For the first time ever at the Under-18 World Hockey Championships, Sweden try to steal the gold after beating Canada 6-5 in a thrilling shootout victory on Saturday.
Canada were the favourites heading into the game, sporting a perfect record heading into the semi-final contest. In August, featuring many of the same players that are skating in North Dakota at the U18’s, Canada beat Sweden 7-3 in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament final game, grabbing their eighth straight title at the pre-season event.
It took just two and a half minutes for Canada to get on the board first. After taking a slick pass from Jakob Chychrun at the point, Pascal Laberge took a shot towards the net, only to get blocked by a Swedish defenseman. Laberge was fine that, however, grabbing the rebound from the hash marks and beating goalie Filip Gustavsson on the power play to make it 1-0 Canada early on.
With just over three minutes remaining in the first, the Swedes got their first of the game. The Tre Kronor had a coupe of good options, including Alex Nylander, who got stoned by Evan Fitzpatrick twice early in the game. But eventually, Erik Brannstrom’s shot from the point was tipped in by Tim Wahlgren, who tied the contest up at one heading into the first intermission.
For the first time in the entire tournament, Fitzpatrick would get beat more than once. Sweden would take the 2-1 lead off of a shot from Oskar Steen, who fired the puck hard enough to beat the Sherbrooke goaltender to take the lead. Sweden would get another one off of with just over ten minutes left in the second, with the Swedish forward buzzing around all over the ice before taking a pass and sending it past Fitzpatrick to make it 3-2.
The goals, of course, were split up by a marker from David Quenneville. The short defenseman knows a thing or two about putting the puck in the net, scoring his fourth goal of the tournament after receiving a nice pass from Michael McLeod and blowing it behind Gustavsson for the 2-2 goal.
The action got even more exciting in the third. After 7:50 of play, Nylander set up Lias Andersson in front of the net, who beat out a strong defensive effort to fire it past Fitpatrick and in for the 4-2 goal. Canada looked dangerous after that, and Jakob Chychrun would score to make it 4-3 and bring the team close once again just a minute alter.
Tyson Jost made a strong effort behind the net to make the play, and with it, he created history. With his 15th point at the tournament, Jost, a Junior A hockey player with the Penticton Vees of the BCHL, would overcome Connor McDavid for most points ever by a Canadian at the Under-18’s.
Canada had a bit of excitement in their game, but that wouldn’t stop them from allowing the next goal. After a lengthy review, Elias Pettersson was credited with Sweden’s fifth goal after jamming it over the line in a scramble in front, giving his team the two goal advantage with just eight minutes left.
But 17 seconds later, Canada fought back again. This time, Will Bitten scored on a tremendous backhander, beating a challenge in front to put his team within a goal with 7:15 left in the battle.
With 5:16 left in the game, the match was officially tied. Jordan Kyrou tied it up with a shot right in front of Gustavsson, turning a beautiful pass from Boris Katchouk from behind the net into Canada’s fifth goal of the game, tying things up after being down by two goals with seven minutes left.
The game couldn’t be decided after 70 minutes of play, so an overtime was required to declare the winner. Lias Andersson would get things started with a beautiful one-handed goal around Fitpatrick, only to have Brett Howden keep the game alive with a goal of his own. Unfortunately for Canada, Sweden would manage to pull off the big upset with a fast shot by Linus Lindstrom, giving Sweden the 6-5 win to advance to their first ever Under-18 finals.
With the win, Sweden will have a chance for gold tomorrow with an 8:00 pm EST meeting with Finland, who lost to the United States in the finals a year ago after a 2-1 overtime decision. Canada will play against the pre-tournament favourites from the USA at 4:00 pm, with neither team making it to the finals for the first time since 2001.
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