CANADA COMES BACK, BEATS SWEDES FOR HLINKA GRETZKY GOLD
JASON LA ROSE
EDMONTON, Alta. – Sasha Mutala (Vancouver, B.C./Tri-City, WHL) and Alexis Lafrenière (St-Eustache, Que./Rimouski, QMJHL) had two goals apiece, helping Canada score the game’s final six goals and roll past Sweden 6-2 on Saturday night to win the gold medal at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
It’s the third consecutive time Canada has won gold at the annual summer under-18 tournament, and the 22nd time in 28 events since 1991.
Kirby Dach (Fort Saskatchewan, Alta./Saskatoon, WHL) and Josh Williams (Langley, B.C./Medicine Hat, WHL) had the other goals for the Canadians, who trailed 2-0 less than 12 minutes in, but rallied to take the lead before the end of the first period.
Taylor Gauthier (Calgary, Alta./Prince George, WHL) stopped all 16 shots he faced in relief of Nolan Maier (Yorkton, Sask./Saskatoon, WHL), who lasted only 11 minutes.
Lucas Raymond needed just 42 seconds to get the Swedes on the board, rifling a shot under the cross-bar past Maier for an early power-play goal, and Alexander Holtz chased the Canadian goaltender at 11:33 with another shot upstairs.
Mutala replied just 41 seconds after the Holtz goal, getting his stick on a shot from Bowen Byram (Cranbrook, B.C./Vancouver, WHL) and Dach tipped in a Lafrenière shot 2:21 after that to tie the game.
Lafrenière scored one of the goals of the tournament to put Canada ahead for good, going end to end and dancing through the Swedes before beating netminder Hugo Alnefelt late in the opening frame.
The Swedes kept Gauthier busy in the second period, directing 10 shots at the Canadian puck-stopper. His best save of the game came midway through the middle stanza, stretching to his left to rob Holtz.
Mutala gave Canada some breathing room without using his stick; he was parked in front of Alnefelt when a Dylan Holloway (Bragg Creek, Alta./Okotoks, AJHL) shot banked off his cage and in for a 4-2 advantage after 40 minutes.
Canada’s co-leading goal scorers provided the offence in the third period.
Williams made it 5-2 on a beautiful give-and-go with Ryan Suzuki (London, Ont./Barrie, OHL) five minutes into the final frame before Lafrenière banked a shot off the end-boards, off the skate of Alnefelt and in to finish the scoring at 13:54.
The captain finished with a tournament co-leading 11 points (five goals, six assists), the most recorded by a Canadian at a summer U18 tournament since Nathan MacKinnon posted 11 in 2012.