LAKE PLACID, NEW YORK – Team Canada is off to the men’s hockey gold medal game at the Lake Placid 2023 FISU Games, and they’ll get to face Team USA on “Miracle” ice.
For the first time since 2013, Canada will play for the top spot in the tournament after defeating Team Kazakhstan 4-1 on Saturday afternoon at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid.
Canada’s winning goal came from Noah King’s slap shot from the point, yet the officials didn’t know it, as his shot at 8:37 into the second period powered through the netting, forcing referees to a lengthy video review.
While Canada rode their way onto a three-goal margin of victory and heavily outshot their opponents, as they have throughout the tournament, goaltender Kai Edmonds was still forced to make critical stops on the 11 shots he faced.
Although SMU’s Matt Welsh had an opportunity to play against Japan, the Canadian team and head coach Gardiner MacDougall has relied on Edmonds to backstop them into the final.
“I thought it was really good defensively, making my life easy with only 11 shots,” Edmonds told U SPORTS. “Just when I was called upon, I had to make those saves.”
Facing one of their toughest challenges yet, Canda weathered a Kazakh storm early in the game, with Edmonds forced into saves against Artyom Korolyov and Ruslan Demin, before Canada settled into the game midway through the period.
Queen’s Gaels forward Jonathan Yantsis broke the deadlock for Canada 9:20 into the opening frame as he connected with Gaels teammate Jacob Paquette, redirecting a puck from the low slot after Paquette found him on a cross-crease pass.
Kyle Bollers went to the box for Canada’s first penalty kill of the day, which was cut short by a Kazakh penalty midway through, allowing Canada to pepper Denis Karatayev in the Kazakh goal.
While Canada entered the break with a 1-0 lead, it didn’t last long in the second period, as Danil Butenko beat Edmonds on a quick tip in front just five seconds into a powerplay with Canada’s Austen Keating in the penalty box.
King’s slapshot gave Canada the lead back less than five minutes later before Manitoba’s Brett Davis finished off a slick passing play to make it 3-1, served up by Simon LaFrance, who had three assists on the night.
Soon after, Yantsis scored his second of the night with a quick shot from the mid-slot, as Canada limited the Kazakh opportunities through the final frame.
“It’s a treat, to be honest; I can’t lie. It’s the best team, defensively all around, not even just the d[efence]; the forwards are blocking shots and everyone,” Edmonds said. “It’s a six-man unit out there, including myself, and everyone is doing what they can to get the win and to be hard to play against.”
Having navigated through the semi-final and a tough Kazakhstan team, head coach Gardiner MacDougall and Canada will look to win their first gold medal since 2013, when MacDougall also coached the team.
For a Canadian team filled mainly with players who have never played internationally, the biggest game of their careers looms, with a gold medal hanging in the balance when they take on Team USA on the historic “Miracle” ice of Lake Placid’s Herb Brooks Arena.
“It doesn’t get much bigger than that, and for a lot of us, it’s the first time playing for Team Canada,” Edmonds said. “Going for gold against the U.S. in Lake Placid, an arena with a lot of history, it doesn’t get much bigger than that.
The Canada vs USA gold medal final begins at 5:00 pm ET at the Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, with fans able to tune in across ESPN and on TSN 2 in Canada.