CANADA SURVIVES SWEDES, OFF TO HLINKA GRETZKY CUP FINAL
BRECLAV, Czech Republic – After scoring twice in regulation time, Cole Perfetti (Whitby, Ont./Saginaw, OHL) channeled Jonathan Toews by delivering three goals in the shootout to lift Canada’s National Men’s Summer Under-18 Team to a 3-2 semifinal victory over Sweden on Friday at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
The win sends Canada into the gold medal game Saturday against Russia (11 a.m. ET/8 a.m. PT), one victory away from a 23rd summer under-18 gold medal in 29 tries since 1991.
Replying to tallies from Daniel Ljungman, Perfetti kept the Canadians alive with goals in the second and seventh rounds of the shootout before burying a shot over the pads of Swedish goaltender Jesper Wallstedt in Round 8 to clinch the dramatic victory.
Tristan Lennox (Cambridge, Ont./Saginaw, OHL) stopped 19 of the 21 shots that he faced over regulation and overtime before coming up with the answer for six of eight Swedish attempts in the shootout.
Despite Canada posting a 9-4 edge in shots in the first period, Sweden scored the lone goal as Ljungman knuckled a puck over Lennox’s left shoulder for a power-play tally almost midway through the stanza.
It only took Perfetti 35 seconds of the second period to tie the game as he accepted a breakaway pass from Hendrix Lapierre (Gatineau, Que./Chicoutimi, QMJHL) and beat Wallstedt with a forehand deke.
Hugo Styf seized the lead back for Sweden just over three minutes later with a slap shot that beat a screened Lennox.
Perfetti deadlocked the game again with 5:41 to play in the middle frame with his second breakaway goal of the period, opting this time to strike with a backhand dangle.
Because international rules count shootout-winning goals towards a player’s tournament totals, Perfetti was credited with a hat trick. His eight goals and 12 points through four games are the second-best totals in Canadian summer U18 history – Jeff Friesen had nine goals and 13 points in 1993, and Brett McLean recorded 13 points in 1995.
The frenetic action of the second period was reflected in the shot totals – 15-11 in favour of Canada.
The Canadians turned up the heat by outshooting Sweden 14-4 in the third period, but could not find a way to beat Wallstedt, who finished with 39 saves.