Canada topped the standings on the final day of round robin play at the 2022 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, giving the host nation two chances to play for medals as the tournament wraps up Saturday.
Canada’s Reds will play for gold against undefeated USA after moving up to second place in the round robin standings with a 6-3 win over Sweden on Friday night at Sungod Arena in Delta, British Columbia. Two nights earlier, the red team had beaten Finland. , 8-5.
“Our motto was just ‘believe,'” said Canada captain Red Berkly Catton, who picked up an assist on Friday to tie his team in scoring with 10 points. “You have to believe in us, in the team and in all of our systems. It obviously pays off.”
Canada Red and Sweden entered Friday’s game with identical 2-1-2-0 records in the standings, knowing only one team could advance to the medal round. The Swedes controlled the action early, but Tij Iginla opened the scoring for the Canadians at 6:28 of the first period, grabbing a rebound on a shot from Ethan Procyszyn past Swedish goaltender Hugo Laring.
Procyszyn “came into the area and he kind of found me at the net,” Iginla said. “I was able to bury him, which was really important to us.”
Sweden outshot Canada 18-16 in the first quarter, but both teams went to their respective locker rooms in a 2-2 draw. Viggo Nordlund and Anton Olsson managed to beat Canadian goaltender Gabriel D’Aigle, while Ben Cormier scored his first goal of the tournament for the Canadians.
Early in the second, Procyszyn and Nathan Villeneuve scored 90 seconds apart to give Canada a 4-2 lead. Mans Torreson beat D’Aigle shorthanded to cut the lead to one before the third.
Canadian Porter Martone added his fourth and fifth goals of the tournament in the final quarter. The latter was scored in the empty net with 1:07 to go on the clock.
The last shots of the game were 38-38, including 11-7 for Sweden in the third period.
“I would say without a doubt our goalkeeper was our most valuable player,” Iginla said. “Even in the times when we were dominated, he kept us in there. He was someone we could lean on today.”
Earlier in the day, Canada Black clinched their ticket to the medal round with a 7-5 ups and down victory over the Czech Republic at the Langley Events Centre. Late in the game in Langley, Canada’s White outscored Finland 8-2, finishing outside the medal round but helping their compatriots by preventing the Finns from earning any extra points in the standings.
Understaffed offensively with Macklin Celebrini and Malcolm Spence out of the roster, Canada Black received an offensive boost Friday from Justin Poirier. With one goal and two assists, he was named his team’s player of the match.
“We know he’s a shooter and we know he has the ability to score goals,” said Black Canada coach Mark O’Leary of the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors. “What I like about him is the way he works away from the puck. He has become a very important player for us.
The Czechs finished their tournament without a win, but kept fighting until the final buzzer. Adam Benak even unleashed a “Michigan” goal after a late game timeout, pulling his team within a point at 6-5 with 2:35 remaining.
Czechia go home with a single point in the standings and a 0-0-5-1 record. Canada White finishes the tournament in sixth place with a 1-1-3-1 record for six points and Sweden finishes fifth with eight points at 2-1-3-0.
Canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, the tournament is being played for the first time in three years. Both medal games will be played Saturday at the Langley Events Center and televised on TSN.
First, third-placed Canada Black (3-0-2-1) will face fourth-placed Finland (3-0-3-0) in the bronze medal game at noon PT. Next, the 6-0-0-0 USA will play for gold against Canada Red at 5 p.m. PT.
The Americans were unbeatable in the round robin, winning all six games by multi-goal margins. Overall, they outscored their opponents 39-12 for a plus-27 goal differential. Center James Hagens, who isn’t eligible for the draft until 2025, led the tournament scoring run with 16 points in six games, while left wing Cole Eiserman had nine goals and 14 points.
While other nations are assembling rosters specifically for this tournament – and Canada is mixing players from across the country to form its three different teams – USA Hockey is taking a different approach. Their philosophy is to appoint U-17 and U-18 formations that stay together for the whole season, as well as representing their country in international tournaments.
This time around, that familiarity paid off.
“They’re a good team,” said Catton, whose Canada Red team lost 5-2 to the Americans in round robin action last Monday. “They’ve been playing together for a few months now, but I think ultimately it’s hockey. Anything can happen. We’re going to come out and give them a good game.”