Canada defeats Switzerland to capture bronze at World Under-18 Hockey Championship
Two goals from Glenn Gawdin and 28 saves by goaltender Zach Sawchenko helped earn the bronze medal as Canada defeated Switzerland 5-2.
Two countries that proudly boast their red and white flags met this afternoon to duke it out for the bronze medal at the IIHF U18 World Championships.
When all was said and done, two goals by Glenn Gawdin, including Canada’s fifth with just 1:17 to play in the second period, and Zach Sawchenko’s 28 saves helped seal Switzerland’s fate and earn Canada the bronze medal.
“That first goal was obviously important. I just concentrated on going to the net and we got a good bounce. It’s one of those things you just kind of hope for. It was nice and got things going in the right direction for us”, said a happy Gawdin. “This medal is huge for us. We come to these tournaments to take a medal home with us. We didn’t get gold, but this was the next best thing for us.”
Both teams saw their gold medal dreams end in yesterday’s semi-finals and had little time to focus on taking the bronze medal home for their considerable tournament efforts and achievements. For Canada, Saturday’s 7-2 loss to archrival USA was their first of the tournament and one that bitterly was decided when, down 2-1 at the end of the second period, the team couldn’t capitalize on a 5-on-3 power play. Only moments later, the USA was able to pop in goals number three and four, and proceeded to run away with the victory.
As for Switzerland, the host country team entered the game coming off an incredibly emotional game in which, in a story ripe for Hollywood, the team managed to push the game against the high-flying Finns into overtime, tying the game 4-4 with two goals in the final minute and forty seconds. Despite an overtime power play, the team saw its dreams of going for gold vanish when Finn Aleksi Saarela blocked a Jonas Siegenthaler shot, pick up the puck, and race down the ice to put a wrister past Swiss goaltender Joren van Pottelberghe.
For Switzerland, the game didn’t start off well. It was clear that last night’s emotional game was still in their legs. By the time the team woke up and started to really compete, Canada had spent 12 minutes building a commanding lead.
Canadian forward Glenn Gawdin opened up the scoring when he made his way to the net and slightly tipped in a pass from Tyler Soy. The Canadians raised the lead to 2-0 at about the 10 minute mark when Nathan Noel pounced on a puck handling error next to the Swiss net and slid the puck over to Jansen Harkins, who tapped under van Pottelberghe’s pad. That lead grew to 3-0 when Deven Sideroff rocketed in a rebound of a Kyle Capobianco shot from the point on a delayed penalty call.
Switzerland got themselves on the board at the 2:30 left in the game when Damien Riat one-timed a pass from Auguste Impose right past Canadian goalie Zach Sawchenko. Only 35 seconds later, Swiss forward Marco Miranda craftily tipped a Christian Pinana shot over Sawchenko’s shoulder. For Pinana, it was his second assist of the period.
After the first period ended 3-2 and the second period had none of the high-scoring character presented in the first period. The goalies stole the show, helped on both sides by a number of shots being tipped away or blocked last second.
That is until a goalmouth scramble with 3:35 left to go in the second saw Brett Howden knock in a rebound over van Pottelberghe’s glove hand. Just a minute and eighteen seconds later, Gawdin scored his second goal of the game to raise the lead to 5-2.
“I think the game against Finland took too much out of us. The boys couldn’t accept that defeat quick enough and it was too tough to come back for this game. Playing for bronze should normally be motivation enough. This may prove to be big for a lot of them in moving forward and learning to deal with and manage big wins and hard losses. For us, this was a huge test of Swiss hockey and showed us where we are and what we still need to do.”
Switzerland picked up play and did all it could to bring pucks to the net, but could find no way past the Canadian defense. Three power play opportunities didn’t help the cause. Coach Manuele Celio had even pulled the goalie to give the team a 6-on-4 option with less than four minutes to play, which unfortunately led to a penalty for too many men on the ice when a seventh skater joined the fray.
Canadian goalie Sawchuk was called upon to make some saves. “I didn’t have a whole lot to do at the beginning, but that Swiss team is strong and they were relentless. They’ll keep playing if it’s 10-0 or 2-1 and that’s what they’re such a tough opponent.”
When the buzzer went off, the teams were on the ice for the closing ceremonies and then Team Canada celebrated, taking a number of pictures and enjoying the crowd reaction, many of whom in attendance had made the trek over to Switzerland for parts of the tournament.
“Honestly, I’m feeling pretty exhausted right now,” declared Canadian captain Mitchell Stephens. “We found some energy deep down in us to let go of the US game from yesterday. That was just enough to beat the hometown Swiss, who got better as the game continued, and earn this bronze.”
Coach Tim Hunter was pleased with his team’s achievement, “We responded the way we wanted to for this game. The boys didn’t play the way they wanted to yesterday against the Americans. Today we played our game, and heck, playing back to back games, as did our Swiss opponent, the boys were tired and we went out and got the job done.”
For Canada, it was the nation’s second bronze medal in a row.
Switzerland had nothing to hang its head about, and the team knew it. Forward Makai Holdener explained, “This tournament has been amazing and the organization by the IIHF was incredible. Especially for us, being at home, playing in front of the home crowd. Just a surreal experience. Beating Russia and then losing to Finland in overtime, again in front of a huge crowd was, well, simply hard to describe in words.”