Sam Reinhart (2014, first round) notched one assist Sunday as Canada advanced to the gold medal game of the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship with a 5-1 victory over Slovakia. The win ends Canada’s two-year medal drought, setting the stage for a Monday night battle with Russia for the tournament’s top prize (8 p.m., NHL Network/TSN).
Canada’s top line of Reinhart, Max Domi (ARI) and Anthony Duclair (NYR) continued to dominate with their up-tempo pace, effective zone entries and savvy passing, but the chemistry failed to lead to goals through 40 minutes. Just 15 seconds after the opening draw, Reinhart sent a pass to the edge of the crease that just missed Domi’s stick. Domi would return the favor on their next shifts, finding Reinhart with two quality feeds in the low slot, but the red-hot centerman was unable to convert as Canada took a 3-1 advantage into the second intermission.
The trio finally clicked at 2:47 of the final frame when Reinhart swung a neutral zone pass to Duclair, who broke in down the right wing, cut to the middle and followed up his rush with a bank shot off Slovakian goaltender Denis Godla to up Canada’s lead to 4-1.
Minutes later while on a two-man advantage, Reinhart had his best chance of the night taken away when Godla got over in time to block his wide open one-timer of a Duclair cross-ice feed.
Reinhart has gotten on the scoresheet in all six of Canada’s games en route to collecting 10 points (4+6), tied with 2015 draft prospect Connor McDavid for second-most in the tournament. In addition to the offense, Reinhart has also brought extra value with his defensive positioning and smart work on the penalty kill.
Godla was sensational with 39 saves in the Slovakian net, but the night belonged to Canada’s Nic Petan (WPG), who potted a hat trick to overtake Reinhart for the team scoring lead and pave the way into the gold medal game. Shea Theodore (ANA) added the other Canadian goal, while McDavid picked up three assists to give him six points in his last two games.
In the day’s first semifinal, Victor Olofsson (2014, seventh round) was unable to produce a point as Sweden’s gold medal hopes came to an end with a 4-1 loss to Russia.
Olofsson saw just five shifts through the first 40 minutes, but he played a greater role in the final frame with his number called seven times as the Swedes looked to get more pucks to the net. He finished the night with one shot on goal, with his most notable play coming in the defensive zone on his first shift of the second period when he knocked a Russian forward off the puck in front of his own net to nullify a prime opportunity.
Through six tournament contests, Olofsson has registered one assist, six shots on goal and a plus-one rating.
Sweden will now face Slovakia in the bronze medal game on Monday (4 p.m., NHL Network/TSN).
For more on all the youngsters in the Sabres pipeline, check out Kris Baker’s web site - sabresprospects.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @sabresprospects for in-game updates throughout the week on any Buffalo prospects that are in action.