Saturday, August 13, 2011

Canada wins 4th straight Ivan Hlinka title

They didn't look like gold medalists when they dropped a 5-1 decision to Sweden on Monday. But on Saturday night, Canada once again took on the Swedes and beat them 4-1 in Břeclav. In between, each team won three games. Their fortunes mirrored each other but, unfortunately for Sweden, they won the wrong game.

In Saturday's gold-medal contest, the teams traded early chances and power plays, and Canada struck first halfway through the first period when they converted with the man advantage. After a flurry of chances, Sean Monahan pounced on a rebound in close and fired it into the roof of the net over Oscar Dansk to make the score 1-0. The opening frame was a physical one, with Thomas Wilson on the giving and receiving end of it. Early on, he collided with Sweden's Anton Cederholm and went down, the latter earning a kneeing penalty. A few minutes later, Wilson hammered Jesper Pettersson behind the Swedish net. Late in the period, Philip Sandberg had a glorious chance to tie the score short-handed when he stripped the puck at the Canadian blueline and walked in alone on Daniel Altshuller.

The  netminder who has surrendered only 2 goals since last facing Sweden didn't blink, and kept his team in the lead into the intermission. Altshuller played all but 20 minutes of the Canadian team's five games in six days, but she showed no sign of fatigue. "You know, it's just pure adrenaline. We're all just playing hard. No one wants to let the team down."

Sweden almost got another short-handed breakaway midway through the second when the dangerous Sebastian Collberg saw daylight in front of him, but Derrick Poulliot pulled him down and was called for holding. On the ensuing power play, Calle Andersson's flutterball from the point went over Altshuller's shoulder to tie the score. Canada got the lead back three minutes later, however, when Sean Laughton managed to force the puck across the line on a wild goalmouth scramble. 

The lead remained a slim 2-1 margin at the end of the second, but Brendan Gaunce gave Canada a bit of breathing room in the first minute of the third. Then with less than eight minutes to play, Charles Hudon converted a great pass from Jarrod Martens on another power play to put the Canadians firmly in the driver's seat. It gave Hudon 9 points for the tournament, good for second in overall scoring. 

Sweden got some chances in the late going, but generally Canada did a good job of protecting the lead and skated away with a 4-1 victory and the Ivan Hlinka Cup.

For defenceman Morgan Rielly, who was a member of Canada's fourth-place team at last spring's IIHF U18 World Championship, this victory was sweet redemption. "Oh yeah, absolutely," he said. "It was a pretty amazing experience in Germany in April but, I mean, to win this was a pretty awesome experience and I'm just glad to be part of it."

In Piešťany, meanwhile, Russia beat Finland 2-1 in a shootout to win the bronze medal. For Russia, Denis Kamayev scored early in the second to open the scoring and the shootout winner as well. He finishes with 7 points. The overall scoring leader was Finland's Teuvo Teräväinen. He scored Finland's lone goal on Saturday, which was his 5th goal and 10th point.

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