Canadians down Slovaks; advance to gold medal game
Though it’s been four years, the country in which hockey was first played has not forgotten the gold medal game which Canada lost to Russia after a third period collapse in Buffalo, N.Y.,.
On Friday, Canada will have a chance at redemption when they face the familiar Russians on home soil.
A Nic Petan hat-trick lead the Canadians to a dominant 5-1 win over the Slovaks in the semifinals on Sunday advancing Canada to the gold medal game for the fist time since 2011.
The Portland Winterhawks captain broke the ice four-and-a-half minutes into the first period on the power play. Petan, 19, was the recipient of a smart Curtis Lazar pass before beating Slovak goaltender Denis Godla to open the scoring for Canada.
Late in the second period, Petan scored his second of the game and third of the tournament from linemates Connor McDavid and Lazar. Through eight periods of play, the trio of Petan, McDavid and Lazar had combined for an incredible 27 points to lead the Canadians.
With his parents watching in the lower bowl, the Winnipeg Jets prospect capped of his terrific night with his third of the game midway through the final period. 17-year-old phenom, McDavid, found Petan all alone at the side of the net before dishing him a wonderful pass that he would cash in on to give the Canadians an insurmountable 5-1 lead.
Petan finished the semifinal game with three goals on three shots while McDavid ended the night with three assists. Lazar, a rookie with the Ottawa Senators, joined his linemates with three points of his own.
Shea Theodore and Anthony Duclair rounded out the scoring for the Canadians. Prince George Cougars David Soltes had the lone goal for Slovakia.
Despite conceding five goals, Golda was astonishing in net for the underdog Slovaks. The yet-undrafted 19-year-old made 39 saves in the loss many of which drew gasps and even cheers from the 18,800 in attendance. Though Godla was cleary Slovakia’s most valuable player, the IIHF named Pavol Skalicky Slovakia’s player of the game. The sold-out Air Canada Centre chanted “goalie” in response to the decision. Golda saluted the fans in appreciation for their protest.
With the loss, Slovakia moves into the bronze medal game against the Swedes. Slovakia has not played for a medal since the 1999 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships in Winnipeg, Man.,. Coincidentally, that game was also against Sweden. Former Halifax Mooseheads star, Ladislav Nagy, led the Slovaks to a 5-4 victory capturing the nation’s first and, so far, only medal since they joined the tournament in 1996. The bronze medal game will take place at the Air Canada Centre at 4:00 p.m. ET.
Later tomorrow evening is the most anticipated game of the tournament.
Canada will clash with the rival Russians in an epic gold medal showdown. The two historic foes last met in the championship game in 2011 when the tournament was held in Buffalo, N.Y.,. Canada lead the game 3-0 after two periods with goals from Ryan Ellis, Carter Ashton and Brayden Schenn. However, the perennial favorites suffered a collapse in the game’s final period surrendering five unanswered goals to the eventual gold medalists, Russia. The two nations have met in over a dozen U20 gold medal games since 1975. Since the current format was introduced in 1996, Canada and Russia have met seven times in the tournament’s final game with Russia winning four gold medals. The host nation will look to avenge their recent losses to Russia on their way to what would be their 16th gold medal in tournament history. The stage is set for another act in hockey’s greatest rivalry.
The gold medal game is set for 8 p.m. ET at the Air Canada Centre. Please join The Q News on Monday for live coverage of both the bronze medal game and the gold medal game beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET.