Team Canada wrapped up a dominant Hlinka Gretzky Cup with a 4-1 victory in the gold medal game on Saturday in Red Deer, Canada, defeating Sweden in the final of the summer under-18 showcase tournament. It is Canada’s 23rd summer under-18 gold medal since 1991 and first since 2018, the last time the event was held in Canada.
Tanner Howe opened the scoring in the gold medal final at the 5:49 mark of the first period. It was the fourth-straight game Canada opened the scoring and, in fact, the eventual champion never trailed over the course of the six-day event. Hugo Pettersson would tie the game at 1-1 just six minutes later but Canada once again grabbed a one-goal lead, this time with a power play goal by Ethan Gauthier.
Calum Ritchie scored the lone goal of the second period to make it 3-1 and Brayden Yager concluded the scoring 15:56 into the third period. Scott Ratzlaff made 25 saves on 26 shots for a .962 save percentage.
Canada went 5-0 in the tournament, with preliminary-round wins over Switzerland (14-0), Slovakia (9-1), and Sweden (3-0), along with a semi-final victory over Finland (4-1) and then Saturday’s championship final win over the Swedes.
“Three weeks ago, we put this roster together and I felt right away this was a tight group,” said Canada head coach Stephane Julien. “It’s not easy when you have this much talent, but everyone accepted their role and I’m so happy for them.”
Canada finished with four of the top five scorers in the tournament, with Ritchie leading the Hlinka Gretzky Cup with 10 points, followed by Yager with nine, and Gauthier and Zach Benson each adding seven points. Gauthier and Sweden’s Otto Stenberg tied for the tournament lead in goals with six.
“This is an unbelievable group of guys,” said Gauthier. “We came to play today, and all week long. We had one goal all along and that was to win, and this feels amazing. The atmosphere was amazing, these fans, this country... this was a great experience.”
In the bronze medal game, Finland knocked off Czechia 3-1. The game featured two of the brightest stars of the event, with Finland defenceman Aron Kiviharju lining up against Czechia forward Eduard Sale.
The two players made impacts in the first period, as Kiviharju opened the scoring at 15:17 to give the Finns a 1-0 lead. Sale answered 25 seconds before the end of the frame to make it 1-1. The eventual game-winning goal came off the stick of Arttu Alasiurua at 6:31 of the second period. That was the end of the scoring until 19:18 when Jesse Kiiskinen put the puck into an empty net for a 3-1 Finland victory.
Both goalies were strong in the bronze game, as Eemil Vinni stopped 21 of 22 shots to earn the victory. His counterpart in the Czechia net, Michael Hrabal, kicked away 22 of 24 shots.
In other results, the United States took fifth place with a 4-2 win over Slovakia. Quentin Musty had two assists for the Americans, with Joe Connor, Andrew Strathmann, Tanner Adams and Zach Sharp providing the scoring for the winners. Leo Eperjesi and Juraj Pekarcik scored for Slovakia.
Leo Braillard scored twice and Kevin Zurcher and Zachary Etique each added singles as Switzerland beat Germany 4-1 to claim seventh spot. Linus Brandl got Germany’s lone goal.
The Hlinka Gretzky Cup will return to Europe in 2023, with Breclav, Czechia and Piestany, Slovakia sharing host duties of the annual event.