BRATISLAVA, Slovakia – A second-period goal Stelio Mattheos (Winnipeg, Man./Brandon, WHL) looked like it was going to stand up as the game-winner, but two goals in the final two minutes left Canada’s National Men’s Summer Under-18 Team with a 2-1 loss to Russia on Tuesday at the 2016 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup.
It’s the first time the Canadians have come out on the wrong end of a final score against Russia since the bronze medal game in 2007; Canada is now 11-4 all-time against the Russians in summer U18 action.
The Canadians had their chances in the first period, firing 19 shots at Artyom Melnikov, but the Russian goaltender was up to the challenge and got the game to the intermission scoreless.
Mattheos struck just 1:18 into the second period, jumping on a rebound at the side of the Russian net and one-timing a quick shot past a diving Melnikov, but that would be it for offence for the Canadians.
Both teams had their chances in the second period, although Canada held Russia to just three shots on goal in the middle frame, and 11 though the first 40 minutes.
But the game opened up in the third, with the teams combining for 32 shots on goal – 17-15 in favour of Russia.
A hooking penalty to Maxime Comtois (Longueuil, Que./Victoriaville, QMJHL) with less than three minutes to go pushed the momentum to the Russians, and Ivan Chekhovich redirected a Mark Rubinchik point shot past Michael DiPietro (Amherstburg, Ont./Windsor, OHL), who made his first start in the Canadian goal, with 1:44 left.
Just 37 seconds later, Klim Kostin finished off a give-and-go with Yaroslav Alexeyev to put the Russians ahead.
DiPietro went to the bench in the final minute with the Canadians pressing, but they couldn’t find the tying goal and dropped to the third place in Group B with a 0-1-0-1 (W-OTW-OTL-L) record.
Paul McFarland, head coach:
“That’s the best game we’ve played since we’ve been over here. Unfortunately, we made one or two mistakes in the last couple minutes – it’s a fine line between two very good teams, but I thought we deserved better tonight. You’ve gotta put teams away, though. We had a number of great scoring chances but if you don’t put teams away, they’re allowed to linger and do something at the end. That’s probably the lesson to learn from this game.”
Matthew Strome (Mississauga, Ont./Hamilton, OHL):
“I thought it was a tough outcome, but now it’s in the past. We have to look forward and focus on tomorrow’s game against Sweden.”
Since 1991, Canada has won the annual summer tournament 20 times, and captured two silver medals and one bronze. Canada plays in Group B with Russia, Slovakia, and Sweden; Group A consists of the Czech Republic, Finland, Switzerland, and the United States. The top two teams from each group advance to the semifinals on Friday, Aug. 12, with the gold-medal game scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 13.
Canada will need a win in its preliminary-round finale Wednesday against unbeaten Sweden (8 a.m. ET/5 a.m. PT) if its hopes to win a ninth-consecutive gold medal at the tournament.