With the drama surrounding Mackenzie Blackwood, it was no surprise to see him in net the first chance that Team Canada got. And that was today's game against Switzerland.
Canada took an early penalty and the Swiss were up 1-0. During Canada's first power play, the Swiss played feisty and put pressure on them enough that they couldn't generate a lot of plays. With a long shot from the blue line, the puck pin balled around a few players and trickled in behind Blackwood to put the Swiss up by two goals. Before the end of the period, Dylan Strome would take a shot from the side of the net and bury it over the goaltenders shoulder to put Team Canada on the board. It was 2-1 going into the second period.
Team Switzerland was taking space away from Canada and Jake Virtanen had had enough, throwing a Swiss player to the ice and taking a penalty. No goals were earned during the Canadian penalty kill. With a push by Team Canada, Joe Hicketts tied the game heading into the third.
The last 20 minutes of regulation solved nothing even though Canada's offense was impressive, but Switzerland's defense matched them. The talk of the period was the antics of the Swiss coach on the bench who seemed to not like any calls being made and made it very clear while yelling at everything. The last five minutes of the game was all Team Canada but they couldn't solve Switzerland's goalie.
Onto overtime. This was when Brandon Hickey shone with more shots on net and taking space away from his opponent's in the defensive end. The Swiss couldn't take shots on net and the Canadians couldn't create any plays.
And then the shootout happened. Dylan Strome took first shot and couldn't bury it, but the Swiss couldn't get ahead when Blackwood stoned them in their first attempt as well. Braydon Point found the Swiss goalie's weakness, stick side, and Team Canada notched one. Switzerland couldn't match the goal and it was all up to Mathew Barzal who also capitalized on the Swiss goalie's stick side weakness and Canada won with a final score of 3-2.
With that win, Team Canada clinches a playoff spot with a 3-2 shootout win over Team Switzerland. Mackenzie Blackwood made 23 saves on 25 shots and Joe Hicketts was named player of the game for Team Canada. Team Switzerland's goalie, van Pottelberghe, was named player of the game for the Swiss. Team Switzerland came on strong and didn't let up all through 60 minutes of regulation as well as another 5 minutes of overtime. Brandon Hickey played his best game so far during this tournament. His skating is his best asset, but he also plays well in front of the opponent's net.
Team Sweden plays early tomorrow morning. Team Canada has earned a couple days off and will return to the ice Thursday against Sweden. It will be the battle of the prospects on December 31st and we'll have all the highlights for you here on M&G!