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Off an undefeated preliminary performance,
Canada’s National Men’s Summer Under-18 Team
is just one win away from another summer under-18 appearance in a gold
medal game, facing Finland at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup on Friday night.
Canada faced its toughest competition in Group A on Wednesday night,
coming away with a 3-0 win over Sweden to cap off a perfect preliminary
round. Scott Ratzlaff secured his second shutout of the tournament, turning away
all 18 shots he faced. Brayden Yager and Calum Ritchie had a goal and
assist each, giving them a tournament-leading eight points apiece through
Finland took the ice last on Tuesday,
earning a 4-1 win over Germany
after downing the Americans by the same margin the day before.
assisted three of the four Finnish goals, giving the standout defenceman
five helpers in the tournament. The Finns outshot Germany 35-15 as it
finished the prelims with two wins and a shootout loss.
Canada’s lone pre-tournament matchup was a fruitful one,
shutting out Finland 6-0 on Friday night.
The Canadians got goals from six different players, with Mathieu Cataford
and Tanner Howe finishing with a goal and an assist each. Carson Bjarnason
and Scott Ratzlaff split goaltending duties and turned away 15 and 10
shots, respectively, to blank the Finns.
WHAT TO WATCH
With only one goal against in three games, the question will be which
goaltender will get the start against Finland. Ratzlaff has two shutouts,
going perfect on 35 shots, Bjarnason allowed only one goal on 20 tries in
his lone start. Both netminders had solid seasons in the WHL – Ratzlaff had
a .904 save percentage in 22 games with the Seattle Thunderbirds, and
Bjarnason finished with .882 mark in 23 games with the Brandon Wheat Kings.
Despite not finding the back of the net,
leads the Finns in scoring with five assists. The 16-year-old is one of
three 2006-born defencemen on the Finnish roster and has caught the eye of
the hockey world already as an early favourite to go No. 1 in the 2024 NHL
Draft. Kiviharju could be the spark that lights the Finnish fire.
A LOOK BACK
Canada holds an historic advantage over Finland at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup,
winning eight of nine games played since 1996 (with the other finishing in
Only one of those meetings has been for gold – Nathan MacKinnon scored a
hat trick and Zach Fucale made 23 saves for the shutout as
Canada posted a 4-0 victory in 2012, winning its fifth of what would be eight consecutive gold medals.
All-time record: Canada leads 8-0-1
Canada goals: 42
Finland goals: 11