Spencer Watson and Brayden Point scored in a shootout as Canada's Under-18 Select Team beat Switzerland 4-3 Wednesday on the final day of preliminary-round competition at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in Breclav, Czech Republic.
The victory assures the five-time defending champions a spot in the semifinal round on Friday. The Canadians are tied with Switzerland in the Group A pool with five points, but hold the tiebreaker following Wednesday's win. The Swiss could still advance to the semifinals if the Czech Republic defeats Sweden in any manner in the other Group A matchup scheduled Wednesday.
Canada opened the tournament with a 4-0 win against the Czech Republic on Monday, but lost 4-3 to Sweden on Tuesday. The Swiss beat Sweden 3-2 before blowing a three-goal lead and losing 4-3 in a shootout to the Czech Republic on Tuesday.
Canada dominated the five-minute overtime prior to the shootout, but Swiss goalie Kevin Fehr was equal to the task. In the shootout, Canadian goaltender Julio Billia stopped the first Swiss shooter before Watson connected to give Canada the edge. After Billia denied the second shooter, Point made good on his attempt to end the game.
Switzerland captain Simon Kindschi had pulled his team into a 3-3 tie when his blast from the point eluded Billia with 5:32 remaining in regulation. Canada had taken a 3-2 lead when defenceman Aaron Ekblad's screened shot found the back of the net at 17:48 of the second period.
The countries exchanged goals late in the first period. Kindschi beat Billia on the short side from the left hash on a rising wrist shot with 2:43 left before Point evened the score by firing home his own rebound 83 seconds later.
Canada took its first lead 7:46 into the second period when Sam Bennett knocked home a rebound for a 2-1 edge. The Swiss pulled even 2:43 later when Kevin Fiala backhanded a shot over Billia for an unassisted goal.
In other action on Wednesday:
Russia 7, Finland 3: Russia blew a three-goal lead but got a pair of goals from Maxim Lazarev and one each from Artur Boltanov and Yevgeni Nazarkin during a four-goal third period in Group B preliminary-round action in Piestsany, Slovakia.
Lazarev, who was named Russia's most valuable player for the game, closed out the scoring by hitting the empty net with 2:28 remaining in regulation.
The victory assured the Russians (six points) a medal-round berth on Friday. Finland, which had rallied from a 3-0 deficit with three goals in the second period, has five points and must await the outcome of the match between the United States and Slovakia later Wednesday. The U.S. will advance with a victory of any kind.
"The guys wanted to play to win," Russian coach Pavel Baulin told the tournament website. "They really focused on winning the game. In the second period, we maybe thought that the game was finished, but we came back in the third period and won."
In an interesting move prior to the game, forward Ivan Nikolishin was stripped of the captaincy and the coach instead handed the "C" to defenceman Eduard Nasybullin. The Russians were coming off a 4-2 loss to the United States on Tuesday.
Russia took a 3-0 lead in the first period on goals by Ilya Dervuk, Kirill Pilipenko and Maxim Ryzkov. The Finns rallied to tie the game on goals by Markus Haapanen, Juho Lammikko and Sami Niku in the opening 15:13 of the second period.
"After two periods, we knew in the locker room that we had to win," Nikolishin said.
Russian goalie Maxim Sidorov, making his first start of the tournament, finished with 15 saves, including all seven shots he faced in the third. Finnish goalie Kaapo Kahkonen, who entered the game with a 1.00 goals-against average and .930 save percentage in two victories (one in regulation, the other in overtime), allowed five goals before being relieved by backup Joona Voutilainen midway through the third period.