It´s not like these teams will need any extra motivation with medals on the line, but two classic hockey rivalries will decide Saturday´s two medal games at the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup. Starting at 17:00 CET, Nordic rivals Sweden and Finland will clash for the bronze medal in Piešťany, while in Břeclav is perhaps international hockey´s most historic matchup, Canada versus Russia.
Canada vs Russia (17:00 CET, 11:00am ET, Břeclav)
From the start of this year’s Hlinka Gretzky Cup, it’s seemed like Canada and Russia, the two dominant teams in their respective groups, were on a collision course for the final. Both have won all four games they’ve played, with each team being taken to extra time once – Russia in the group stage by Slovakia and Canada by Sweden in last night’s memorable semi-final shootout.
In last night’s semi-final victories, each team was led by an offensive star. Alexander Pashin scored three goals to help Russia defeat Finland 4-1 and, of course, there was Cole Perfetti for Canada, accounting for all the teams goals by scoring on two second-period breakaways and scoring thrice more in the shootout.
“I think our strongest side is that we are always playing as a team,” said Pashin, whose five goals in the tournament are second only to Perfetti. “This is the most important thing. If you play as a team, listen to your coach and the things he says about your game, you can win. You can’t give up, that’s the only way to win.”
On facing Canada in the final, Pashin added: “We just have to step onto the ice and play our game, then everything will be going well for us. I can’t say if is Canada any different in some way than every other team that we’ve played up till now.”
“It’s gonna be a good game against Russia,” said Perfetti, whose eight goals have tied a tournament record and 12 points have broken the one set last year by Russian Vasili Podkolzin. “We’re gonna make some offensive changes and try to get more pucks to the net, more bodies in front, more screens. We did a pretty good job today but we can do a lot better and I think that’ll help us win.”
“I know they’re a really good team and they’ve got another good goaltender that we’re going to have to deal with,” said Canadian head coach Michael Dyck, referring to Russian goalie Yaroslav Askarov. “They’ve also got a lot of talent in front of him, so we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Askarov is expected to get his fourth start in goal for Russia. At the opposite end of the rink, Dylan Garand will get the call for Canada. Tristan Lennox, who played three of Canada´s four games to this point, was injured in the shootout against Sweden.
“There aren’t any weak teams in the tournament,” is all Russian head coach Sergei Golubovich would offer about Canada.
“The Canada-Russia rivalry runs deep, there’s a lot of history that goes with it, so we’re looking forward to being a part of history,” said Dyck.
Game for 3rd place
Finland vs Sweden (17:00 CET, 11:00am ET, Piešťany)
Getting up for a third-place game is always tough after losing in the semi-finals, especially when the loss was in as heartbreaking a fashion as Sweden’s shootout defeat to Canada.
“I just feel sorry for Jesper (Wallstedt) in net because he played a great game and, from my point of view, he deserved to win,” said Swedish head coach Magnus Hävelid. “I told my players, ‘It’s okay to feel bad now, but get some food and water because we have to recover.’ We want to win the bronze medal.”
Expect Wallstedt to get the start again for Sweden against Joel Blomqvist, who has played every minute of every game in net so far for Finland.
Surely, both teams want to win the bronze medal and they especially don’t want to concede a medal to the opposite team, with as bitter a rivalry as exists between the two Nordic hockey powers.
“It’s always a good one,” Hävelid said about Sweden against Finland. “We don’t need extra motivation. It will be a good challenge.”