Canada blanks U.S. to win under-18 gold
8/12/2006 3:55:52 PM
BRECLAV, Czech Republic (CP) - Canada maintained its under-18 hockey dominance with a proven formula of strong defence, timely scoring and loads of hard work.
''It feels unbelievable, 22 men putting in an unbelievable effort,'' forward Tyler Ennis said after scoring to help Canada beat the United States 3-0 to claim the gold medal at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament Saturday. ''They didn't have a sniff and we just played awesome and it feels unreal.
''Good things happen when you stick to the system.''
Brett Sonne scored twice and Trevor Cann made 20 saves as Canada won gold for the 10th time in 11 years at the summer tournament for the world's best under-18 players.
The only setback in that span was in 2003, when the Americans beat Russia for gold and Canada finished out of the medals.
''It was unreal being able to wear the jersey and actually come through for your country,'' said Sonne. ''It was an awesome experience, I'm proud of it.''
Coach Cory Clouston of the Kootenay Ice did his best to take the pressure off his players by preaching the need to focus solely on the task at hand. The team held meetings before each game and talked only about what was immediately in front of them, nothing more.
''We didn't want to look too far ahead and we didn't want to think about things like Canada has won so many of these tournaments,'' said Clouston. ''That might have become a little bit overwhelming to the guys, we just wanted them to stick to their jobs and the guys did a great job of that.''
Sonne, the Calgary Hitmen sniper who had a goal in each of Canada's four games at the event, opened the scoring at 10:49 of the first period and made it 2-0 at 2:12 of the second.
The first goal was particularly important for the Canadians, who got off to a nervous start by playing anxious, individual hockey. Once they took the lead, they started to play their grinding game.
''It was a big monkey off the back, just being able to relax and play our defensive game to finish it,'' said Sonne. ''We shut them down pretty well. Every player should be proud of themselves.''
Ennis, of the Medicine Hat Tigers, capped the scoring with his goal at 10:38 of the third.
Jeremy Smith stopped 27 shots for the Americans.
Russia beat Sweden 4-2 in the bronze-medal game at Piestany, Slovakia.
Cann, of the Peterborough Petes, got the call in goal over Justin Leclerc of the Lethbridge Hurricanes and was solid, even though he was rarely tested.
''When he needed to be he was very good,'' said Clouston. ''He made a couple real big saves for us in the second period and that gave us momentum going into the third.''
Canada controlled the play throughout, outshooting the Americans 12-9 in the first, 10-5 in the second and 8-6 in the third.
Canada finished its round robin in Piestany with a 3-0 record, including a 5-3 win in the opener over Switzerland and 4-1 victories over Sweden and Slovakia.
The Americans, coached by former NHL forward and coach Ed Olczyk, won their pool with wins of 3-2 over Finland, 4-2 over Russia and 4-3 in overtime over the Czechs.
The tournament was formerly called the Junior World Cup, but the name was changed in honour of Hlinka, the former star player and later national coach for the Czech Republic who was killed in a 2004 car crash.
Another event, the IIHF world under-18 championships, is played in April but does not have top players involved in junior or university playoffs in North America.