January 2, 2014, MALMÖ, Sweden (ISN) – Anthony Mantha (Longueuil, Que./Val-d’Or, QMJHL) has Canada a win away from reaching the final at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship.
Mantha got the game-winner on a penalty shot while defenceman Griffin Reinhart (West Vancouver, B.C./Edmonton, WHL) added a goal and an assist as Canada beat Switzerland 4-1 on Thursday to reach the semifinal round.
The Canadians will face Finland on Saturday at Malmö Arena.
“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.”
Forward Curtis Lazar (Vernon, B.C./Edmonton, WHL) and defenceman Derrick Pouliot (Weyburn, Sask./Portland, WHL) also scored for Canada.
Reinhart was in his second game since returning from a suspension he picked up at last year’s 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 in its preliminary round group.
He rushed to the front of the net after Scott Laughton (Oakville, Ont./Oshawa, OHL) 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,” the New York Islanders’ first-round pick said. “I’m more comfortable on the ice.”
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.
Mantha said later he’s not usually good in shootouts but he deked to the backhand and beat Nyffeler for a 2-0 lead.
“I wasn’t really ready but when they got me, I prepared,” said Mantha of his team-leading fifth goal and 11th point of the tournament. “The goalie moved his right pad first so I knew I could go on the right side and that’s how I did it.”
Canada’s nerves were tested with one second left in the period.
Mirco Muller lifted a shot from the point that Nico Dunner tipped past Canadian goalie Zachary Fucale. The goal stood up to review for a high stick.
But Canada was on top of the Swiss from the start of the third.
The teams were each short a man at 4:11 when Reinhart was stopped on a breakaway, only to have Lazar follow and stuff the puck in for the goal.
A Swiss power play had just ended when Pouliot skated into the zone and beat Nyffeler with a high wrist shot at 13:49 to seal the win.