May 30th, 2024

McKenna scores twice in win over Sweden at U18s

By Canadian Press on April 26, 2024.

A Hockey Canada logo is shown on the jersey of a player with Canada's National Junior Team.--CP FILE PHOTO

VANTAA, Finland

Medicine Hat Tigers forward Gavin McKenna scored twice in the span of one minute and 45 seconds in the first period as Canada opened with a 6-3 win over Sweden on Thursday at the world men’s under-18 hockey championship.

The 16-year-old phenom isn’t draft eligible for another two years and was playing alongside some of this year’s top NHL draft prospects, but clearly more than belonged with his older teammates.

“It was a fun game to play and obviously there’s so much skill out there,” McKenna said following the game. “It’s like every single guy has eyes in the back of his head and you always have to be ready to get a pass. That said, it’s a team game, every single line has skill and if we stick to what we’re doing we will have success.”

The opportunity to suit up for Team Canada again is something McKenna is relishing.

“It’s something you dream of growing up,” he said. “I had the honour to wear the jersey at [the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge] and now to get another opportunity, it’s so surreal. I had so many jerseys growing up that I wore, watching World Juniors and U18s, and now to be playing in it is super cool.”

Canada’s Jett Luchanko had a goal and an assist and Malcolm Spence, Matthew Schaeffer and Carson Wetsch also scored for the red and white. Porter Martone added two assists.

Carter George made 26 saves to pick up the win.

Canada made it difficult on themselves by racking up 51 penalty minutes, but limited Sweden to one power play goal.

“Our penalty kill was outstanding even though we had to use it more than we wanted to,” said Canada head coach Gardiner MacDougall. “Any time you play your first game there’s a lot of emotions between the two teams, a lot of good hockey and things to clean up, but overall, it’s a great start for the group.”

Alexander Zetterberg led Sweden with two goals and an assist. Melvin Fernstrom also scored. Love Harenstam made 20 saves.

Canada had a 4-1 lead after the first period, but two goals from Zetterberg in the second cut the lead to one goal.

Schaefer scored a minute after Zetterberg’s second goal to kill Sweden’s momentum, and George made nine saves in the third period to help cement the win.

“I think it was a good game for us to get a win in the first game of the tournament,” said forward Tij Iginla, who had an assist. “We talked about the penalties, and we know it’s tough to get going offensively when we’re in the box.”

Canada next faces Czechia on Friday.

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