Dylan Cozens, 2018 WHL rookie of the year, has seven points in five games for Team Canada at the 2019 Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. (Rob Wallator/Western Hockey League)

Canada wins a berth in 2019 Ice Hockey U18 World Championship semifinal

The Canadians will take on host Sweden after dispatching Latvia 3-1 in the quarter-finals

Team Canada was back on the ice at the 2019 Ice Hockey U18 World Championship in Sweden on April 25, facing off against Latvia in the quarter-finals.

Whitehorse’s Dylan Cozens and the rest of his Canadian teammates went into the game as the number one seed out of Group A, having finished with a perfect 4-0 record.

Latvia, on the other hand, finished fourth in Group B with a win against Slovakia to go with three losses.

The Canadians were on the board first when Braden Schneider scored at 13:48 to take a 1-0 lead. Brayden Tracey had the lone assist on Schneider’s goal.

In the second period, the Canadians expanded their lead when Peyton Krebs scored at 27:34 to push the score to 2-0.

In the third, the Latvians capitalized on a two-man advantage when Harijs Brants scored at 50:01 on the power play with assists to Raimonds Vitolins and Rudolfs Polcs.

The goal cut the lead to 2-1 and set up an exciting finish to the game.

Latvian goaltender Arturs Silovs was pulled for an extra attacker with just under a minute to play in regulation, but it was the Canadians who scored when Krebs added an insurance goal with just 20 seconds to play.

Assists on the final goal went to Connor Zary and Schneider.

Although held off the score sheet, Cozens finished with two shots on goal on a +1 rating.

Shots in the game were very close, with the Canadians ending with a 43-39 advantage.

The other three quarter-final games also happened on April 25.

Sweden will face Canada in the semifinals after beating the Czech Republic 4-2. Scoring for the Swedes were Alexander Holtz, Elmer Soderblom, Albin Grewe and Oscar Bjerselius.

Russia defeated Belarus 6-0 and the United States beat Finland 6-0 to set up a semifinal between the Russians and the Americans.

The American team, led by likely first-overall NHL draft pick Jack Hughes, has been the highest scoring team at the tournament to date with 37 goals in five games. Hughes and company also boast the fewest goals allowed and the lowest goals against average.

The two semifinals, as well as the first relegation game between Slovakia and Switzerland are all scheduled for April 27.

Against Sweden, Canada has the advantage on paper.

Canada has higher scoring efficiency, a more effective power play and marginally better save percentage.

Where Sweden could cause problems for the Canadians is if Canada gets into penalty trouble.

Although the Canadians power play percentage is an incredible 32 per cent, the Swedes are no slouches and have converted 24.14 per cent of their own power play opportunities.

The Canadian penalty killing is at 79.17 per cent through the first five games of the tournament, but the 66 penalty minutes (13.2 per game) Canada has conceded mean Sweden is likely to get somewhere in the neighbourhood of a half dozen opportunities on the power play.

Canada has given up the most penalty minutes of any team still in the tournament, and staying out of the box will likely be a key.

The two countries are ranked one and two in goaltending so, like in any good hockey game, a particularly standout performance or a weak goal may be the difference.

The second relegation game and the medal round games are all scheduled for April 28.

Through five games, Cozens is eighth overall in scoring for the tournament with three goals and four assists.

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at john.hopkinshill@yukon-news.com

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