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World U18 Championships Day 2 Recap: Latvia Comes Oh So Close, Puljujarvi In

Jesse Puljujarvi will be joining Team Finland tomorrow
Jesse Puljujarvi will be joining Team Finland tomorrow
Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

The Unite States had the day off on Friday, as did five other teams in the tournament. The only games were match-ups of Sweden vs. Latvia and Canada vs. Denmark.

There wasn't much expected of these two games with a traditional power facing off against the two teams most likely headed for the relegation round. That was the case in one of the games. Canada, in a game similar to yesterday's US win, took a 2-0 lead on Denmark, and though they faced some adversity when the Danes scored twice to head to the first intermission tied 2-2, ultimately cruised to an easy 10-2 victory.

The other game, however, turned into a really compelling match-up. Sweden dominated Latvia in terms of possession and shot advantage, as expected. But the Latvians got a brilliant goaltending performance from Mareks Mitens and found themselves leading 3-2 heading into the game's final minute, despite being outshout by a 3-to-1 margin by the Swedes. But with the Swedish goalie pulled, Alex Nylander blasted home a one-timer with 19.1 seconds remaining to tie the game. In overtime, defenseman Jacob Moverare scored for the Swedes to win 4-3.

Latvia obviously knows they're not going to medal in this event. The goal for them, really, is to just avoid being relegated to the Division 1 tournament. They've had two opportunities in the past two days where a win would have made it very likely that they'd make the quarterfinals and avoid playing in the relegation round, and they've lost in overtime in both games. Today, they were only about 20 seconds away from pulling off the big upset. The odds of them getting another opportunity against the US or Russia seems slim.

The other big news today didn't happen on the ice. It was reported that Jesse Puljujarvi, currently projected as the third overall pick in the NHL Draft, would be joining Team Finland on Saturday after losing in the Finnish Elite League playoffs earlier this week. Gaining a player of Puljujarvi's caliber instantly changes Finland's hopes in this tournament. The Finns looked like they'd be fighting it out with Czech Republic and Slovakia for the fourth-best team in this tournament. Now, Finland looks like a serious medal contender.

A big day in the tournament tomorrow, with four games on deck. Russia-Switzerland, United States-Sweden, Finland-Slovakia, and Canada-Czech Republic.

I'll be in Grand Forks tomorrow for coverage of all three games at Ralph Engelstad Arena.