Canada, USA to face off in U-18 final

DALE CARRUTHERS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:49 PM ET

Canada is cruising toward a three-peat at the Under-18 Junior World Cup after defeating the Czech Republic 6 - 1 in the semi-finals on Friday.

The victory pits the Canucks against North American rival team USA, which advanced to the gold medal game after beating Sweden 5 - 4 in overtime, at the 2010 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in Breclav, Czech Republic and Piestany, Slovakia.

The Canadians, who won the tournament the last two years, are getting a strong effort from Sarnia Sting forward Brett Ritchie.

"I'm just trying to crash the net hard," said Ritchie, who has scored four goals, including a game winner against Sweden in the opening game of the tournament.

The six-foot-three, 204-pound Orangeville native had another big game Friday, scoring late in the second period.

"We definitely controlled it right from the get-go," Ritchie said.

The game got rough in the third period, with six Canadians collecting penalties, including Ritchie, who spent time in the sin bin for roughing.

"It got a little undisciplined late in the game," he said. "They were retaliating, trying to egg us on."

The matchup was expected to be closer after the Czechs took the Canadians into overtime in an opening exhibition game, before losing 3 - 2.

"Having played them once, we sort of knew what they had to bring," Ritchie said. "We just came out a lot stronger."

Also scoring for the red-hot Canadians were Lucas Lessio, with a pair, and Alan Quine, Matt Puempel and Garrett Meurs.

Ritchie has become one of the team's go-to offensive players and demonstrated clutch scoring heading into today's final. Last season with the Sting the right winger tallied 13 goals and 29 points in 65 games.

The Canadians have dominated every facet of the game thus far, out-scoring, out-working and out-muscling their opponents.

They hold a 25-9 goal advantage through four game heading into today's championship game against the U.S.

The Canadian squad is looking to bring home gold for the sixth time in seven years.

Ritchie said he's excited heading into what is one of the biggest hockey games of his young career.

dcarruthers@theobserver.ca


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