Monday, June 17, 2024

USA, Canada to battle for gold at 2024 Men’s U-18 World Championship

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ESPOO, Fin. – Canada and the United States are set to renew their hostilities at the Men’s U-18 World Championship in Finland after winning their respective semifinal bouts on Saturday.

Puck drop for the championship game is set for just after 11:00 AM ET at the Metro Arena in Espoo.

This will mark the first time the two teams have battled for the tournament title since the 2013 tournament, with Canada taking home gold. The Americans are hoping to go back-to-back, while Canada is looking to keep the momentum rolling after winning the Hlinka Gretzky Cup back in August with many of the same players that they have in Espoo.

In the early game, the Americans were in control from the get-go. The first period was close at 2-1, but a three-goal second period helped the Americans pull away. They finished with a 7-2 win, with James Hagens breaking the record for most points in a single tournament after scoring his 22nd point. Cole Eiserman also tied Cole Caufield’s USA Hockey National Team Development Program record with his 126th goal, with a chance to break it in the final on Sunday.

In the later game, Canada got revenge on Sweden after the Tre Kronor beat them in the semis back in 2023 in Basel, Switzerland. Canada found themselves with a 5-1 lead at one point, but the Swedes were the much better team in the second half. Canada held on for the 5-4 win, keeping their perfect record alive and sending them to the final for the first time since 2021.

Here’s what the schedule looks like for Sunday in Espoo:

Slovakia vs. Sweden: 7:00 AM ET
Canada vs. USA: 11:00 AM ET


Canada

#9 Gavin McKenna, LW (2026): McKenna now owns the all-time Team Canada points record with 16 – and he did it in style. Like Connor McDavid does in the NHL, McKenna beat four players before sending it home, marking one of his nicest plays of the tournament. It’s what he does, baby.

#24 Tij Iginla, LW: This was Iginla’s best game, period. He scored the 3-0 goal and then proceeded to have one of the best forechecking efforts I’ve seen at this tournament. His energy and fearlessness really stood out for a team that found themselves getting outworked near the end.

#3 Matthew Schaefer, D: (2025): Schaefer had two assists today, including the primary pass to Iginla that made it 3-0. The underaged defenseman looked calm under pressure and made some excellent passes all game long in my favorite viewing of his at this tournament. He has honestly been one of the better defenders at the U-18s.

#30 Carter George, G: George was on it today, playing his best game of the tournament. He couldn’t do much on the two Nordlund goals, but he made a bunch of great cross-crease stops and tracked the puck about as well as I have noticed him this year. While Love Harenstam was having a rough time in the Swedish net, George may have been the biggest reason for Canada’s success in the end.

#25 Caleb Desnoyers, C (2025): I thought this was Desnoyers’ best game since the pre-tournament outing against Norway. He made an excellent pass that led to the 5-1 goal and was the real battler on the top line. His defensive game was also among the best of any forward, grinding away in the dirty areas to make things happen.

#28 Cole Beaudoin, C: I’ll keep this one short, but I thought Beaudoin was excellent again. This tournament has been an excellent showcase of what he’s capable of beyond putting pucks in the net. He’s blocking shots, chasing guys down, and using his seed to generate chances with Malcolm Spence and Carson Wetsch. I love it.

Sweden

#17 Viggo Nordlund, RW (2025): Nordlund tried to carry the Swedes on his back single-handedly, scoring two goals and registering an assist to give the team some life. He also proved difficult to steal the puck off of while in the offensive zone, using his pure upper-body strength to win just about every battle. With Alex Zetterberg out of the lineup again, Nordlund stood up big time.

#24 Linus Eriksson, C: Eriksson had a pair of assists on Nordlund’s goals as he brought his mix of speed and tenacity out there. He was the two-way mastermind for the line that generated all the chances for Sweden and I thought Canada’s defenders had a tough time trying to get him off his game.

#12 Melvin Fernstrom, RW: Fernstrom didn’t get a point, but I thought he worked his butt off. He had a couple of nice in-close chances, showing how well his hands can move, but he also backchecked like a madman, too.


USA

#10 James Hagens, C (2025): I’m not sure I’ve seen Hagens work or skate as hard as he did today. Obviously, the win was important to him, but whether he’d admit it or not, he wanted to surpass Nikita Kucherov for the all-time tournament-scoring lead. Mission accomplished, thanks to his three-point night. He was skating so hard, moving so well and generating a high-quality chance almost every single time he hit the ice. Hagens has been special.

#26 Max Plante, RW: Plante was feeling it tonight, registering four points. He set up Cole Eiserman’s 2-0 goal before scoring his first of the tournament to make it 3-1 in the second. A pair of assists in the second gave him a career-best effort. I’ve wanted to see Plante’s shot more because it has taken positive steps forward in recent months, but it’s still a weak spot for him. His blast today was his first of the tournament, ending a streak that saw him go without a goal at a major international tournament dating back to the 2022 U-17 World Hockey Challenge.

#34 Cole Eiserman, LW: After sitting on a couple of no-goal games, Eiserman looked determined to chase down Cole Caufield’s USNTDP scoring record today. He tied the record with two goals, including the 2-0 power-play goal and again to make it 6-1 just 33 seconds into the third. He also landed a couple of big hits in what felt like his most energetic game of the tournament. It was one of the better live viewings of him that I’ve had this year.

Slovakia

#22 Adam Nemec, LW (2026): Nemec scored the 2-1 goal to give the Slovaks some life, but he also just had a generally good game. He nearly got a second goal in the middle stanza and landed a few good hits, too. The brother of Simon Nemec, Adam is a battler who works his tail off around the net, so it was good to see him rewarded today.

#8 Michal Liscinsky, RW: The 5-foot-9 sparkplug was involved in a lot today, including forcing some turnovers around the net. Liscinsky isn’t an overly skilled player and obviously doesn’t have the size but he doesn’t worry about bigger, stronger competition. He’s competitive, and today he earned top player honors for it.


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