December 27, 2011
EDMONTON — Three Stars from Day 1 of the IIHF under-20 world hockey championship:
No. 1 star: Andrei Vasilevski, Russia
So the Russians were supposed to be soft in goal? Nyet. At the age of 17 years, five months and one day, Vasilevski played so far above his head that it will be a wonder if his nose doesn't bleed for a week to 10 days. The NHL draft prospect made 40 saves for Russia to shut out Switzerland 3-0 in Group A action in Calgary. Russia might have played only as hard as it had to against a team it was a good bet to beat, as fellow 17-year-old Mikhail Grigorenko notched a goal and an assist.
The Swiss outshot Russia 15-6 in the middle stanza and contrived to fall two goals farther behind by the end of the frame. Vasilevski came up with a big reflex save on Carolina Hurricanes draft pick Gregory Hofmann late in the frame that preserved the goose egg and maybe sank the Swiss hopes. Calgary Flames first-rounder Sven Bärtschi had five shots on goal on his NHL organization's home ice, but obviously didn't score.
No. 2 star: Mark Stone, Canada
Members of Occupy movement cleared out more easily than Stone did from the slot in front of Finland's net during Canada's 8-1 win. The Ottawa Senators prospect scored a hat trick. The pre-competition stats don't count, but Stone has six goals in his past four games dating back to Monday and hasn't been blanked since. His line with centre Ryan Strome and left wing Jonathan Huberdeau was Canada's best in its opening game.
The Anaheim Ducks fifth-round pick got the mortarboard trick with four goals in the second of the Boxing Day Blowouts, Tre Kronor's 9-4 win over Latvia at Calgary. Friberg did the damage, but the aesthetes in the press box apparently picked the players of the game, since 17-year-old standout Filip Forsberg was Sweden's top player even though he didn't get a point on a day when his team scored nine goals.
Honourable mention: Charlie Coyle, United States
The Saint John Sea Dog-to-be also had a hat trick to help Team USA roll over Denmark 11-3 in the Group B nightcap. Coyle got Uncle Sam started with a goal just 64 seconds in, set up by captain and fellow Minnesota Wild prospect Jason Zucker. Denmark was semi-halfway competitive for about 20 minutes, with Vancouver Canucks first-rounder pick Nicklas Jensen assisting on all three Dane goals, including a pair by Mathias Bau Hansen. It didn't last, as Coyle got the floodgate-opening goal 7:12 into the second to open a three-goal lead and completed the trick early in the third.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet (photo: The Canadian Press).