Team Canada Advances To IIHF World Junior Championship Gold Medal Game

TORONTO,ON - DECEMBER 31: Thomas Chabot #5 of Team canada celebrates his goal against Team USA during a preliminary round game in the 2017 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship at the Air Canada Centre on December 31, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The USA defeated Canada 3-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Team Canada beat Sweden 5-2 tonight in Montreal to advance to the gold medal game against the USA. Canada, always a favourite to medal in the annual tournament, endured a hard fought quarterfinal against the Czech Republic on Monday night and expected a bigger challenge tonight against the undefeated Swedes. In the end, it was Julien Gauthier who netted the game winner, sending the Canadians to their second gold medal round appearance in three years.

Team Canada Advances To IIHF World Junior Championship Gold Medal Game

Dylan Strome sealed the win in one of his best performances of the tournament. Julien Gauthier netted the winner and added an empty netter.  Anthony Cirelli proved once again he’s one for the big moments, and Carter Hart was dominant in a relief appearance stopping all 25 shots against.

Joel Eriksson Ek opened the scoring on a shorthanded rush for the Swedes. Ericsson Ek found himself with just one defender to beat after Canada failed to capitalize on an off man rush and launched a low wrist-shot that beat Connor Ingram. It’s one that Canadian head coach Dominique Ducharme wasn’t pleased with.

Mitchell Stephens equalised for Canada with a scrappy goal, knocking in a rebound after Sandstrom was forced into a flurry of saves. Dillon Dubé and Cirelli caused havoc behind the net before circling the net and firing the puck at Sandstrom.

Carl Grundström put Sweden back in the lead just moments after Canada equalized. Thomas Chabot tried to pinch in the offensive zone, but Alex Nylander chipped the puck over him, and found a streaking Grundström. He breezed by Kale Clague and slid the puck through Ingram’s five-hole. Ingram allowed two goals on two shots and played just eight minutes before making way for Carter Hart.

In the dying minutes of the first period it was Anthony Cirelli who came up huge for team Canada. He wired a seeing-eye wrister top shelf past Sandstrom to bring Canada level at two. The Canadians had been on the penalty kill just moments earlier but a late hit from Grundström on Thomas Chabot put them in the attacking zone, and negated the man-advantage. Cirelli lead the team with one goal and one assist.

Julien Gauthier thrust the Canadians into the lead with a delicately placed shot, the squeaked by Sandrstom on the shortside. Gauthier tried to control a centering feed from Nicolas Roy, who was located behind the net, but the puck bounced off his stick and eked its way to near post where he stabbed it home. Sundstrom furious at the lack of interference call, the play was briefly reviewed before being deemed a good goal.

Dylan Strome netted the dagger on a long wrist-shot that beat Felix Sandstrom. Sandstrom was screened on the play, and was late getting down. The puck flashed between his legs before he had a chance to stop it. It was Canada’s second four on four goal, this one also coming just seconds after Sweden took a penalty while on the man advantage. Like Cirelli’s goal, Canada once again captialized off a vital offensive-zone faceoff win.

The Canadians got off to a hot start forcing Sandstrom into a pair of strong saves early on Taylor Raddysh and Dubé, but the Swedish net-minder was equal to the task. Sweden quickly recovered, from the Canadian assault, and were dominant for the second half of the period. Lead by the Eriksson Ek-Nylander-Grunström line, they created a number of dangerous changes, and frequently found themselves behind the Canadian defence.

Mathew Barzal came close to bringing the Canadians even with the Swedes. He instigated a 2-1 after receiving a quick pass in the neutral zone, and sprung Mathieu Joseph. Joseph returned the pass but Barzal was tripped by ZZZZ and was unable to fling the puck into the open net. No penalty was called on the play.

Anthony Cirelli, nearly found himself on the scoresheet for the third time in the game, he unleashed a ferocious wrist-shot from the right circle that sailed over the shoulder of Sandstrom but ended with a resounding “ping” as it ricocheted off the joint between the crossbar and far post.

After allowing an atypically weak goal against, Sandstrom was phenomenal, standing up Tyson Jost not once, but twice. Jost was given a grade A opportunity on a centering feed that found him just inches outside of the Swedish crease. Sundstrom stopped the first with his left pad, and then flashed the leather for a mind-boggling save on the second attempt.

Not to be undone by the acrobatics of Felix Sundstrom, Carter Hart dazzled fans when he pulled a puck off the goal line. After failing to catch the Jonathan Dahlen shot cleanly, the puck escaped his glove, and bounced off the back of his skate. What seemed a sure goal left an arena on their feet when an alert Hart swiped it away from danger. It’s worth noting he did receive a helping hand from the timely stick of Dante Fabbro.

The 16-year-old Swedish phenom Rasmus Dahlin didn’t make an appearance in the game until the start of the second period.

Ottawa Senators prospect Chabot was unlucky to find himself with just one assist on the night. He hit a pair of posts in the third period alone.

The gold medal game will be held at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Thursday at 8:00 PM EST.

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