April 30, 2022

Cooley, Havelid push teams into golden chance on fifth day at Under-18s

We’re down to two at the 2022 IIHF World Under-18 Championship. 

And we’ll see Sweden and Team USA punch it out with gold on the line Sunday. 

The Americans cruised into a gold medal meeting after dispatching of Czechia 6-1 in the day’s first semifinal, scoring six unanswered goals after Jiri Kulich — the event’s leading goal-getter — to secure the berth. Team USA was paced by two goals from Jimmy Snuggerud and three points (one goal, two assists) from Isaac Howard, and received an electric performance from Logan Cooley, No. 2 in FCHockey’s Spring ranking for the 2022 NHL Draft. 

Sweden upended Finland in the tournament’s other semifinal, edging out their rival in a nail-biter of a 2-1 win. Finland actually tied the game with under five minutes left in the third period before standout Jonathan Lekkerimaki of Sweden scored the game-winner with just  32 seconds remaining in regulation. 

Czechia and Finland will meet in the bronze medal match. 

Here’s who stood out on the fifth day of play at the World Under-18’s:

Third Star: Jani Nyman – Finland

Jani Nyman picked a clutch time to score his second goal of the tournament. Unfortunately he ran into Lekkerimaki and the Swedes. Nyman, who has four points (two goals, two assists) in the tournament, cut out into the bottom of the left faceoff circle and shelved a shot to tie the game for Finland with just 4:26 remaining. Nyman finished with a plus-1 rating and four shots, including three in the third period, in the closely contested do-or-die duel in an effort to get Finland into the golden dance.

Second Star: Hugo Havelid – Sweden

If it wasn’t for Hugo Havelid, Finland would be playing opposite Team USA for gold on Sunday. The Swedish netminder stopped 41 of 42 shots, including 19 in the third period alone, to keep Sweden locked (and ahead) of Finland through the entire contest. Among those 19 third-period saves were a handful of one-timers off the stick of projected top-10 pick Joakim Kemell. Havelid, who leads the tournament with a .933 save percentage and boasts a 2.01 goals-against average, only had the Nyman blemish on his card in a critical match — and even that came after stopping him earlier in the frame.

First Star: Logan Cooley – Team USA

The stat line won’t read spectacular, but the video review of Cooley’s game will. He was forced to settle for ‘just’ two assists in the 6-1 win, but was an incredible chance-generator seemingly every shift. He set up Cutter Gauthier’s snipe midway through the game to put the Americans up 2-1 on what can only be described as a ridiculous feed, and also had the primary helper on a return pass for Snuggerud’s goal to extend the lead to 5-1. The effort runs Cooley’s production to nine points (three goals, six assists) in five games.

Highlight of the night

Who else but Cooley? After scooping up a turnover in the Czech end, he quickly darted through the low slot and deked a defender before throwing a no-look backhand pass back across the grain to set up Gauthier and break a 1-1 tie in the eventual runaway. 

Reporting in: Devin Kaplan – Team USA

Devin Kaplan has a rare combination of size, speed, and skill that makes him a real interesting prospect. I think he’s equally got all three of those incorporated in his game, and I wouldn’t say one stands out to me above the rest. He has quick feet and is surprisingly very mobile on the ice for his size. Kaplan had flashes where he could make a mover or two on a defender with his skating along with his polished set of hands. He wasn’t much of a play-driver on the ice but played a part in his line’s success. With his big frame, he protects the puck well and was never easy to get it from either. Kaplan’s playmaking wasn’t the best, as he had numerous passes that were off target that eventually ended up on the oppositions stick. However, he also had some impressive passes that I really wouldn’t expect out of him and his average at best skill. While Kaplan’s skating looked good, he really wasn’t able to do much off the rush as it was more in the zone play where he looked his best. I think using his body to be more physical and taking care of his own zone a little better are two things that he could work on. I think if he’s able to excel playing a north-south style of hockey it’ll open up more offensive opportunities for him. I think Kaplan will end up being a third line wing in a shutdown role while pitching in offensively every now and then. His defensive game will need to improve in order to do so but I think he’ll end up getting better in that area. I’d look to take him in the third round of the draft but wouldn’t be surprised to see him go earlier as I think he comes with a high ceiling if his offensive game can take off. — Douglas Larson


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