Canada clinches first in Group A at Hlinka Gretzky Cup

Photo Courtesy of Hockey Canada Canada’s Cole Perfetti and Switzerland’s Kevin Lindemann chase after the puck during Tuesday’s round-robin game between the two teams at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

Canada will play for a medal at the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

The defending champions assured themselves of the top spot in Group A on Tuesday as a result of an 8-0 romp over Switzerland and a 5-1 win for Finland over the Czech Republic.

Although Finland can finish in a tie on points if they beat the Swiss in regulation and the Czechs can upset Canada in regulation in Wednesday’s round-robin finales in Breclav, Czech Republic, Canada would have the tiebreaker advantage thanks to their 6-0 win over Finland on Monday.

Tuesday’s contest against Switzerland was another one-sided affair as Canada outshot their opponents by a 48-8 margin and has now scored 14 goals in two games.

“Our lines are really starting to click and we’re starting to develop more chemistry shift by shift,” Edmonton Oil Kings forward Jake Neighbours said to TSN’s Gord Miller after the contest.

“We have high expectations of ourselves going into an event like this, but this has definitely been a strong start. We’ve all bought into the process of what it takes to win a gold medal and everyone has been doing the right things so far.”

Linemates Cole Perfetti (Saginaw Spirit) and Hendrix Lapierre (Chicoutimi Sagueneens) led the way for Canada as the pair are now tied for the tournament lead in scoring with six points.

Perfetti had a pair of goals and assists in the victory, while Lapierre scored twice and dished out a helper.

Justin Sourdif (Vancouver Giants) and Jeremie Poirier (Saint John Sea Dogs) had a goal and an assist each for the Canadians, who also got offensive contributions from Ryan O’Rourke (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds) and Will Cuylle (Windsor Spitfires),

Prince Albert Raiders teammates Kaiden Guhle and Ozzy Wiesblatt were once again in the lineup but did not record a point.

A day after Tristan Lennox (Saginaw Spirit) blanked the Finns, Dylan Garand (Kamloops Blazers) stopped every shot he faced to help Canada earn their first ever back-to-back shutouts in their opening two games at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

Noah Patenaude made 40 saves in the loss, with his best stop coming in the final seconds as he made a sprawling glove save on Portland Winterhawks forward Seth Jarvis.

Canada’s last round-robin game against the Czech Republic will get underway at 11 a.m. Wednesday and will air nationally on TSN.

Meanwhile, Russia clinched first place in Group B with a 3-0 win over Sweden in Piestany, Slovakia on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the United States kept their playoff hopes alive with a dramatic 4-3 overtime win over Slovakia.

The Americans will take on the Swedes on Wednesday to see who will finish second in Group B and earn the chance to play Canada in Friday’s semifinal.

Russia will conclude their round-robin slate against Slovakia and face the runner-up in Group A in their semifinal contest.