PIESTANY/BRECLAV – Canada won the gold medal at the 2012 Ivan Hlinka Memorial, defeating Finland 4-0 in Saturday’s gold medal game in. Canada has won the U18 tournament five consecutive years and eight of the last nine. Nathan MacKinnon, who will be 17 on September 1, scored a hat-trick.
In the bronze-medal game, André Burakowsky scored with five minutes left against host Czech Republic to give Sweden third place. On Friday, Sweden gave up a late 4-2 lead in the semi-final against Finland which later won in OT.
Russia defeated Switzerland 7-5 for fifth place, while USA beat Slovakia to claim 7th.
After a scoreless first period, Nathan MacKinnon – not yet 17 years old – gave Canada the lead just 1:14 into the second, and added a power play goal midway through the frame to double the Canadian lead.
He finished off his hat trick in the third period with another goal on the power play, this time on a two-man advantage, with 12 minutes left.
Curtis Lazar also scored for Canada, while Zachary Fucale earned the shutout with a 23-save performance as Canada outshot the Finns 44-23. MacKinnon finished the tournament with five goals and six assists in five games.
Canada won its fifth straight Ivan Hlinka Memorial championship with its most complete game of the tournament, using a dominant forecheck to tire out a fading Finland team.
"That was our best game from start to finish. Everybody bought in," Canada coach Todd Gill said. Our slogan was 'I am willing,' and everybody was willing tonight and it showed."
"The way the game was going you could just tell that the kids were getting a lot more confident," Gill said. "In my opinion it was just a matter of time before we started scoring goals. We dominated the second period and it just got better and better, and they were getting tired and their goalie was getting tired so we knew the goals would come."
Finland had a chance to get back in the game when Nicholas Ritchie was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for a check to the head 2:10 into the third period.
The Canadians killed off the major, then shortly after MacKinnon scored his second power-play goal of the game to suck the rest of the life out of the Finns.
"After killing off a five-minute penalty it gave us an advantage I think. It sparked the boys," MacKinnon said. "Shortly after that we had a 5-on-3 power play and some good puck movement and I found a way to finish it off."
While Canada outshot Finland 44-23 in the game, Fucale was good when he had to be. A teammate of MacKinnon on the Halifax Mooseheads, Fucale formed a solid goaltending tandem with Eric Comrie at the tournament.
Finland came into the game with the reputation of having the most North American style of all the European teams at the tournament. But the Finns, who also had an emotionally draining semi-final game against Sweden, couldn't seem to keep up with the physical Canadians.
Nathan MacKinnon said he's not used to playing this level of competitive hockey in the summer, but figures the experience will give him a good foundation for his next season with the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL.
"I've never experienced anything like this before, but it's a great way to start the season," said MacKinnon who despite underaged is so skilled and talented that he may be selected to Canada’s IIHF World Junior team for the upcoming World U20 Championship in Ufa, Russia (26 December, 2012 – 5 January, 2013).
Final standing in the 2012 Ivan Hlinka Memorial:
4. Czech Republic
- With files from Hockey Canada and Canadian Press