Raiders Ritchie looks back on Hlinka Gretzky Cup experience

Herald File Photo by Nathan Reiter. Ryder Ritchie in action during a Raider home game last season at the Art Hauser Centre.

It was a golden finish at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup for Team Canada.

The Canadians took home a gold medal thanks to Malcolm Spence’s overtime winner with seven seconds to go in overtime, stunning the crowd at the Fosfa Arena in Breclav, Czechia.

Prince Albert Raiders forward Ryder Ritchie finished second in scoring on Team Canada for the tournament with nine points in five games played. Ritchie says he enjoyed the chance to represent his country.

“It was an unreal experience. I mean, you got to visit so many different countries like Hungary, Slovakia, Czechia, that usually you don’t get to go to. We had an unreal group of guys, so it was a lot of fun playing for Team Canada. It was a dream come true and winning the gold just wrapped the whole experience off and it was a whole lot of fun.”

Canada lost their opening game of the tournament to Finland by the score of 9-6, before rattling off wins against Slovakia, Switzerland and the United States to punch their ticket to the final against Czechia.

In the final, Czechia would open the scoring 8:09 into the first period as Adam Titlbach would beat Canadian netminder Carter George

Cayden Lindstrom of the Medicine Hat Tigers would even the score at 1-1 less than a minute into the second period.

Canada would take the lead at the 9:57 mark as Berkly Catton of the Spokane Chiefs would bury a loose puck on the power play.

Czechia would answer at the 15:13 mark of the third period as Prince Albert Raider import draft pick Matej Kubiesa would even up the score at 2-2. Adam Benak had the lone assist. Kubiesa was selected 75th overall in the 2023 CHL Import Draft by the Raiders.

The final was played with a layer of fog in the arena, which prevented players from seeing the full ice surface. Ritchie said despite the visibility challenges, he enjoyed the atmosphere.

“It was a heat wave over in Europe and it started to rain, so it got super foggy in the arena. You can’t see past the far blue line if you’re in your zone. It was something different, but it was a lot of fun playing in.”

Ritchie and the Prince Albert Raiders begin training camp on Sept. 1 at the Art Hauser Centre.