The gold medal game at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Tournament featured a matchup that shouldn’t have happened.
For Sweden, it was a thrilling 2-1 victory over Russia in Friday’s semi-final that propelled them to the tournaments final match. After Russia tied the game with under two minutes to go, Sweden would immediately fire back.
The semifinal between Canada and the USA got attention for a whole different reason. After tieing the game at the eight-minute mark, the USA would add another less than two minutes later to take the lead. With their lives on the line, Dylan Cozens fired a shot at the buzzer and past Dustin Wolf to tie the game.
At this year’s tournament, there is no video replay since one of the venues in Red Deer doesn’t have the capability. To put it simply: if there were a video review, Canada wouldn’t have been in the final. If you want the video of the goal that shouldn’t have counted and some reaction to it, TSN had a great piece on it here.
In the tournaments first year in Canada, it was the host nation taking on Sweden in the final.
These two teams met in the round robin portion of the tournament as well, with Canada emerging victorious. Bowen Byram scored the game-winner with just under three minutes to go in regulation. You can find a full game report HERE.
It took just 42 seconds for Sweden to grab a lead in the gold medal game thanks to a Lucas Raymond powerplay marker. Raymond, who plays for Frolunda in the SuperElit, had a hell of a tournament. His goal tonight was his 5th of the tournament. He was one of the few Swedes who I noticed on a consistent basis, and he’s only 16. It’s early, and the Hlinka is a small sample size, but get ready to hear his name close to the top of the 2020 NHL Draft.
After each team exchanged powerplays, Sweden would jump out to a 2-0 lead on just their third shot of the game. Alexander Holtz would get the goal, his second point of the night. Just like Raymond, Holtz is just 16 and is eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft. Among Swedish forwards, they were by far the most impactful, and they’ll both be back next year.
At this point, Canada trailed 2-0 but was outshooting Sweden by more than ten shots.
At 12:14 of the first period, Canada finally found the back of the net thanks to Sasha Mutala. His first of two goals on the night was a shining example of what happens when you throw the puck on net. The Swedish goalie, Hugo Alnefelt, was very impressive but Mutala’s shot seemed to catch him a little off guard.
The Canadians would draw even before the period ended when another 2020 eligible player, Alexis Lafreniere, battled past multiple Swedish defenders for a beautiful goal.
— Anton Johansson (@antonj85) August 12, 2018
Lafreniere, who wore the ‘C’ on his chest this week, is considered by lots of scouts to be a superstar in the makings. In his rookie season with Rimouski (QMJHL), he posted 42 goals and 38 assists in 60 games. He’s only 16, and he’s posting numbers that would get 18-year-olds drafted. His skill is apparent, but when I watch him play, it’s clear he’s two steps ahead of everyone else on the ice. Whichever NHL team drafts him is going to be set for twenty years, until then, hockey fans should saddle up and enjoy watching him rip apart the QMHJL and continue to win gold medals for Canada.
When the puck dropped in the third period, Canada had a 4-2 lead, and it took just five minutes for them to extend it. Ryan Suzuki found a wide open Josh Williams who rifled off a one-timer.
Canada was not taking their foot off the gas at all in this one, hitting Sweden with wave after wave of attack. After watching the Canadians continue to pick apart their opponent tonight, it’s hard to believe they should have been eliminated by a much weaker USA team.
The final nail was pounded into the coffin with around five minutes to go in third and maybe it was fitting that it would be Captain Alex Lafreniere who would get the teams final goal.
— Anton Johansson (@antonj85) August 12, 2018
The buzzer rang, and the Rogers Place crowd exploded. For the second year in a row and tenth time in the last eleven years, Canada wins the Ivan Hlinka Tournament (now Hlinka Gretzky Cup).
- Elmer Soderblom wore #11 for Sweden and was very noticeable tonight. His 6’6 frame stands out, and when I watched him in the warm-up, I thought he looked almost too lanky. That wasn’t the case. The 17-year-old plays with Lucas Raymond in Frolunda, and after my first look at him today, I’m excited to see more. For a big kid, he can handle the puck really well, and he knows how to use size in front of the net. He made his biggest impact on the powerplay.
- I mentioned it briefly, but Hugo Alnefelt was really impressive between the pipes for Sweden. He was tested with not just a large quantity of shots, but plenty of them was from in-tight. He takes up a large portion of the net just by standing there, he’s listed at 6’3 and just under 200 pounds. Size is almost a prerequisite in today’s NHL, and Alnefelt has that and natural talent to spare.
- For Canada, I really liked what I saw from Okotoks Oilers (AJHL) forward Dylan Holloway. He created a pair of ‘Grade A’ scoring chances on the PK, he worked his tail off at 5v5 and generated a few offensive chances as well. One of his shots were deflected home by Sasha Mutala for Canada’s fourth goal.
- A rough night for Canada’s starter Nolan Maier, but it allowed Taylor Gauthier to get into the game, and he was rock solid, not allowing a goal in the games final 50 minutes. The 17-year-old didn’t have a great year statistically with Prince George (WHL) but tonight was a great example of how good he can be. Again, this tournament is such a small sample size, but Gauthier rose to the occasion and showed off his natural ability.
- Barrie Colts (OHL) forward Ryan Suzuki caught my attention with his playmaking ability. He made half a dozen plays that really impressed me. He notched 30 assists this last season with Barrie, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him hit the 50 mark this year. His vision and ability to execute passing with pressure on him is next level.