Canada set to face Finland
MALMO, Sweden—Anthony Mantha has Canada a win away from reaching the final at the world junior hockey championship.
Mantha got the game-winner on a penalty shot, while defenceman Griffin Reinhart added a goal and an assist, as Canada beat Switzerland 4-1 yesterday to advance to the semi-finals.
“They’re a good team—we saw that in the exhibition game,” said Reinhart, whose team dominated the final two periods of a pre-tournament game against the Finns on Dec. 20.
“Every team now is going to be a hard game,” he stressed.
“It’ll take a lot of discipline and you’ve got to stick to your systems.”
Forward Curtis Lazar and defenceman Derrick Pouliot also scored for Canada against Switzerland, which had only one Mattew Dumba goal from its back end in four previous tournament games.
The Finns promise to give Canada a similar test to the Swiss, with the accent on team play and defence. But Finland has some dangerous shooters led by ace play-maker Teuvo Teravainen.
“It’s going to be an intense game and there’s nothing more to it,” said Lazar, who now has scored in three-straight games.
“We’re both trying to get into the final but we have to take it a step at a time and keep playing our Canadian brand of hockey,” he noted.
“We played them in pre-competition so we’ll have to go over video and see if they’ve changed something up, but the main thing is to focus on our own game,” Lazar added.
“There’s not much room for error so we have to bring our A-game.”
Reinhart was in his second game since returning from a suspension he picked up at last year’s world event.
But the big defenceman made his presence felt even more than in Canada’s rousing win over the United States on Tuesday that gave the squad first place in its preliminary round group.
He rushed to the front of the net after Scott Laughton took the puck to the crease and whacked away at it until it got behind goalie Melvin Nyffeler at 18:08 of the first period.
It marked the first time this tournament that Canada had scored first.
“I’m starting to get my hands back,” said the N.Y. Islanders’ first-round pick. “I’m more comfortable on the ice.
“It’s always different practising because the situations are different than in games,” Reinhart noted. “But it’s only getting better.
“It’s always a bonus to have defencemen chip in like that,” he added. “It’s something defencemen take pride in.”
Eyebrows were raised when Reinhart was named to the team because it was known he’d miss the first three games. But it seems he arrived just in time to strengthen Canada’s back end for its toughest games.
Beating the defending champion Americans was a huge bonus as it gave Canada the easier route—Switzerland and Finland—to the final.
The U.S., meanwhile, lost its quarter-final 5-3 to Russia, which now faces host Sweden in the semi-finals.
Sweden beat Slovakia 6-0 in its quarter-final contest.
“After assessing things across the country on the back end, it became very clear to myself we had to take that chance of him [Reinhart] not playing in the first three games and maybe having him for the last four,” said Canadian coach Brent Sutter.
“He’s been rock solid for us.”
What turned out to be the winning goal came at 9:04 of the second when the Swiss were caught on a line change. That forced captain Lukas Balmelli to take Mantha down from behind on a breakaway.
Sutter sent Mantha’s linemate, Jonathan Drouin, to take the shot but the rules say the player who is fouled must take it.
Mantha was nervous. He said later he’s not usually good in shootouts but he deked to the backhand and beat Nyffeler for a 2-0 lead.