POPRAD, Slovakia – Stelio Mattheos (Winnipeg, Man./Brandon, WHL) scored his second goal of the game at 2:38 of overtime, sending Canada’s National Men’s Under-18 Team to a 4-3 win over Slovakia on Saturday at the 2017 IIHF U18 World Championship.
With the Canadians controlling the puck in the Slovak end, Mattheos came off the bench, took a pass from Jared McIsaac (Truro, N.S./Halifax, QMJHL) and circled at the top of the zone before whipping a wrist shot past goaltender Jakub Kostelny for the winner.
Kyle Olson (Calgary, Alta./Tri-City, WHL) and Isaac Ratcliffe (London, Ont./Guelph, OHL) had the other goals for the Canadians, who led 3-1 after one period before letting the hosts back into the game.
Ian Scott (Calgary, Alta./Prince Albert, WHL) made 26 saves to record his second win for Canada.
A capacity, pro-Slovak crowd had the home side going early, and Adam Liska converted on a power play at 8:37, jamming a loose puck under Scott to put Slovakia up 1-0.
But the Canadians came back with a flurry in the dying minutes of the opening frame, tying the game and adding two more before the horn sounded.
Olson brought Canada even at 18:18 after MacKenzie Entwistle (Georgetown, Ont./Hamilton, OHL) threw the puck into the slot, Mattheos drove hard to the net and tucked the puck around goaltender Juraj Sklenar for the go-ahead goal 18 seconds after that, and Ratcliffe picked the top corner past Sklenar at 19:49 for a 3-1 Canadian lead after 20 minutes.
Kostelny replaced Sklenar to begin the second period, and the change seemed to spark Slovakia; it had a 10-5 advantage in shots on goal in the middle stanza.
Patrick Hrehorcak pulled the Slovaks within a goal late in the second, finishing off a pretty feed from Milos Roman to make it a 3-2 game through two.
Liska struck again on special teams to the tie the game early in the third, this time beating Scott for a shorthanded goal at 2:38 to eventually force overtime.
Penalty trouble almost doomed the Canadians; they gifted Slovakia nine opportunities on the power play –including one with just over two minutes to go in the third – but killed eight.
Canada sees the ice next on Monday, facing off against Switzerland (9:30 a.m. ET/6:30 a.m. PT).
“Tonight was a real character win. The team found a way to get the win in a very harsh environment. The game was filled with plenty of adversity, and the players did a nice job of staying the course.”
– Darren Rumble, head coach of Canada’s National Men’s Under-18 Team, on his players’ reaction to the loud crowd and late push by the host-team
“We had a lot of great effort from a lot of great guys tonight. Jaret [Anderson-Dolan] was a big part of it for us tonight – that big blocked shot [in the first] and showing a lot of leadership, and Stelio [Mattheos] getting a couple goals for us, especially that OT winner, was huge for us.”
– Ratcliffe on what powered Canada’s win over Slovakia