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U-18 World Championship Roundup: Raymond's hat trick leads Sweden to first gold

Sweden captured its first gold medal at the U-18 World Championship on the strength of a three-goal performance from 2020 draft prospect Lucas Raymond.

Three-goal night from Raymond gives Sweden top prize
For the first time in U-18 World Championship history, Sweden has won gold, defeating Russia 4-3 in overtime on Sunday.

2020 draft prospect Lucas Raymond led the way with three goals for Sweden, including the overtime winner. He kicked off the game with a big move for the opening goal of the contest, dancing around a defender to make it 1-0 before the first period hit the halfway point. Raymond scored again with less than 10 minutes remaining in regulation to force overtime, then delivered championship clincher in the extra frame. Simon Holmstrom was the other goal scorer for Sweden.

Vasili Podkolzin, who was heavily criticized for his lackluster play throughout the tournament, scored his first of the tournament in the second period and nearly had one in the dying minutes of the third period, only for Swedish goaltender Hugo Alnefelt to come up big with a goal-line stop. Rodion Amirov and Maxim Groshev also scored for Russia.

With the win, Sweden became the second team to win the tournament on home ice, following in the footsteps of the United States in 2009. Sweden's U-18 team last won gold at the 2007 Hlinka-Gretzky tournament. Russia hasn't won gold at the tournament since 2007, and this is the nation's first silver since 2009.

USA keeps medal streak alive with big win over Canada
It wasn’t the color they wanted, but the United States managed to extend it’s U-18 World Championship medal streak to 16 years with a 5-2 win over Canada.

Jack Hughes was in the spotlight once again, his goal and three points propelling him one point past Alex Ovechkin (31 points) for the tournament's all-time scoring record. Hughes' tournament-best 20 points fell one short of matching Nikita Kucherov’s single-tournament record set back in 2011.

Defenseman Cam York had two goals and an assist for the Americans, further cementing his perch as the highest-scoring blueliner in tournament history, with his 17 points topping Ryan Murphy and Miro Heiskanen, who scored 12 each. Forwards Bobby Brink and Alex Turcotte also scored for USA.

The game signalled the end of an era for a United States National Development Team Program roster that was considered to be one of best in program history. Hughes will become the first player to go straight to the NHL from the U.S. NTDP next season, a program that has produced the likes of Auston Matthews, Patrick Kane and Phil Kessel. Hughes is the U-18 program’s all-time points leader with 176 points in 84 games – he started last year with the U-17 team – while Zegras and York finished seventh and eighth, respectively.

Dylan Cozens and Nathan Legare were the goal scorers for Canada. Nolan Meier made 36 saves in net in a losing effort after Taylor Gauthier was in net for Saturday’s loss.

Slovakia relegated for 2020
Thanks to a 6-3 victory in Game 3 of the relegation series, Switzerland will stay in the top tournament next April. Six different players scored for the Swiss, led by 2020 prospect and team captain Simon Knak. Jozef Hascak had two goals for Slovakia in a losing effort.

Slovakia, who made the quarterfinals in each of the past five years, has been demoted to Division IA. Slovakia will be the lone team competing at the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament in August – a tournament they’re co-hosting with the Czech Republic – to not play in the U-18 World Championship next spring.

Germany will take Slovakia's place in 2020, making it up to the top event for the first time since 2015.

THREE STARS:

  1. Lucas Raymond (SWE): Underaged forward leads the way with a hat-trick in most important game of his career.
  2. Jack Hughes (USA): Top prospect became the all-time points leader at the U-18s after three-point game.
  3. Vasili Podklolzin (RUS): After a tough tournament, the polarizing winger came up big with a goal and an assist.

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