MALMÖ – It seems Canada has eyes for Switzerland after winning for the 20th straight time (no losses) in U20 history, the latest a convincing 4-1 win at the Isstadion.
Team Canada now qualifies for the semi-finals and a late date with Finland on Saturday night. The loss sends the Swiss home.
"Our mentality is we wanted to get better every day, and that's what we've done," said Anthony Mantha. "We need to continue to do that in our next game."
Canada got goals from four players, icnluding a penalty shot goal from Mantha, who now leads the tournament in points with eleven.
"We knew they're a system team and well disciplined," said defenceman Griffin Reinhart, one of the goalscorers, of the Swiss. "We couldn't get frustrated out there."
"It’s tough to lose in the quarter-finals," said Swiss defenceman Phil Baltisberger. "We entered the game with the right attitude and gave our best. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough."
Captain Scott Laughton led by example tonight, starting with an early shift in which he drew a penalty after a nice toe drag deep in the Swiss end. The team didn’t score on the power play, but it came at the Swiss thereafter in wave after wave of speed.
Despite Canada’s territorial domination, however, most of the period went the way the Swiss would have liked. The underdogs got between the player and the puck and played clever defence. They knew they could never intimidate or outmuscle their opponents, or out-skill them, but they played near flawless hockey as a team.
Canada, ever patient, was rewarded late in the period. Laughton barged his way out front from a bad angle and tried to stuff the puck in, and although goalie Melvin Nyffeler held the post the puck came free and Griffin Reinhart banged it in at 18:08. It wasn’t pretty, but they all count.
It was the Canadians who again dominated in the second, and they were rewarded midway through thanks to a fine effort by Mantha. A poor line change gave him a breakaway after a great pass from Jonathan Drouin to spring him free up the middle. He was hauled down on the play by Lukas Balmelli and awarded a penalty shot. Going in on goal, he gave Nyffeler a little Crosby leg lift and slid the puck on the backhand side at 9:04.
"The goalie moved his pad first, so I knew I could deke him," Mantha explained. "For me, it's about being focused and watching what the goalie is doing, It's about what he did first, and then I reacted."
One little mistake prevented Canada from going to the dressing room up 2-0. With only four seconds left on the clock, Kevin Fiala won the faceoff in the Canadian end and got the puck to the point. Mirco Müller snapped a quick shot, and Nico Dünner deflected it in. The Canadians protested, saying it was tipped with a high stick, but video review agreed with the referee’s call, making it a 2-1 game.
Curtis Lazar made it a 3-1 game at the 4:11 mark of the third period. The play started with a turnover at the Canadian blue line with teams playing four skaters a side. Griffin Reinhart barrelled down the ice on a breakaway, and although Nyffeler stopped him, three defenders failed to pick up Lazar on the play, and he stuffed the puck in the back side on the rebound.
Derrick Pouliot made it 4-1 when he picked the far corner with a nice wrist shot at 13:49. The result cemented a victory that semeed never in doubt as Canada's confidence and poise were evident from start to finish.