International Ice Hockey Federation

Canada wins thriller in OT

Canada wins thriller in OT

Mattheos scores the decisive goal

Published 15.04.2017 23:07 GMT+2 | Author Andrew Podnieks
Canada wins thriller in OT
POPRAD, SLOVAKIA - APRIL 15: Canada celebrates after Stylianos Mattheos #12 scores the overtime game winning goal against Slovakia to win by a score of 4-3 during preliminary round action at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. (Photo by Andrea Cardin/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Stylianos Mattheos snapped a hard wrist shot over the shoulder of Jakub Kostelny at 2:38 of overtime to give Canada a 4-3 win over Slovakia.

"I came off the bench and saw McIsaac had the puck," Mattheos recounted. "I called for it and thought I saw a lane for the shot, so I took it, and it went in."

Canada had struck for three late goals in the first period to erase a 1-0 deficit, but Slovakia scored two goals--late in the second and early in the third--to send the game to overtime. 

The hosts were spurred on by a sellout crowd of 4,318 that was supportive all night long.

"It's kind of hard to focus sometimes when they're against you," Isaac Ratcliffe said, "but it also makes for an awesome atmosphere."

"We have a lot of character," enthused defenceman Marek Korencik. "We lost by one goal to Finland and one goal to Canada. We have a good team, and our fans are amazing. We lost because we played badly for 90 seconds. That's it. I'm proud of this team. We were better than Canada, maybe. And Canada is something."

The win moves Canada to 2-0 while the Slovaks have a single point with two losses (regulation and OT).

This was not an easy win, and Slovakia certainly deserves all the credit in the world for playing their collective hearts out.

For Canada, undisciplined play was the number-one feature of the game. Canada drew nine minors as well as a misconduct to Maxime Comtois in the first for shooting the puck between goalie Juraj Sklenar's pads long after a whistle.

To the plus side, Canada's entire team blocked countless shots in front of Ian Scott. 

In the end, though, Slovakia might well have been the better team this night, save for a two-minute lapse at the end of the first.

"They were a very strong team, and I don't think we were expecting that," Ratcliffe said. "We came out a little slow, but we got three quick goals, which was great."

Canada had won all nine previous meetings at the U18 level, and the Slovaks had never scored more than two goals in a game. All that changed tonight as Slovakia earned its first ever point from Canada.

"We can play better," Mattheos said. "We got better as the game went on, but we took way too many penalties. It's a bit of discipline, but the standards are also a little tighter, so we have to get used to that."

The Slovaks whipped the crowd into a frenzy by scoring at 8:37 on a power play. Adam Ruzicka’s bad-angle shot was awkwardly stopped by Scott, but the puck rolled in behind him and Milos Roman was there to knock it over the goal line.

Canada didn’t tie the score until a late flurry stunned the crowd into silence. It started at 18:18 when Mackenzie Entwistle skated down the left side and tried to pass in front. Sklenar got a stick on the puck, but it bounced in front anyway to Kyle Olson who snapped it in.

Just 18 seconds later, Canada took the lead. Mattheos drove down the left wing and cut sharply in front untouched. He made a little deke on Sklenar and stuffed the puck in the far side.

Then, with just eleven seconds remaining, Ratliffe collected a loose puck in centre ice after a block inside the Canadian blue line. He wired a hard shot over Sklenar’s glove from the top of the circle.

"It was a great block by Jaret [Anderson-Dolan]," Ratcliffe recalled. "It was a character play, and I couldn't have scored without that block. I was able to grab the puck in the neutral zone and get a shot off. Luckily enough, it went in."

The Slovaks got the only goal of the second, and deservedly so. They outskated Canada and drew several penalties and were rewarded at 16:34 on a great play from Roman. Driving down the left wing, he spotted Patrik Hrehorcak to the back side and fed him a hard pass. 

Hrehorcak wired a sleek one-timer past Scott to revive the crowd and make the third period all the more interesting. 

"We just wanted to keep going after the first," Korencik said. "We had 40 minutes left to play, so let's play!"

It didn't take long for the game to take another turn. Adam Liska found a loose puck in the slot and snapped a shot off the far post past Scott at 2:38 to tie the game. The goal came short-handed and proved to be the goal that sent the game to a 3-on-3 overtime.

"We got a little too comfortable when we got the 3-1 lead," Mattheos admitted. "But in the end we were on the penalty kill too long. It was good to get the win."


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