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U-18 World Championship Three Stars: Big Nights for Big Names

One-sided affairs highlighted much of Thursday's affair, allowing many top prospects a prime opportunity to shine.
2022 IIHF U18_2

One-sided affairs highlighted much of Thursday's affair, with the only game having a goal-differential of less than six being Finland's 6-5 win over Canada.

 USA's 13-3 win was the biggest of the day, while Czechia and Sweden zoomed to 8-0 and 7-1 wins, respectively. 

Let's take a look at the three top performers from the quarterfinals:

First Star: F Joakim Kemell, Finland | 3G 

Kemell needed a big game and he had one. The 2022 NHL draft-eligible Finn came up clutch, scoring a hat-trick, including the game-winner. His first goal came early in the game, about halfway through the first period. With Canada leading by a goal, Kemell set up in the left faceoff circle on the powerplay. He made no mistake as he received a cross-seam pass and wired it by the Canadian netminder, in what has become a pretty typical Kemell goal. Before the first period ends, again with Canada up by a goal, Kemell and the Finns were back on the power play. On an up-ice rush, Kemell burst into the zone on a 2-on-2, received a pass from Jere Lassila and found the back of the net again. Two goals, two game-tying goals.

In extra time, tied at five, Kemell intercepted a drop pass, blew by Canadian defender Spencer Sova and put the moves on netminder Reid Dyck before roofing it. Hopefully, this is Kemell’s big moment that helps his game pop off after a bit of a quiet round-robin. With the impressive structure and the x-factor of Kemell’s scoring touch, Finland is capable of beating anyone in this tournament.

Second Star: F Jonathan Lekkerimäki, Sweden | 1G-4A

The Swedish winger -- pegged by many to go in the first round -- had a five-point night in an impressive 7-1 win. All five of Lekkerimäki’s points came with the man advantage but, the man known more for putting pucks in the net was instead the one setting them up. Lekkerimäki used his shot as a threat, drawing in attention before changing course and sending a pass to the high slot or cross-seam to set up a teammate for a scoring chance. His willingness to defer to teammates is a trait that many scouts have been looking for in his game. 

Lekkerimäki was an active shooter when shooting lanes presented themselves, hitting two posts before scoring his goal on an absolute laser to beat the German netminder up high. Noah Östlund, who had a three-point night himself, feathered a beautiful saucer through traffic, cross slot, and right onto Lekkerimäki’s stick. It was truly a beautifuly set-up play capped by a great shot. 

Third Star: F Rutger McGroarty, USA | 2G-1A

The American captain came out hot. McGroarty scored the opening goal of the game, tapping in a feed from defender Lane Hutson on the back post. McGroarty is an excellent off-puck mover who finds the holes in the defensive scheme and sets up shop, a trait that was on full display in this game. A few minutes later, McGroarty was weaving through traffic in the slot before Hutson once again found him. This time, Mcgroarty was between the hash marks, once again evading traffic to give himself an excellent opportunity offensively.

With the Americans up by three, McGroarty ensured that the game was put to bed early. Handling the puck below the goal line in the corner, the leading goal scorer for the U.S. was looking to set a teammate up. With his eyes scanning the offensive zone, McGroarty sent a pass to the net-front that was banged in by Charlie Stramel to put the Americans up 4-0. With the U.S. controlling play, the game felt wrapped up from that point forward. McGroarty’s showing early in the game set the tone for the blowout victory.

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