Unfortunately, the 2020 Hlinka Gretzky Cup did not take place in Alberta, Canada due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The last time the tournament took place was two years ago in its traditional host cities of Břeclav and Piešťany.
Canada dominates Břeclav group
Having won 10 of the previous 11 tournaments, the Canadians were expected to dominate and did, winning all three group-stage games by a combined score of 21-1, led by the scoring duo of Cole Perfetti and Hendrix Lapierre. The only team that managed to score a goal against them was the host Czechs, in the third period of the third game. After losing their opener against Canada, the Finns reeled off two straight wins and finished second in the group with six points and also qualify for the semi-finals.
On the opening day of the tournament, the Czech Republic edged Switzerland 4-3 in a shootout, which turned out to be the only points either team would record in the group stage. The Czechs finished third in the group and advanced to the fifth-placed game and the Swiss finished fourth and played for seventh.
Russia finishes on top in Piešťany
Russia was almost as dominant in Piešťany as Canada was in Břeclav, taking eight of a possible nine points. After easily outlasting the USA and Sweden, the Russians found an unexpected challenger in Slovakia, who took them to overtime. After being relegated from the top group of the U18 World Championships, the Slovaks fought bravely in all three games but failed to win.
Second place in the group went to Sweden, who needed a third-period comeback and a shootout victory to eclipse the USA on the last day of the group stage. The Swedes finished with five points while the Americans were third with three.
Czechs finish 5th again
For the fifth time in six years, Slovakia and Switzerland faced off in the game for seventh place. In a high-scoring affair, the Slovaks struck three times in the second period and prevailed 7-5.
The game for fifth place between the Czech Republic and USA was a balanced affair and needed extra time to decide it. The overtime hero was Pavel Novák, who scored in the 67 th minute to give the Czechs a 4-3 victory and fifth place for the second year in a row.
Tight semi-final games
In one semi-final, Russia and Finland faced off in Piešťany. The game remained tied into the last half of the third period before the Russians broke it open with two goals in 59 seconds. The final score was 4-1 after an empty-netter by Alexander Pashin, who scored his third goal of the night.
The other semi-final between Canada and Sweden was played concurrently in Břeclav, and it was also a close one. Tied 2-2 after 70 minutes of hockey, it was decided in a penalty shootout, where the hero was Perfetti. After already scoring both of Canada’s goals in the second period, Perfetti scored three more times in the shootout to lift Canada to victory.
Russians return to the top
Sweden dominated the Nordic derby for the third place by a score of 5-1, giving them a medal for the third year in a row. By contrast, Finland’s medal draught extends to seven years with the loss.
Meanwhile, the final between Russia and Canada attracted much more attention and was a classic. Despite outshooting their opponents 37-13, the Canadians could only beat Jaroslav Askarov twice and lost 3-2. On offence, Pashin continued his heroics with two more goals, including the tournament winner, to finish with seven overall.
Perfetti sets new record
Cole Perfetti was the leading scorer of the 2019 Hlinka Gretzka Cup. With 12 points in five games, he set a new tournament record. A year later, the Ontario native was chosen by the WinnipegJets 10 th overall in the NHL Entry Draft.
Summer tournament anniversary
The Hlinka Gretzky Cup will take place for the 30th time this year. Historically, the most successful country has Canada, which has won the tournament 22 times. However, Canada will not participate this year due to consequences of the pandemic.