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United States tops Latvia in its IIHF World U20 Championship opener

United States' Jordan Greenway (12) eyes the puck

United States' Jordan Greenway (12) eyes the puck in front of Latvia goalie Mareks Mitens (30) during the first period of a preliminary round IIHF World Junior Championship hockey game in Toronto on Monday, Dec 26, 2016. Credit: AP / Nathan Denette

Clayton Keller scored twice and the United States overcame a slow start to beat Latvia 6-1 at the world junior hockey championship on Monday.

Patrick Harper opened the scoring for the Americans 6:27 into the game, but Renars Krastenbergs responded for Latvia to make it 1-1 after the first period in the tournament opener for both teams at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre.

The U.S. regained the lead when Colin White scored 6:29 into the second and Keller made it 3-1 late in the period.

“We got better as the game went on,” U.S. coach Bob Motzko said.

“You could tell there were some nerves in the first period, but after the guys settled in we found our style of play and got the job done. We’ll learn from this as we get ready for the next one.”

Keller scored his second of the game with 7:41 to play in the third. Jeremy Bracco added another at 17:31 while Jordan Greenway got on the scoreboard in the final minute.

Troy Terry and Tage Thompson each added two assists for the U.S.

U.S. goalie Tyler Parsons only had to make 11 saves for the victory. Marek Mitens stopped 24 of 30 shots for Latvia.

The U.S. next faces Slovakia on Wednesday.

In Montreal, Michael Spacek scored with 1:18 left to lift the Czech Republic to a 2-1 victory over defending champion Finland.

Spacek, a Winnipeg Jets prospect with the Western Hockey League’s Red Deer Rebels, fired a shot through traffic from just inside the blue line that went inside the post.

Daniel Krenzelok also scored for the Czechs, who are seeking their first world junior medal since they took bronze in 2005.

Joona Luoto scored for Finland, which has won two of the past three world juniors including last year at home.

Earlier in Montreal, Alexander Nylander scored twice and 16-year-old Rasmus Dahlin had a goal and an assist and Sweden routed Denmark 6-1.

Carl Grundstrom, Joel Eriksson Ek and Jonathan Dahlen also scored for Sweden, seeking its first world under-20 gold since 2012 in Calgary and Edmonton.

Dahlin, a defenseman in Sweden’s top league, is seen as a potential No. 1 overall NHL draft pick in 2018 and has been compared to Ottawa Senators star Erik Karlsson.

Nikolaj Krag scored with 2:07 remaining for Denmark on a screened shot from the left circle to spoil Felix Sandstrom’s shutout bid.

Nylander, drafted eighth overall by Buffalo in June, picked up a puck from Filip Ahl, made a move in the slot and slid it past Petersen at 10:11 of the first to open the scoring.

New York Sports