CANADA, SWEDEN TO BATTLE FOR GOLD AT HLINKA GRETZKY CUP
By STEVEN ELLIS thehockeynews.com
In a rematch of the final Group A contest on Wednesday, Canada and Sweden will play for gold at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup after winning on semifinal Friday.
This will be the third time the two teams have met for gold since 2015 and fourth time overall dating back to 2011. Sweden is guaranteed a medal for the fifth straight tournament, tying the team’s previous record from 2008-12. This will be Canada’s fourth gold medal game in a row, having not participated in 2021.
Canada will play for gold for the 26th time in the 29 times they’ve participated. Canada is the all-time leader in medals with 22 gold and 26 overall, while Russia, who is not participating this year, is second with five gold and 18 overall. Sweden won gold back in 2007, breaking up a 12-year gold medal run by Canada.
From an overall statistical perspective, this was Canada’s closest game of the tournament. Canada only outshot Finland 27-24, but all five goals in the game managed to come at 5-on-5. Ethan Gauthier scored the lone goal of the first period, with Calum Ritchie doubling the advantage at 28:54.
Matthew Wood and Denver Barkey scored 19 seconds apart before the halfway point in the third to put the game far out of reach, but Arttu Alasiurua managed to beat Scott Ratzlaff for the first time all tournament to end the goaltender’s shutout with time running out. Still, Canada managed to hang on for the 4-1 win.
Later in the evening, Sweden and Czechia played a close match of their own. Sweden had two two-goal leads, started off with goals to Zeb Forsfjall in the first and Noel Nordh early in the second. Jakub Stancl cut Sweden’s lead to just one at 32:56 after Swedish netminder Noah Erliden misplayed the puck to make it 2-1.
Czechia wasn’t able to build upon that goal, though, and with 1:14 left in the second, Noah Dower Nilsson’s wrist shot beat 6-foot-6 Czechia netminder Michael Hrabal up high to make it 3-1 Sweden. But at 45:46 while shorthanded, Jiri Felcman was sprung on a breakaway by Jan Kucera and made no mistake, making it a one-goal game once more. Otto Stenberg scored twice more and Lucas Kling had an empty-netter to make it 6-2, ending Czechia’s comeback attempt.
Czechia and Finland will play for bronze at 2:00 PM ET, with the gold medal game starting four hours later. Earlier on Friday, USA secured fifth place with a 4-2 win over Slovakia, while Switzerland’s first win of the tournament gave them seventh ahead of Germany.