Dylan Cozens (Whitehorse, Y.T./Lethbridge, WHL) tied the game with a buzzer-beater and Josh Williams (Langley, B.C./Medicine Hat, WHL) won it early in overtime, putting Canada in the gold medal game at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup with a wild 6-5 win over the United States in semifinal action Friday night.
With the crowd still roaring from the emotion of the Cozens goal, Williams took a drop pass from Peyton Krebs (Okotoks, Alta./Kootenay, WHL) and fired a wrist shot past the glove of U.S. goaltender Dustin Wolf, keeping hopes alive for a 22nd summer under-18 gold medal.
The Canadians will face Sweden in the gold medal game Saturday night (7 p.m. MT).
Cozens got the game to an extra period, gathering in a feed from Bowen Byram (Cranbrook, B.C./Vancouver, WHL) and snapping a quick shot past Wolf to tie the game just as the horn sounded.
The wild finish was fitting for a back-and-forth thriller between the North American rivals; the U.S. held leads of 1-0, 2-1, 3-2 and 5-4 before the Canadians came back, and the Americans erased a 4-3 deficit in the third period before the Cozens goal.
Nicholas Robertson opened the scoring with his first of three goals, wiring a shot under the cross-bar for a power-play marker just 3:20 in. The shot was in and out off the back bar so quickly, play continued for more than two minutes before the referees confirmed the goal.
That started a run of four goals in less than five minutes – Alexis Lafrenière (St-Eustache, Que./Rimouski, QMJHL) tied the game at 4:39 and Aaron Huglen restored the American advantage with a beautiful lacrosse-style goal at 5:48 before Jamieson Rees (Hamilton, Ont./Sarnia, OHL) stuffed in a bouncing puck at 8:10 to even things up again.
“Great rush by Krebsy [Peyton Krebs] there, he made a great drop-pass, and I was lucky enough to get my spot and it went in. That was probably the biggest [goal] of my life, and it felt real good. Now we just have to focus on tomorrow.”
Josh Williams on his overtime, game-winning goal
“We’ll celebrate for a bit, but we’ve got to reset now and get ready for tomorrow. It’s a huge game. The Swedes are a good team, so we’ve just got to focus on that.”
Dylan Cozens on how the team will get ready to go for Saturday’s game against Sweden after the emotion of an overtime win in the semifinal
“Our guys kept their composure. I felt that in the last two minutes [of the game], I was a little bit worried [that they] would try to force, losing their composure, but I liked the way the guys responded. They had a lot of poise to pass in the slot at the end, and made a great shot, so it was good to see that.”
Canada’s head coach André Tourigny on what he liked about the team’s performance in the semifinal game against the United States
Robertson got his second of the period with less than six minutes left, sneaking a backhand through Canadian netminder Nolan Maier (Yorkton, Sask./Saskatoon, WHL) right off a scrambled face-off.
The lone goal of the second period came from Xavier Parent (Blainville, Que./Halifax, QMJHL), who one-timed a feed from Lafrenière for a power-play marker to send the game to the intermission tied 3-3.
Williams gave Canada its first lead early in the third period, whipping a shot over the shoulder of Wolf, but Robertson finished his hat trick at 11:58 to tie the game before Josh Groll jumped on a turnover behind the Canadian net and set up Luke Toporowski to put the U.S. back in front.
That led to the wild finish, with Williams sending the pro-Canadian crowd at Rogers Place home happy.
The Americans will have a short turnaround ahead of the bronze medal game against Russia on Saturday afternoon (3 p.m. MT).