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U-18 World Championship Three Stars: Czechia Power

Tony Ferrari looks at a few of the top performers on the final day of round-robin action at the U-18 World Hockey Championship, led by a pair of Czech forwards that put on a big show.
2022 IIHF U18_2

The quarterfinal matchups are set. 

Czechia upset Canada to take second place in Group A after a thrilling overtime win while the Americans took care of Germany with Relative ease to secure top spot in the group. Over in Group B, Sweden won the battle for first spot against Finland, while Switzerland went on to beat Latvia 4-3 in a thriller.

This sets up the following matchups for the quarterfinals, set to take place on Thursday:

USA vs. Latvia
Sweden vs. Germany
Czechia vs. Switzerland
Finland vs. Canada

First Star: F Eduard Šalé / Jiří Kulich, Czechia | 1G-3A / 3G-1A

The Czech duo was so good in this game, you couldn’t choose just one for the day’s first star. Šalé scored the game tying goal with under three minutes to go in the third period and then Kulich completed the hat trick with the overtime winner. 

The twin four-point performances powered the Czech squad to a win in arguably the tournament's most exciting game thus fa.

Šalé showed off his excellent vision and puck moving ability from the wing all night long. Threading dangerous passes in the offensive zone at five-on-five and then drawing defenders in on the powerplay before sending passes low-to-high in the zone to create a number of scoring chances. His goal near the end of regulation was a nice way to cap a very nice performance for the 2005-born forward.

Kulich’s performance was just another example of why some scouts believe he could be a first-round talent. His shot is a weapon that can beat goalies from distance or in tight and he has a knack for finding loose pucks and firing them on net. Kulich beat Canadian netminder Reid Dyck - who had a fantastic game in his own right - with a diverse selection of shot locations. Scoring from both his strong side and weak side, five hole or top shelf, Kulich was a beast in this game. 

Second Star: D Mattias Hävelid, Sweden | 2G

Coming into the game against the biggest rival, Finland, the Swedes were looking to capture the top spot in Group B despite their surprise opening game loss to the Latvians. Thanks to an impressive performance from Hävelid, they were able to do so. The Swedish defender showed poise and patience at both ends of the ice. Hävelid used his mobility to help create passing and shooting lanes. His quick decision making and decisiveness allowed him to excel with and without the puck. He was a big mitigating factor when it came to the Finns forechecking game, going back to retrieve the puck with options A, B, and C already planned out in his head, using effective shoulder checks to determine the best course of action. He was on the ice for three goals for at even strength and one against, which came on a brutal change where he had to jump on the ice in the midst of a Finnish attack and attempt to catch up and prevent a chance less immediately. Hävelid didn’t try to go for the home run pass unless the opportunity presented itself, rather opting for short passes that got the puck to safety and allowed the Swedes to move up ice.

In the offensive zone, Hävelid continued to use a patient approach to the game. Moving laterally along the blueline to give teammates an outlet. The Swedish defender did an excellent job of skating along the blueline to get towards the high slot and getting shots off from there. 

Opting for well placed wrist shots or quick snapshot from the blueline rather than telegraphing a booming slapper, Hävelid was able to find the back of the net twice thanks to some good screens in front of the net. On the power play, he made quick passes, finding teammates in dangerous positions or used shot passes, trying for deflections in front.

Third Star: G Reid Dyck, Canada | 46 saves on 52 shots

Dyck gets the nod because there was no reason that the Canadians should have been in the game against Czechia. Making 46 saves to get Canada to overtime was a feat as the Canadians were outplayed in virtually every facet of the game. Dyck was forced to make excellent save after excellent save, with shots coming from high danger all game long.

The Canadians got into penalty trouble early and often in this one. Dyck allowed just one even strength goal in the game with the other five all coming with the man advantage, one of which came on one of two five-on-threes situations. There was multiple instances of Dyck standing on his head while a leaky Canadian blueline group allowed him to be shelled from all directions. Showing off his athleticism and ability to battle, Dyck was one of very few Canadian players to show up in this game. 

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