CANADA SURVIVES WILD THIRD PERIOD, BEATS SWEDES FOR FIRST PLACE
JASON LA ROSE
EDMONTON, Alta. – Bowen Byram (Cranbrook, B.C./Vancouver, WHL) scored a power-play goal with 2:26 to go, sending Canada atop Group A at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup with a 4-3 win over Sweden on Wednesday night.
The teams combined to score three goals in just over four minutes late in the third, with the Canadians taking the lead and the Swedes tying it before Byram hammered a point shot through traffic and under the arm of Swedish goaltender Jesper Wallstedt for the winner.
The victory means Canada will face the United States in the second semifinal Friday (7 p.m. MT), right after Sweden takes on Russia (3 p.m. MT).
The Canadians dominated the shot clock in the first period, outshooting Sweden 12-2, but both teams found the scoreboard in the opening 20 minutes.
Lucas Raymond was first for the Swedes, tapping in a cross-crease feed from Alexander Holtz, but Josh Williams (Langley, B.C./Medicine Hat, WHL) one-timed in a one-touch pass from Ryan Suzuki (London, Ont./Barrie, OHL)to pull the boys in black even three minutes later.
Alexis Lafrenière (St-Eustache, Que./Rimouski, QMJHL) netted the lone goal in the second period, picking up a rebound off the end-boards and beating a sprawling Wallstedt for the 2-1 marker.
The Swedes answered eight minutes into the third period when Holtz gathered in a pass in the slot and whipped a quick shot over the glove of Canadian netminder Nolan Maier (Yorkton, Sask./Saskatoon, WHL) to tie the game.
With the minutes ticking away it was Matthew Robertson (Sherwood Park, Alta./Edmonton, WHL) who restored the Canadian advantage, pinching in off the blue-line and finding space over the short-side shoulder of Wallstedt, but Elmer Söderblom redirected a Tobias Björnfot shot past Maier to even things up again with 4:16 left.
That set up the Byram heroics, which in turn led to a hectic finish.
A late Canadian penalty gave the Swedes hope and Wallstedt went to the bench for a six-on-four advantage, but Maier and the penality-killing unit did their jobs to lock down the three points.