Canada received a stiff test from Sweden on the final night of round-robin play at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, but prevailed thanks to the timely scoring of Kirby Dach (Fort Saskatchewan, Sask. / Saskatoon Blades).
The forward scored with 2:26 to go in the third period, capping off a wild night that saw Canada edge their opponents by a 4-3 score, claiming top spot in Group A in the process and home-ice advantage for Friday’s semi-final contest.
Dach wasn’t the lone Western Hockey League player to factor into the game either. Down 1-0 in the first, Josh Williams (Langley, B.C. / Medicine Hat Tigers) tied the game up with his second goal of the tournament to keep the two teams tied after 20 minutes. Kaedan Korczak (Yorkton, Sask. / Kelowna Rockets) picked up an assist on the play as well.
In the second, Canada killed off three straight penalties before finding the go-ahead goal as captain Alexis Lafrenière tallied with a primary assist coming from Dylan Cozens (Whitehorse, Yukon / Lethbridge Hurricanes).
After Sweden tied up the score in the third, Matthew Robertson (Sherwood Park, Alta. / Edmonton Oil Kings) put Canada in front once again with his second goal of the tournament. Williams collected his second point of the evening with a primary assist on the Canada goal.
Minutes later, Sweden tied up the game once again, but that only served to set the stage for Dach’s heroics. Dach’s power play goal came at the right time, providing the final dagger as Canada fended off Sweden’s attack for the remaining time. A primary assist from defenceman Bowen Byram (Cranbrook, B.C. / Vancouver Giants) added icing to the cake as Canada’s record moved to a perfect 3-0.
Nolan Maier (Yorkton, Sask. / Saskatoon Blades) kept things in control between the pipes with 18 saves on 21 shots, picking up his second win of the tournament. Through two games, Maier is maintaining a 1.50 goals-against-average and .917 save percentage with one shutout. Taylor Gauthier (Calgary, Alta. / Prince George Cougars) had a single appearance during the round robin, stopping 17 of 19 shots in Tuesday’s 4-2 win against Slovakia.
Canada finished the three-game round robin by outscoring their opponents 18-5 in the three victories.
Their next game will come Friday, August 10 (7:00 p.m. MT) when they play their semi-final contest at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alta.