It would take some extra time, but thanks to a 2-1 win in the shootout on Friday, Canada has advanced to the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup gold medal game on Saturday for a chance at their eighth straight gold at the tournament.
Canada was the much better team throughout the first period, even if there were no goals to prove it. The team made sure to force Vladislav Sukhachev to work diligently early, forcing the Russian netminder to make many tough stops right off the bat. At the halfway point, defenseman Kale Clague potentially had the best scoring chance of the opening frame, hitting Sukhachev in the mask while playing short-handed. Sukhachev wasn’t interested in letting it in, getting a handle on the puck before the play could get out of hand.
The Russians, surprisingly, would be the first team to find the scoresheet. With 49 seconds to go in the first, Canada would allow the first goal of the game for just the first time in the tournament, with German Rubtcov converting on a rebound from previous attempts by Alexander Iakovenko and Artur Kayumov.
Canada would finally get themselves on the board in the second period. Sarnia Sting forward Jordan Kyrou had a very strong first period, finding himself buzzing around the net at various times. Eventually, some hard work from the corner by Tyler Benson eventually meant that Kyrou would end up with the puck at the doorstep, knocking it in for the 1-1 goal at the 5:44 mark of the second.
Canada would continue to lay on the offense, but Dylan Wells had some tough stops he had to make at the other end. Both Rubtcov and Gergii Ivanov had good chances in the middle of the period, but the Peterbourgh Petes netminder was on the top of his game. Sukhachev was equally sharp, especially on a last minute scramble thanks to big deflections on chances from Samuel Girard and Michael McLeod.
Sukhachev was easily the star of the game. First, a diving pad save on Dante Fabbro with two minutes off the clock in the third period meant that the game would stay tied with most of the frame still left to go. Perhaps his best save of the game, and one of the better ones of the entire tournament, was his windmill grab on William Bitten, moving his left arm at a million miles per hour to keep the puck out on a lone chance. At the other end, Wells got lucky after Nikita Popugaev’s shot went right off the bar, with both teams unable to find a way to break the lead.
With the game undecided after 65 minutes of action, the two teams would have to figure out who would advance to the gold medal game with a shootout. Fortunately for Canada, one goal would be all it took to decide the victor, as Nolan Patrick’s marker on the very first attempt meant that Canada would hold on to the victory and move on with the 2-1 victory on Friday.
With the win, Canada will face Sweden on Saturday at 11am ET for the chance at the gold medal. Sweden, who played earlier in the day, just escaped with a 2-1 victory over Finland, with potential first round pick William Fallstrom grabbing the goal late in the third. The matchup comes just days after Canada secured the 2-0 victory over Sweden on Tuesday, an event dominated by some solid defense. Canada has won the past seven events heading into the game on the weekend, while Sweden is the only reason the team doesn’t have 11 straight titles thanks to a victory back in 2007.
Tomorrow’s bronze medal game will also be Russia’s first chance a medal since 2011, when the team took the third place trophy. Their match against Finland is set for 9am ET.
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