PIESTANY, Slovakia – Canada’s under-18 men’s hockey team will have a chance at redemption.
Charles Hudon had two goals and an assist Friday as Canada downed Russia 5-0 in the semifinals of the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament. The victory puts Canada in Saturday’s final against Sweden, which defeated Finland 4-3 in overtime in Friday’s other semifinal match.
The Swedes scored three power-play goals as they thumped an undisciplined Canadian team 5-1 in the tournament opener on Monday. Head coach Steve Spott was disappointed with Canada’s parade to the penalty box against Sweden, but his players have adapted as the tournament has progressed, defeating the Czech Republic, Switzerland and Russia by a combined 17-1 score.
The Canadians went 3-for-8 on the power play Friday, while Russia went 0-for-3.
“It was a full team effort here tonight,” Spott said. “Our game plan was real solid and the players executed it.”
He added a basic approach with the man advantage has been successful.
“I think less is more,” Spott said of his power-play unit. “I believe when you’ve got a group that’s talented like we do, it’s just simplifying your power play and getting pucks to the net, getting pucks into the blue paint and playing with a little bit more jam.”
Canada’s attack dominated the semifinal game, battering Russian goaltenders Andrei Vasilevski and Igor Ustinski with a combined 44 shots. Russia managed only six shots on Canada’s Daniel Altshuller.
Thomas Wilson opened the scoring for Canada with a minute left in the first period. Hudon scored on the power play 2:39 into the second, then struck again less than four minutes later to give Canada a 3-0 lead.
Team captain and Red Deer Rebels blue-liner Matthew Dumba scored with the man advantage with 2:32 left in the second. Hudon assisted on the play, rounding out his three-point game.
“He has to be our Derek Roy on this team,” said Spott, who was an assistant coach with the Kitchener Rangers in 2003 when Roy led the team to a Memorial Cup championship. “I told Charles before the tournament that he’s going to have to be a guy we rely on for offence.”
Spott also pointed to Hudon’s leadership abilities as a critical part of Canada’s success at the tournament.
“He has experience playing in April at the under-18 event, so he’s an assistant captain and he’s one of our go-to guys offensively up front,” Spott said. “And he definitely didn’t disappoint here tonight.”
Oil Kings defenceman Griffin Reinhart has been held off the score sheet so far at the tournament, but the 6-foot-4 202-pound powerhouse continues to be a dominant presence on the ice.
Reinhart, 17, was the Oil Kings’ first-round selection (third overall) at the 2009 WHL Bantam Draft. He completed his first season in the Western Hockey League this year, earning rookie of the year honours with the Oil Kings, as he scored six goals and 19 assists for 25 points to go along with a plus-seven rating in 45 games.
By making Canada’s national U-18 summer squad, Reinhart is following in the footsteps of two Oil Kings teammates who have competed at past Ivan Hlinka tournaments. Defenceman Mark Pysyk led Team Canada to gold at the 2009 competition, while dual citizen defenceman Keegan Lowe captured silver with the United States in 2010.