MAGNITOGORSK, Russia – Alexis Lafrenière (Saint-Eustache, Que./Rimouski, QMJHL) netted the game-winner 2:27 into overtime to lead Canada’s National Men’s Under-18 Team to a thrilling 3-2 victory over Sweden on Tuesday at the IIHF U18 World Championship.
The win finishes an unbeaten preliminary round for the Canadians, clinches first place in Group A and sets up a quarter-final date with the Czech Republic on Thursday (10:30 a.m. ET/7:30 a.m. PT).
Parked in front of the net with Canada on the power play in the extra period, Lafrenière took a pass from Ryan Merkley (Mississauga, Ont./Guelph OHL) and swept in the winner on the 40th Canadian shot of the game.
Lafrenière finished with a goal and an assist, Merkley had two helpers, while Raphaël Lavoie (Chambly, Que./Halifax, QMJHL) and Chase Wouters (Lloydminster, Alta./Saskatoon, WHL) had the other goals for Canada.
Sweden struck first when Adam Boqvist beat Canadian goaltender Olivier Rodrigue (Chicoutimi, Que./Drummondville, QMJHL) just past the midway mark the opening frame.
Canada had its chances in the period, but was unable to solve Swedish netminder Olof Lindbom, and went into the first intermission trailing 1-0.
Lavoie got Canada on the board in the second, finishing off a pretty passing play between Jared McIsaac (Truro, N.S./Halifax, QMJHL) and Ty Dellandrea (Port Perry, Ont./Flint, OHL) to tie the game.
The Canadians continued to pressure throughout the middle stanza, but were unable to break the deadlock.
Canada took its first lead of the game eight minutes into the third period. Merkley found Wouters on an odd-man rush and he tipped it home for the 2-1 lead. Sweden tied the game with less than two minutes left thanks to a power-play goal by Boqvist.
“The team is growing and we’re getting better each game. We’re competing hard. We took advantage of a powerplay opportunity at a crucial time of the game.”
Canada’s head coach, Don Hay, on the team’s performance through the preliminary round and the difference-maker in Tuesday’s win over Sweden
“It was a really nice pass by [Ryan Merkley]. I was alone with the goalie – I made a little move and shot. He made the save and I took my rebound and scored. It was special. When I saw the puck go in, I was really happy we have [a] perfect start to the tournament. It was really nice.”
Alexis Lafrenière on his game-winning goal