We’re almost at the end of the round robin format of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey and now we’re waiting to see who the last teams the qualify for the semi-finals are.
Canada clinched Group A last night while Team North America kept their hopes alive with a big win against the Swedes who are now already through to the semis.
It’s now a race between North America and Russia to see who goes up through and who goes home.
Last night there were two more games and first on the bill was North America against Sweden.
The kids got off to a fierce start, pressing early and it didn’t take long for them to break the tie. Just 30 seconds had passed when the first goal was on the board. It all started when Auston Matthews made a slick play from his knees to keep the puck, playing the puck across the ice for a shot by Morgan Rielly before slotting in the rebound to give North America the lead on a play that will surely excite Toronto Maple Leaf fans.
Twenty-four seconds later they had another chance as Johnny Gaudreau had a penalty shot after being held from behind by Erik Karlsson, but he wasn’t able to beat Henrik Lundqvist as his shot sailed high and wide.
Not deterred by the miss, the kids continued pressing to extend their early lead. With the puck on the boards they worked hard to force the turnover in the offensive zone which set up Shayne Gostisbehere with a chance, his shot was stopped but then Vince Trocheck was on hand to bury the rebound to give North America a 2 – 0 lead with a little over 90 seconds played.
Sweden started to find their rhythm has the period went on, Seth Jones fell by the boards which gave Sweden the puck, Filip Forsberg of the Nashville Predators took the puck across the slot and to the right circle, firing across the body of John Gibson and into the back of the net to make it a 2 – 1 game.
With six minutes’ left in the period, Johnny Gaudreau had another breakaway but this time he wasn’t upheld and went in alone on Lundqvist with speed, pulling a few moves before eventually forcing the Rangers goalie to go on way so he could easily slot the puck the other side making it 3 – 1.
Before the period was out, Nicklas Backstrom fired a shot that ricocheted off Morgan Rielly and past Gibson to make it a one goal game at the end of the first period.
Both goalies stopped everything thrown their way in the second frame, setting up a frantic third period with Sweden desperately searching for that goal that would tie the game and eventually force overtime.
With 13 minutes to go the Swedes found that goal, Erik Karlsson fired a hard slapshot from the point which was deflected by Patrik Berglund to tie the game and force overtime.
A high energy three on three period came after the final buzzer and the kids went close early, Mark Scheifele played a puck through traffic to Connor McDavid but he was denied at the back door by the oustretched leg of Henrik Lundqvist.
Sweden then had an opportunity of their own, Daniel Sedin was alone at the blueline when he was hit by a near full length pass, going in all alone against Gibson but he responded with a superb save of his own to keep the clock winding down.
Then with only seconds left, Gaudreau did brilliantly to keep the puck in the zone, finding a wide open Nathan MacKinnon who was in close to Lundqvist, then he showed off his elite stick handling to undress the goalie, the fans in attendance and anyone watching at home before roofing a backhand shot to give the kids a 4 – 3 overtime victory and keep their hopes at advancing alive.
In the late game, hosts Canada went out against Europe to see who would top Group A with both sides already advanced to the semi-finals.
Europe’s Tobias Reider had the best chance of the early part of the game, using his speed to beat Brent Burns and go in alone on Corey Crawford but Bruns did well to recover and deter the young German from getting his shot away and forcing the puck wide.
Minutes later and Canada went to work on the other end of the ice, Jay Bouwmeester’s shot was deflected and went behind the net, only to be picked up by who else but Sidney Crosby who wrapped the puck around, tucking it around the post just before the skate of Jaroslav Halak could get there to give the hosts an early 1 – 0 lead.
Halak was the busier of the two goalies in the game, stopped 15 of 17 shots in the opening frame, and it wasn’t until the final minute of the period that he surrendered another.
A poor turnover by Europe and Jonathan Toews alone in front of net, Matt Duchene picked the puck up on the boards, firing it towards Toews who tipped it past Halak who had only just got back into his net to make it 2 – 0 at the end of 20 minutes.
Europe managed to get one back in the early stages of the second period, Anze Kopitar played the puck wide to Marian Hossa who tried feeding the puck to the front of the net but banked it off his Chicago Blackhawks teammate Crawford and into the net to make it a one goal game.
Canada got a bit of luck later in the period, Roman Josi wound up for a slapshot only to break his stick, sending the puck favourably to Logan Couture who played the puck up to Toews leading to a 2 on 1 against a defenseman without a stick. Josi tried his best to block the passing lane with his body, but couldn’t do anything to stop Toews from shooting high on Halak and into the top corner, re-opening the two goal cushion.
Despite giving up three goals, Halak was playing stellar, stopping 42 of 46 shots on the night, but one of the last ones he faced managed to beat him as Couture buried a rebound on the powerplay, making it a 4 – 1 victory for the hosts and sealing their grip on Group A as champions.
With only one day left of round robin play, Canada wait to see who they will face out of North America or Russia on Saturday night.
All Russia need to do is beat Finland tonight to knock out the kids and take second place in Group B, while Europe will face Group B winners Sweden on Sunday night.