Jeff Kolpack, Published April 15 2009
World U18 Hockey: Canada clinches spot in semisFour games, four victories. Now comes the serious part for Canada in the U18 World Championships at the Urban Plains Center.
The Canadians clinched a spot in Friday’s semifinals with a 4-2 victory over Sweden Tuesday. The reward is two days off – two more days for the recently-assembled Canadian team to get more work with each other.
“That’s huge,” said forward Joey Hishon. “We get two days off to get refreshed. We’ll be able to add some tweaks to our game and we’ll be ready to go.”
Canada finished pool play 4-0, although the last two had some suspense. Monday’s overtime win over Czech Republic was more of a “stumble,” said Canadian head coach Mike Johnston.
“Our game was probably not where it should have been,” he said. “But we feel like we’re getting stronger and picking it up. Tonight was a big win.”
Hishon had two goals including the eventual game winner five minutes into the second period. His rebound goal off a shot from the point by John McFarland was the last shot to get past Sweden goalie Robin Lehner until Brett Connolly’s empty-netter with 16 seconds left in the game.
“Johnny took a great shot and the rebound happened to come to me,” Hishon said. “Luckily I had an open net to put it into.”
Sweden perhaps had the best scoring attempts in the third period, but nothing got past Michael Zador, who finished with 36 saves.
“It’s always hard to lose,” said Sweden head coach Stephan Lundh.
It was the first tourney loss for Sweden, which will play Thursday in a quarterfinal game.
The defending champs are now two games away from repeating.
“We don’t get to play together as much as the European teams,” Hishon said, “so we have to gel pretty quickly. We’re getting better.”
FIRST PERIOD: 1, Canada, Froese (Connolly, Hamilton), 17:13. 2, Canada, Hishon (McFarland), 17:49.
SECOND PERIOD: 1, Sweden, Landeskog (Lander, Erixon). 23:30 (pp). 3, Canada, Hishon (McFarland, Holland), 25:00. 2, Sweden, Erixon (Jarnrkok), 31:40 (pp).
THIRD PERIOD: 4, Canada, Connolly (De Haan), 59:44.
Jeff Kolpack can be heard on the Saturday Morning Sports Show, 10 a.m. to noon on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5546.