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World U18 Championships Day 1: US Pulls Away Late to Beat Russia Big

It wasn't always the prettiest, or easiest for the United States, but at the end of the night, it's a nice luxury to be able to say the US probably didn't play their best game, but still came away with an 8-2 victory over Russia to open play at the World U18 Championships in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

The big story heading into tonight's game was how Russia would respond after having to replace their entire team, mostly with younger players, a week before the tournament  due to concerns about testing positive for the recently banned drug meldonium.

The US came out quickly against a Russian team that looked a bit overwhelmed by the speed of the US team. Back-to-back goals by Clayton Keller and James Sanchez put the US up 2-0 early. But the Russians clawed back into the game with a pair of goals to tie the game and kept the score tied deep into the second period.

But Keller, along with linemate Kieffer Bellows stuck in the final five minutes of the second period with a pair of goals 18 seconds apart to put the US up 4-2.

In the third period, the young Russians clearly ran out of gas and the US pumped in four goals for the convincing 8-2 win.

The US takes an early lead in Group A. They'll continue preliminary round play on Saturday against Sweden.

Elsewhere in the Tournament

Canada and Sweden, the other two likely gold medal contenders both had the first day off, so it was a bit of a quiet start to the tournament.

Switzerland survived with a late OT goal against Latvia to win 5-4. This game likely decided which team will have to play in the relegation round out of Group A. Needing OT to beat a weak Latvia team likely means Switzerland isn't much more than cannon fodder in this year's tournament.

Slovakia won a wild 5-4 game over Denmark. The Slovaks gave up three goals on their first three shots of the game, but managed to come back and win.

The Czech Republic scored twice in the third period to send their game with Finland to overtime tied 3-3, but Finland won the shootout to take the extra point.