Sea Dogs prospect Mann-Dixon leads Canada East past Canada West

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KINDERSLEY, Sask. – Blade Mann-Dixon (Antigonish, N.S./Valley, MHL) was the story Wednesday night, making 38 saves to lead Canada East past Canada West 4-2, and into the semifinals at the 2014 World Junior A Challenge.

Canada East beat their Canadian rivals for the first time in six tries all-time at the tournament, and will meet the two-time defending gold medalists from the United States in Thursday’s late semifinal (7:30 p.m. CT).

Abbott Girduckis (Belleville, Ont./Wellington, OJHL) scored twice for Canada East, while Ryan Kuffner (Ottawa, Ont./Gloucester, CCHL) and Alex Tonge (Kingston, Ont./Kingston, OJHL) added a goal apiece.

Rhett Gardner (Moose Jaw, Sask./Okotoks, AJHL) and Dante Fabbro (Coquitlam, B.C./Penticton, BCHL) had goals for Canada West, which will miss out on the semifinals for the first time in the nine-year history of the tournament.

It will meet Switzerland in the fifth-place game on Friday afternoon (3:30 p.m. CT).

Canada West came out with the offensive pressure, and was rewarded at the 14:15 mark when Gardner corralled his own rebound to the left of Mann-Dixon and beat the Canada East goaltender through traffic.

But Canada East needed just 1:37 to respond; Kuffner, parked at the top of the Canada West crease, redirected a Michael Laidley (Little Current, Ont./Aurora, OJHL) shot through the legs of netminder Tommy Nixon (Sherwood Park, Alta../Sherwood Park, AJHL) to draw even.

East took its first lead early in the second period thanks to Girduckis, taking a pass from Maxime St. Pierre (Orleans, Ont./Cumberland, CCHL) on a three-on-two rush, cutting into the slot and beating Nixon to the blocker side.

This time it was Canada West’s turn to respond; Fabbro’s shot from the point found its way past Mann-Dixon with 4:33 left in the middle frame, sending the game to the intermission tied 2-2.

Tonge’s game-winner came on a Canada East power play just 2:30 into the third period, when he beat Nixon with a wrist shot from the top of the face-off circle to the left of the West goaltender.

Mann-Dixon’s best save – and arguably the save of the tournament – came with five minutes to go when he dove to his left to get a glove on a glorious scoring chance for Gardner.

Girduckis put the icing on the cake with 36 seconds to go, finding the empty net with Nixon on the bench.

Canada West finished with a 40-24 advantage in shots on goal, but went scoreless on five power play opportunities. Canada East had a goal on three chances with the man advantage.

Source: Jason La Rose – Hockey Canada – www.hockeycanada.ca

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