MATTHEOS’ HAT TRICK LEADS CANADA TO PRE-WORLDS WIN
JASON LA ROSE
PIESTANY, Slovakia – Stelio Mattheos (Winnipeg, Man./Brandon, WHL) finished his hat trick with 3:48 remaining, giving Canada’s National Men’s Under-18 Team a come-from-behind 5-4 win over Switzerland in its final pre-tournament game Monday ahead of the 2017 IIHF U18 World Championship.
Maxime Comtois (Longueuil, Que./Victoriaville, QMJHL) had the other two goals for the Canadians, who split their two exhibition contests; they dropped a narrow 5-4 decision to Russia to open their schedule on Sunday.
Canada found itself in an early hole when Nando Eggenberger beat goaltender Jake McGrath (Mississauga, Ont./Sudbury, OHL) just 80 seconds after the puck dropped, but Comtois got that back off a set-up from Jared McIsaac (Truro, N.S./Halifax, QMJHL) at 4:33 to tie the game.
Keijo Weibel restored the Swiss lead late in the opening frame, and Axel Simic needed just 30 seconds of the second period to score shorthanded for a 3-1 advantage, despite Canada holding the edge in shots on goal to that point.
Mattheos got the comeback started with his first of the game just past the four-minute mark of the middle stanza, answering Simic’s shorthanded marker with one of his own to make it a 3-2 game.
Comtois netted his second, again off a feed from McIsaac, to bring Canada all the way back just 16 seconds into the third period, and Mattheos gave the Canadians their first lead only 1:06 after that.
But the Swiss refused to roll over, and Eggenberger beat McGrath for the second time with 6:45 left to bring the score level once again.
Overtime loomed, but Mattheos made sure it didn’t get that far; he buried a pass from Jaret Anderson-Dolan (Calgary, Alta./Spokane, WHL) past Swiss netminder Gianluca Zaetta at 16:12, giving the Canadians a little momentum heading into their worlds opener.
McGrath finished with 19 saves in the Canadian goal, while Zaetta and starter Beat Trudel combined to stop 27 of 32 for the Swiss.
Canada drops the puck on the 2017 IIHF U18 World Championship on Thursday, taking on Latvia (9:30 a.m. ET/6:30 a.m. PT) in its first of four preliminary-round games.