Team Canada, who boasts Mason McDonald and Brandon Hickey, took on Team Sweden, who had Adam Ollas-Mattsson on the blue line. All three are Calgary Flames prospects, but only two actually played today. In place of Mason McDonald in net, Mackenzie Blackwood got the start.
It was a chippy game of hockey to start the first period, both teams putting on some pressure and shoving the opposition around while on the defensive. Canada took the first penalty and Sweden opened the scoring 17 seconds into the power play. Not long afterwards, another Canadian penalty led to a 2-0 Team Sweden lead. Jake Virtanen seemed to let the pressure get to him as he seemed undisciplined which hindered the Canadian team. In spite of getting on the board, Team Canada played a desperate first period. The score was 2-1 heading into the second.
Mackenzie Blackwood made some key saves at optimum times throughout the second period to keep the Canadians close on the scoreboard, but it wasn't enough. With another power play, Sweden scored again to widen the gap to 3-1. The score was 3-1 going into the final 20 minutes of regulation.
Travis Konecny was the star of the game against Team Sweden. He was gritty, fast, and didn't back down from any confrontation in this battle against Sweden. He played hard and proved that he wasn't intimidated by the Swedish players. Even though Blackwood and Konecny played to their highest potential, it wasn't enough to solved Team Sweden as Canada was out-worked in every period of play. After the Swedes won a board battle and dumped the puck out front of the Canadian net, an unnoticed Swedish player in front of Blackwood picked up the rebound to make it 4-1 for the opposition. With a mistake by Sweden, Canada went on the power play and got one back to make the score 4-2. There was barely 4 minutes left on the clock and Team Sweden made a confusing goalie change and he was put to the test as Team Canada started to put on the pressure that should have been there for a full 60 minutes. Team Sweden buried an empty net goal and the final score was 5-3 for the Swedish team.
Adam Ollas-Mattsson had a hand in a few chances on the Team Canada net. But I noticed that he doesn't seem to have the confidence that I once assumed. Instead of taking shots on net, Ollas-Mattsson prefered to pass to a teammate. Brandon Hickey, on the other hand, seems to be a powerful defender with confidence to hit almost anyone into the boards to save his team from potential chances on goal. He's also a very smart player, paying attention to playing the puck vs. playing his man. In most cases, Hickey makes the right decision. All of the Flames prospects seem to be doing well considering they're all still very young. This tournament has been quite a spectacle, putting the Flames prospects in the spotight and highlighting both their strengths and weaknesses.
After a day off for New Years, Team Sweden takes on Slovakia on Saturday and Team Canada plays Finland in the quarterfinal.