TV: TSN | Stream: TSN Direct
It’s Semifinal Saturday at the 2023 IIHF U18 World Championship, and
Canada’s National Men’s Under-18 Team has a showdown with Sweden on the schedule, looking to avenge its loss in
the prelim opener.
Canada rode a huge second period to victory in its quarterfinal, finding
the back of the net five times
as part of a 7-3 win over host Switzerland on Thursday. Macklin Celebrini continued his red-hot run, scoring twice and
adding two assists, Andrew Cristall scored his first two goals of the
tournament and Carson Bjarnason turned in a 28-save effort.
The Swedes cruised in their quarterfinal,
outshooting Latvia 55-16 in a 6-1 win. Otto Stenberg scored twice, Noah Dower Nilsson, Simon Zether and Noel
Nordh had a goal and an assist apiece, and Axel Sandin Pellikka, Felix
Unger Sorum and Tom Willander recorded two helpers each.
Game No. 1 on the tournament schedule matched the Canadians and Swedes nine
days ago, and it was a nightmare start for the boys in red and white.
Sweden netted five goals on seven shots in the first 14 minutes, and
an 8-0 final was the worst loss ever by a Canadian team at U18 Worlds. Nick Lardis led Canada with five shots on
goal, and Gabriel D’Aigle finished with 14 saves in relief.
What to Watch
Bjarnson comes into this one with something to prove; the Carberry, Man.,
native lasted less than a period and made just two saves in the
tournament-opening loss to the Swedes, but he has been lights out since,
with his performance against the Swiss his best yet. He made
a number of big saves early to keep the game scoreless, and his glove stop off Matteo Wagner late in
the second period might be the best of the entire tournament. Leave out his
stats from the opener, and Bjarnason has fashioned a 2.25 goals-against
average and .903 save percentage, both of which would rank him among the
The Swedes have been rolling right along, winning their five games by an
average of four goals and allowing just a single goal at five-on-five (and
that one came just seconds after the end of a penalty kill). Noah Erliden
has been unbeatable between the pipes with a 1.00 GAA, .954 save percentage
and two shutouts in four games, and Stenberg sits tied for fourth in
tournament scoring with 11 points (5-6—11). But it’s more than just the
captain – six players are averaging more than a point a game, and another
four have four points in five games. To be more concise … Sweden is deep.
A Look Back
The Canadians and Swedes have gone back and forth through the years, with
both teams going on mini runs of success – the Canadians won the first two,
the Swedes the next three, the Canadians the next two and the Swedes the
next two before a run of four in a row by Canada from 2013-15.
There have been four previous semifinal showdowns;
Canada triumphed 3-2 in 2008 and
earned an 8-1 win in 2021, while Sweden
scored a 6-5 shootout win in 2016 and
a 4-3 victory in 2019.
All-time record: Canada leads 11-9 (1-1 in OT/SO)
Canada goals: 81
Sweden goals: 60