After finishing in a tie with teammate Hendrix Lapierre for the tournament scoring lead during the round-robin, Cole Perfetti stepped his game up to another level at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup Friday.
The Saginaw Spirit forward scored on a pair of breakaways in the second period and found the back of the net three times in a shootout as Canada earned a 3-2 win over Sweden in a semifinal contest in Breclav, Czech Republic.
“I don’t think I’ve had a breakaway in six months,” Perfetti said to TSN’s Gord Miller after the game.
“I think I had only two breakaways last year in Saginaw and I didn’t score on either one of them.
Perfetti had the number of Moose Jaw Warriors draft pick Jesper Wallstedt all game long and sealed the victory in the eighth round of the skills competition with a wrist shot that went blocker side on the Swedish netminder.
“I stuck with what I know works and I tried to keep as calm as possible,” Perfetti said.
“It was a little nerve-wracking and scary, but I just tried to keep my composure and made the best move I could to hopefully score.”
Tristin Lennox (Saginaw Spirit) battled through an apparent left leg injury to keep his team alive in the shootout as he stopped Daniel Ljungman twice to set the stage for Perfetti’s heroics.
Lapierre (Chicoutimi Sagueneens) had an assist in the victory, while Lennox stopped 21 shots.
Kaiden Guhle and Ozzy Wiesblatt were each held without a point in the game, but the Prince Albert Raiders teammates had chances to break the tie in the third period.
Ljungman led the way for Sweden with a goal in regulation and two more in the shootout.
Blueliner Hugo Styf also scored in the loss, which saw Wallstedt turn aside 39 shots.
Canada will look to win their third straight title and their 23rd overall at 9 a.m. Saturday against Russia in a game that will air nationally on TSN.
Russia, who last won the tournament in 1995, reached the finals for the first time since 2009 with a 4-1 win over Finland in Friday’s other semifinal game.