World Under-18 Championship: Sweden stuns USA for gold, Finland takes bronze


LANDSHUT, Germany — In a tournament that seemed to have an inevitable end with the Americans beating their opponents 43-11 going into the gold medal game, Sweden turned the tables. Despite being outscored 51-15, the highly skilled and – in this case – very opportunistic Swedes managed to beat the heavily favored USA to claim only their second World Men’s Under-18 Championship gold medal. years of the IIHF.

This Swedish team took the long way back after facing a few players who tested positive for coronavirus upon their arrival, forcing quarantines for those infected, then they lost their tournament opener against Latvia, then had to deal with injuries during the tournament, never having a full line-up at any point in this particular event. They finished with the tournament’s best striker, best defender and best goalkeeper, but it was that last player – goalkeeper Hugo Havelid – who saw Sweden leave Germany with medals. gold in addition to its signature gold jerseys.

In the dramatic final of this tournament, the United States struck early after controlling for a long part of the match. Cole Spicer forced a turnover on Devin Kaplan, who found Ryan Leonard all alone on the left side for an easy goal. Sweden turned the tide with a long sniping shot from Oskar Pettersson that went high past goalkeeper Trey Augustine. The Swedes struck again 1:03 later with a stunning goal as Noah Ostlund danced through the American defense and managed to toss a rolling puck through the air to score on consecutive shots and take a 2- 1 lead. Shortly after, American striker Frank Nazar went all the way and fired a shot from a bad angle that beat Havelid from the short side to draw even before intermission.

In the second period, penalties proved costly for the United States as Sweden scored on back-to-back power plays, first on a Liam Ohgren wrist that beat Augustine five holes out and then on a shorthanded five-on-three where Noah Ostlund fired a rebound just under the bar to extend the advantage. The Americans got one back with both teams skating four-on-four as Logan Cooley found Rutger McGroarty who had a one-timer to make it 4-3.

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However, the American team could not maintain this momentum. Although he peppered the net in the third period, Havelid continued to fend off the pucks and Sweden found the next goal as Ohgren was launched on a mini-breakaway and made a devastating move to take the score to 5-3. In desperation, the USA retired their goaltender with over three minutes to play. McGroarty scored his eighth goal of the tournament on the doorstep to bring USA to life. However, with 31 seconds remaining, Jonathan Lekkerimaki scored an empty net for his tournament-leading 15th point to secure the gold medal.

Havelid finished the game with 47 saves, including a few key ones in the streak when Sweden found themselves struggling with penalties in the third period. It turned out to be the difference.

Bronze medal to Finland

Finland won the bronze medal in what started out as a very close competition against Czechoslovakia who had won a huge late victory against Canada in the preliminary round and gave the Americans a brief scare in the semi-finals.

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Joakim Kemell, Finland’s highest-ranked player in the draft, scored twice and added an assist, while captain Jere Lassila collected four points, including the empty goal, to freeze the game and secure a 4-1 victory for the Finland.

Kemell missed one game due to illness, but scored six goals and eight points in his five games played. Additionally, 15-year-old defenseman Aron Kiviharju finished the tournament with six assists in six games, tied for fourth among all defensemen. Kemell, Kiviharju and 2023 draft-eligible striker Kasper Halttunen have been named the three best Finnish players in the tournament.

Tournament Rewards

Media All-Star Team:

Forwards: Logan Cooley (USA), Jonathan Lekkerimaki (SWE) Jiri Kulich (CZE)
Defense: Lane Hutson (USA), Tomas Hamara (CZE)
Goalkeeper: Hugo Havelid (SWE)

MVP: Jiri Kulich (CZE)

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I voted for the all-star team with the rest of the media together. My ballot is almost identical except that I voted for Mattias Havelid for one of my two defenders with Hutson. Mattias Havelid had 12 points in the tournament, the best among defenders, and was Sweden’s most reliable and most used defender. With all due respect to my fellow constituents, that was a massive oversight. He was the top defenseman in that tournament and his 12 points actually tied him for second all-time in tournament points by a defenseman.

As for the MVP, our votes are due before the end of the first intermission of the gold medal game. That doesn’t leave much room for a magical performance like Hugo Havelid’s to sway the votes. So I also voted for Kulich, who led the tournament with nine goals and could seemingly turn the tide of games with a single blow. Very impressive and a deserved honor.

Management Award Winners

Best goalkeeper: Hugo Havelid (SWE)

Best defender: Lane Hutson (USA)

Best striker: Logan Cooley (USA)

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Hugo was huge

The Swedish goaltender is just 5ft 10in, which has left some scouts wondering if there’s a place for him in the NHL Draft, but Hugo Havelid might as well be 10ft the way he played most of the game against Team USA. He faced a barrage of 51 shots, including several on multiple power plays for an American team that has multiple first-rounders on each of its two units.

While he still allowed four goals, there were so many times in the game that he stopped his momentum. He had a few big glove saves and a few scrambles in front of the net which he fought off and found the puck. He was the rock of his team.

The son of former NHL player Niclas Havelid, whose twin brother Mattias was Sweden’s number one defenseman and uncle Magnus Havelid was the head coach, was able to celebrate a big triumph on the ice with his family. Not only was he the support of a gold medal team, he was named to the tournament all-star team and received the management award as the tournament’s top goaltender.

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He finished the U18 Men’s World Championship with a .929 save percentage after allowing 12 goals – just eight at even strength – in five games. Havelid was the only primary starter on his team to finish with a save percentage north of .900, which is another reminder that if you’re looking for goaltenders for your favorite team, this year isn’t ideal for that.

As for what this particular tournament means for Havelid’s draft stock? You’ll just have to wait as I will have a post-U18 stock watch for Daily Faceoff readers very soon.

Sweden rides Djugardens Trio

Jonathan Lekkerimaki, Noah Ostlund and Liam Ohgren have been playing together for years, dating back to their youth. They accounted for five of the six goals scored with two coming from Ohgren, two from Ostlund and Lekkerimaki’s dagger in the empty net.

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Lekkerimaki had four points in the match to take his tournament total to 15, one point shy of William Nylander’s record of 16 for most points by a Swedish player in a single tournament. Nylander got an extra game though, so Lekkerimaki has the points-per-game advantage there, if you want to get technical.

This group was made up of Sweden’s top line and three of the forwards from the top power-play unit. Together, these three strikers have scored 12 goals in the tournament and have shown that sometimes the quality of shots can be better than the quantity of shots when these players are as talented as these three.

The United States is failing

An attacking steamroller finally met its match in Hugo Havelid’s quality goalkeeper. This American roster will have a number of first-round picks among its ranks in the 2022 and 2023 NHL Entry Drafts, which is why it will likely leave a feeling of emptiness for a group that was simply cruising.

The total shots were 51-15. Most of the time you win this game, but the Americans couldn’t get a big save when they needed it and probably missed the net as much as they hit it in the third period. There were a lot of positives in the tournament, but missing out on gold is always tough as this team has been together for two years preparing for this event.

The United States is now without a gold medal in an event it has typically dominated since 2017. Quinn Hughes and Brady Tkachuk were on that team to put the timeline into perspective. It is the longest streak without a medal for the Americans in the under-18 category since the start of the tournament.

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Among USA’s best players: Captain Rutger McGroarty scored eight goals to lead the USA and was one of the tournament leaders. He was perhaps their best player in the gold medal game with two big goals and a lot of damage created in net.

Isaac Howard finished the tournament with a team-best 11 points, while Logan Cooley had 10 and was honored as a tournament star and was the winner of the management award for best forward.

Lane Hutson was the tournament’s top defenseman as voted by management and finished the event with eight points, all assists.

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