen in hockey. Great to be a part of. I can’t imagine what that place would have looked like had Germany won.

Russia-Finland

The earlier quarterfinal was about as bland a hockey game as I’ve ever seen at this level, considering the stakes. Russia and Finland went back and forth for two periods before the Finns collapsed in the third.

Team Russia is probably the most skilled team in the tournament, but there isn’t a whole lot of depth. Maxim Shalunov went down with an injury during warm-ups and was unavailable.

That made Russia’s second line virtually invisible. You can get away with a lack of depth when your top line includes the three leading scorers in the tournament, but not when you’re playing the top teams in this event.

I was surprised by Finland’s lack of jump. The team looked worn down and it’s more skilled players didn’t seem to get it going. Joel Armia was a threat at times, but I don’t think he did enough out there. It was a tough afternoon for Team Finland.

I will have a full rundown of USA-Canada later tonight, or at least I hope to. If not, you’ll be able to find it tomorrow morning.

Looking at Sweden-Russia, I think you’ve got two of the best skill teams going. Sweden, however, also has played a physical brand of hockey throughout which could be a big advantage.

If Sweden can slow down the top line of Kucherov-Grigorenko-Yakupov, I think we’ll see the Tre Kronar in the gold-medal game for the second straight year. However, if that line is able to get on a roll, as we’ve seen many times in the tournament, Russia could get past the Swedes. It’s going to be a really exciting game and you’ll be able to see it on FASTHockey.com.

Relegation Update

Everything has been decided in the relegation round and it is Norway and Slovakia who will head down.

I think it’s a pretty embarrassing day for the Slovakians. There was a time where that team was competing for medals and producing loads of elite talent. However, over the last few years, Slovakian teams have struggled mightily, particularly against the best teams.

Switzerland and the Czech Republic remain up and I think Switzerland in particular could be a threat next year.

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Make sure to check back later today for the full rundown of USA-Canada. I’ll probably have plenty of Twitter updates throughout the day tomorrow as well.

It’s always exciting when the U.S. and Canada get together. Expect this game to live up to the hype. Should be a lot of fun.

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About Chris Peters

Editor of The United States of Hockey. Contributor to CBSSports.com, USA Hockey Magazine and more. Former USA Hockey PR guy. Current Iowan.
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