In a game highlighted by some of the game’s top young players from the past decade, Canada has taken gold at the Under-18 World Championship with a 5-3 win in an electric bout against Russia.
It was a battle that didn’t lack anything in the hype department. From getting to see 2023 draft phenoms Connor Bedard and Matvei Michkov face off for the first time to re-igniting the long-standing Canada/Russia rivalry, the game was everything you could have hoped for in a championship game.
The win was Canada’s first title at the U-18 World Championship since 2013 when Connor McDavid was the star player. Russia will be the bridesmaid for the second consecutive tournament, the team’s sixth silver in tournament history. The medal also puts them in sole possession of second place in the tournament all-time medal count with 12, passing Finland officially after the Finns fell to Sweden in the bronze medal game.
Michkov was buzzing in his first shifts and made Canada pay early in the game. Michkov was in the right spot at the right time after Danil Lazutin was roughed up by a defender, but not before he could get the puck into the high slot. Michkov entered the zone with a full head of steam and sent a quick wrist shot past Benjamin Gaudreau, opening the scoring for Russia.
Of course, Bedard couldn’t let his Russian rival take all the attention. After getting stopped on a penalty shot earlier in the period, Bedard got the puck at center ice, broke through the middle to beat three Russian defenders before roofing the shot over Sergei Ivanov, knotting the game up at one apiece.
Two minutes later, though, Russia moved back in front. Defenseman Alexander Figurin grabbed the puck in the air and passed it out to Michkov. Michkov saw Dmitri Buchelnikov rushing in and fed him for the pass, beating Gaudreau with a wrister to make it 2-1.
To keep the superstar theme, 2022 top prospect and Kingston Frontenacs star Shane Wright scored one of his own. With 45 seconds to go in the opener, Wright’s wrist shot whizzed past Ivanov to tie the game again to really hype the game up heading into the first break of the game.
The Russians had some good chances in the second period, but Canada was the only team rewarded for their hard work. At 24:42, Brennan Othmann scored a big goal when, at a tough angle, he released a shot over the blocker of the 5-foot-11 Ivanov to make it 3-2. Logan Stankoven then converted on a play started by Shane Wright and Brandt Clarke, releasing a snappy wrister over Ivanov’s usually quick glove hand to extend Canada’s lead to two heading into the final frame of play.
A penalty to Canada with just over half the third period to go allowed Russia to get back in it. There was a bit of chaos in the net, with the puck just getting cleared ahead of the goal line and out to the blueline. Vladimir Grudinin then sent the disk to Michkov, who sent it back when Grundinin committed to rushing in on the net. Grudinin beat Gaudreau glove side to bring Russia within one. Russia couldn’t snag another one, and Bedard would set Wright up for the empty netter with just 40.8 seconds left to go to seal the deal.
Sweden Shuts Out Finland for Bronze
Just 24 hours after losing 8-1 to Canada, Sweden answered back with a massive victory of their own, beating their rivals from Finland 8-0 to close out the tournament.
Isak Rosen was one of the key players for Sweden, leading the attack with two goals on the night. William Stromgren and Oliver Moberg also had two points each and 14 players total contributed to the team’s eight goals.
In net, Carl Lindbom stopped all 35 shots sent his way, while Finnish netminder Aku Koskenvuo was pulled after allowing four goals on the first 18 shots. Juuso Helomaa allowed three goals on 17 attempts.
Sweden secured a medal for the fourth time in the past five tournaments after previously winning the tournament back in 2019, the last time the tournament was held.