CANADA TOPS SWEDEN, WILL PLAY FOR WORLD JUNIORS GOLD

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    MONTREAL, Que. – Julien Gauthier (Pointe-aux-Trembles, Que./Val-d’Or, QMJHL) scored twice, while captain Dylan Strome (Mississauga, Ont./Erie, OHL) and Anthony Cirelli (Woodbridge, Ont./Oshawa, OHL) added a goal and an assist each to allow Canada’s National Junior Team to top Sweden 5-2 on Wednesday and clinch a spot in the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship gold medal game.

    Canada will hit Montreal’s Bell Centre ice Thursday to play the United States in the final (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT). The Americans topped the team 3-1 on New Year’s Eve and are coming off a 4-3 shootout win over Russia in the other semifinal.

    It was Connor Ingram (Imperial, Sask./Kamloops, WHL) who drew the start in Canada’s net, but he was quickly pulled in favour of Carter Hart (Sherwood Park, Alta./Everett, WHL) after surrendering two goals on Sweden’s first three shots.

    The move proved to pay off for head coach Dominique Ducharme and company, Hart making 28 saves for a shutout effort in his 51:55 of ice time.

    Joel Eriksson Ek netted the game’s first goal at 6:05 of the first period after firing a shorthanded wrist shot from the top of the circle, but Mitchell Stephens (Peterborough, Ont./Saginaw, OHL) tied the game back up just 1:38 later after jumping on a loose puck.

    The tie game wouldn’t last, Sweden getting its lead back just 11 seconds later when Carl Grundstrom fanned on a shot that accidentally slid through the five-hole to end Ingram’s night.

    Cirelli would tie the game at 2-2 with 1:11 left before the first break thanks to a perfectly placed wrist shot that beat Sweden’s Felix Sandstrom over the shoulder.

    The red-and-white scored the only goal of the second period to take its first lead of the game after a rebound that sat in Sandstrom’s crease was poke-checked in by Gauthier.

    While playing at four-on-four, Canada took a 4-2 lead 7:38 into the final frame after Strome fired a wrist shot through a Matt Barzal (Coquitlam, B.C./Seattle, WHL) screen. The team wrapped up its scoring with just under two minutes left in the game when Gauthier added an empty netter to register his second consecutive two-goal outing.

    Canada outshot Sweden 43-31 in the game to give the Scandinavians their first loss of the World Juniors, sending them to tomorrow’s bronze medal showdown against Russia (3:30 p.m. ET/12:30 p.m PT).