BRECLAV, Czechia – Canada’s National Men’s Summer Under-18 Team has successfully defended its gold medal at the 2023 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, downing co-host Czechia 3-2 in an overtime thriller at Fosfa Arena on Saturday.
Malcolm Spence (Mississauga, ON/Erie, OHL), was the overtime hero, stealing the puck off a Czech defender and scoring the golden goal in the dying seconds of overtime to earn Player of the Game honours. The win gives Canada its 24th gold medal and 28th overall medal in men’s summer under-18 play since 1991.
“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,” Spence said. “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.”
Cayden Lindstrom (Chetwynd, BC/Medicine Hat, WHL) kick-started the offence for Canada in the second period after falling behind just over eight minutes into the game, scoring off a lead pass from Porter Martone (Peterborough, ON/Mississauga, OHL) to even the score 57 seconds into the middle frame.
Captain Berkly Catton (Saskatoon, SK/Spokane, WHL), who scored in every game of the tournament, gave Canada the lead midway through the second period, jamming the puck past Czech goaltender Jakub Milota on the power play for his tournament-leading eighth goal and 10th point. Matej Kubiesa evened the score for Czechia with less than five minutes remaining in the third to send the game to 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,” Catton said. “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.”
Carter George (Thunder Bay, ON/Owen Sound, OHL) turned in an exceptional performance, making 31 saves to record his fourth win in as many starts.
A full game summary can be found at HlinkaGretzkyCup.ca.
“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 (Renfrew, ON/Sarnia, OHL). “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.
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