PIESTANY, Slovakia – Canada survived its first goal-scoring drought of the tournament to claim gold at the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka on Saturday, winning the elite under-18 event for the third summer in a row.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored 1:42 into the first period to give the Canadians the only goal they needed in a 1-0 win over the U.S.
“To go 59 minutes thereafter with no more goals was somewhat unexpected,” Team Canada coach George Burnett said. “There were a lot of ups and downs through the first 40 minutes, but I thought our team really settled down, and we may have only given up only one quality scoring chance in the third period.”
Tyson Teichmann made 22 saves for the shutout. It was Canada's first title game shutout win in four years, since Trevor Cann blanked the U.S., and sixth gold in seven years at the event.
“A great effort, a great feeling,” Burnett said. “When you put the time in that these guys have to prepare and go through this whole thing, and to come out on top, it's a pretty special feeling.”
The Canadians did not lose a game this year, rolling through the preliminary round with big wins over Sweden (6-3), Switzerland (7-3) and Slovakia (6-1).
Canada romped to a 6-2 win over the Czech Republic in the semifinal, while the U.S. beat Sweden 5-4 in overtime.
“I think the guys understood that, ‘hey, we're in a real tough battle,’” Burnett said. “They were unsure what to expect from the U.S. team, who played real gritty hockey throughout … a high-pressure, high-intensity team.”
It was the seventh time the U.S. has finished second at the tournament.
“Our guys gave it everything they had today,” U.S. coach Tim Army said in a release Saturday. “We couldn't have asked for anything more from these players, who really came together in a short period of time and played well against tough international competition all week.”
Burnett's team was comprised of 13 players from the OHL and four each from the WHL and the QMJHL. Forward Lucas Lessio was the lone representative of the Central Canadian Hockey League.
Players and coaches are set to return home on Sunday, after a 4 a.m. wake-up call at their hotel.
“It's tough to get the best out of kids in late July and August,” Burnett said. “They've got their seasons ahead of them, and I think to start off on this note, it should be great for all of their seasons.”
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)