Spence wins it in OT as Canada beats Czechia to win Hlinka Gretzky Cup
BŘECLAV, Czechia — Forward Malcolm Spence scored with seven seconds left in the first overtime period as Canada edged Czechia 3-2 to capture gold at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup at Fosfa Arena on Saturday.
Spence stripped the puck off Czechia's Ondrej Kos near centre ice in the extra frame before skating in on a breakaway and beating goaltender Jakub Milota.
It's Canada's 24th title at the men's summer under-18 hockey tournament after also winning last year in Red Deer, Alta.
“I knew it was late in overtime and I knew (the Czechs) were tired because they were keeping a fast pace in overtime. I knew the (Czech defender) was on for quite a bit of time and that I could pick his pocket if I moved my feet, so that is what I did," said Spence.
“This is the best moment of my life and nothing will ever beat this. I cannot thank everyone who was involved with this team enough. I am just so happy.”
Czechia's Adam Titlbach opened the scoring at 8:09 of the first period. The Canadians then responded with two goals in the second period to take the lead.
Kaden Lindstrom finished off a perfect pass from Porter Martone off the rush just under a minute into the frame. Captain Berkly Catton, who scored in every game of the tournament, then scored a power-play goal off a scramble in front of the net at 9:17.
Canada held that lead with five minutes left in the third period before Czechia's Matej Kubiesa scored on the power play to tie the game and force a three-on-three overtime.
“(The gold medal game) was an unbelievable experience, and the crowd was unbelievable. Every period was a challenge for us, but we came out and we got the victory. I am so proud of each and every one of our guys,” Cattonsaid.
“It is awesome that we ended up with the gold, but none of this would have been possible without my teammates. The whole tournament was such a great experience.”
Canadian netminder Carter Georgeturned in an exceptional performance, making 31 saves to record his fourth-consecutive win.
“I think our guys handled adversity very well. We spoke for a few minutes before the game about expectations, and we knew what kind of crowd it was going to be. It was great for our kids to go out and experience that, and they stepped up when they needed to,” said head coach Alan Letang.
“I am proud of everyone. Our kids got better every day and that was our goal as the tournament went on. It has been a fun ride, but I am looking forward to a little bit of rest now.”
Canada finished the preliminary round in first place in Group B after a loss to Finland (9-6) and wins over Slovakia (14-4) and Switzerland (5-0). It earned its spot in the gold-medal game with a 7-2 win over the United States in the semifinals.
Since 1991, Canada has collected 24 gold medals at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, to go along with three silver and one bronze.
Earlier Saturday, the United States grabbed the bronze with a 5-2 win over Finland.