BRATISLAVA – The annual Summer classic that is the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament features the best players under the age of 18 from all around the world. The tournament is also a place where draft eligible players can put a foot through the door, and set an early impression on scouts ahead of their upcoming season with their respective junior club.
The Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup is different from a IIHF Tournament when it comes to playoff seeding. Following Round Robin play, the Top 2 teams from each group would compete for a medal, while the rest of the competition would simply fight for placement.
Following their second place finish in Group B, Team Canada would find themselves playing the Swedes to decide who will be playing for that Gold Medal.
Emotions were flying very high, as there were so much at stake for these 2 hockey powerhouses. It was evident that the two teams did not like each other as in the opening frame both countries would combine for a total of 3 power-plays each (12 minutes worth of penalties).
The second period would prove to be no different as Sweden would take three more penalties (Sandin, Granberg, Wernblom) while the Canadians had two of their own (Burzan, McBain).
Despite the plethora of power-plays both teams still had trouble finding the back of the net, until Akil Thomas (Niagara IceDogs) off a great feed from Calen Addison (Lethbridge Hurricanes) would break the goose-egg and give Canada the 1-0 lead. However, Sweden would quickly respond following that Thomas goal, as Lukas Wernblom (MODO) would wire home a one-timer past Olivier Rodrigue to even the game up at 2.
It would be in the final period where Canada’s game-breakers would finally break loose.
Eight minutes into the third period, Jack McBain (Toronto Jr. Canadians & Boston College commit) would send a beautiful pass to Serron Noel (Oshawa Generals) for the easy tap-in, to give Canada the 2-1 lead.
Continuing their trend from the previous two periods, Canada still could not find a way to stay out of the box, as they would give Sweden an additional 6 minutes worth of power-play time (Noel, Bahl, Woo). Even with all of this time short-handed, Canada’s goaltender Oliver Rodrigue (Drummondville Voltiguers) was key component in Canada’s penalty kill. Rodrigue would shut the door on every opportunity in the third period.
Although Canada did have the lead, they were still not comfortable with a 1-goal lead.
Looking to finally put away the Swedes, Beniot-Olivier Groulx (Halifax Mooseheads) would score with 4 minutes remaining, to put Sweden in a deeper hole, and to give Canada a 3-1 lead. Aidan Dudas (Owen Sound Attack) would be the one to finally seal the deal, tallying an empty-netter in the dying seconds, to give Team Canada a chance to play for a Gold Medal for a tournament record 23rd time.
With his great play down the stretch between the pipes, Rodrigue would take home Player of the Game for Canada.
In the Gold-Medal game Canada will square off against the Czech Republic, who upset Russia by a score of 2-1 in their respective semi-final.
That game will take place August 12th 11:00AM EST, and can be found on YouTube via livestream (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9t-1z5eKCl43eSuAarJRkw)