Canada’s bid for their third bronze medal in the past four tournaments turned out to be a successful effort, beating the hosts from Switzerland for the second time this week to take third place at the Under-18’s.
The start of the game was completely controlled by the Canadians, taking nine shots before scoring their first goal seven minutes in. Glenn Gawdin had a couple of solid opportunities in a 40 second span, including a great deking effort that was stopped by the pad of Joren van Pottelberghe early on. He did, however, pot one at 7:09 of the first, tipping in a redirect on the goal line after Travis Soy originally sent the puck towards the Swiss net, giving Canada the 1-0 lead in their most important game.
Three minutes later, Canada had the two goal advantage thanks to a strange, unorganized play. This time, Nathan Noel would make a nice dipsy-doodle around a Swiss defender before losing the puck in the corner. From there, Tyler Benson would pick up the puck before, sloppily, getting it right over to Jansen Harkins, who knocked in the puck from just outside the crease to give Canada the 2-0 lead.
Another three minutes after that, the Canadians had a three goal lead. Just like the previous goal, it wasn’t pretty, but Kyle Capobianco’s poise and willingness to be patient paid off as his shot made it on net after a resilient Swiss attack, but it would be Deven Sideroff who would grab the puck just inside the hash marks before one-timing it past van Pottelberghe for the 3-0 lead.
The Swiss didn’t want to disappoint their fans at Zug Arena too quickly, so they decided to cut the lead in the final few minutes of the opening frame. With the team up on the power-play, Damien Riat converted a one-timer into a goal after Auguste Impose dodged a Matt Spencer check to make the pass. A minute later, Marco Miranda tipped a powerful shot from Christian Pinana to make it 3-2, scaring the Canadians into almost blowing their three goal lead heading into the first intermission.
The second period didn’t see many goals, but the action was tremendous. There was no clear favourite in the middle frame, but Canadian goaltender Zachary Sawchenko was forced to make some unbelievable stops on some slick Swiss stars such as Impose and Denis Malgin. At the other end, Canada’s Mathew Barzal and Mitch Stephens proved to be an incredible pair, making some great plays around the net to force the Swiss defenders to amp up their compete level.
It would be someone completely different for Canada that would score next. With four minutes to go in the frame, Brett Howden, who missed the game against the Swiss in the preliminary round last week due to an injury, found the puck in a wild scramble in front of van Pottelberghe, batting it in for the two goal lead.
With just over a minute left in the second, Canada put a dagger in the hearts of the Swiss momentum. After creating a nice cycle in front, Soy found a streaking Matt Spencer, who was stopped on a partial breakaway thanks to a solid pad stop by van Pottelberghe. Luckily for the Canadians, Gawdin was right there to pick up the rebound, scoring his second goal of the game to take the 5-2 lead into the final period.
The Swiss were hungry throughout the period, letting Canada know that they weren’t ready to give up after being so close. Sawchenko didn’t seem to like that plan, and his diving stick save on Nathan Marchon was unquestionably the top save of the tournament. Marchon waited a second in front of the net, hoping to deke Sawchenko out of position, but the Canadian netminder, who could end up being the top goaltender chosen in 2016, made an incredible last-ditch effort to deflect the puck away at the last second. The save helped mark the end of the game, as Canada would hold on for the remaining few minutes to finish the tournament with the 5-2 victory, good enough to take the bronze.
With the victory, Canada will look ahead to the Ivan Hlinka Memorial later this summer when they’re able to take the top players under the age of 18 from the Canadian Hockey League. The win also helped mark their second straight bronze, giving them four medals in the past tournaments.
USA and Finland will battle for the gold at 1pm EST, with the Americans hoping to take their sixth tournament gold in the past seven attempts.
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