NOJHL’s Samuel Assinewai of Greater Sudbury Cubs helps Canada East win silver at WJAC

CORNWALL, Ont. – Canada East has finished with the silver medal at the 2022 World Junior A Challenge, falling 5-2 to the United States in the gold medal game on Sunday night at the Cornwall Civic Complex.

The United States took a 2-0 lead into the second frame when Matheson Mason (Newmarket, Ont./Wellington, OJHL) and Matthew Cato (Whitby, Ont./Trenton, OJHL) scored to bring Canada East even. The U.S. stormed back with two goals in 47 seconds late in the middle frame and added an empty-net goal to earn its ninth World Junior A Challenge gold medal.

Garrett Schifsky led the way for the United States with two goals – finishing tied for the tournament lead with five – while Sam Rinzel and Quinn Finley had two assists each. Alex Blais (St-Colomban, Que./Saint-Jérôme, LHJAAAQ) assisted on both Canada East goals.

“We were in over our head a little bit; we knew we had to muddy the water, keep pucks to the outside and defend well. When we climbed back into the game and then had a bad line change, they got the momentum back,” said Canada East head coach Billy McGuigan (Summerside, P.E.I./Summerside, MHL). “The experience overall, the friendships and the opportunity to represent your country are the things our guys should take away from this tournament.”

“I cannot express how happy everyone was to play in the gold medal game. We worked hard as a group over the last two weeks to get here. Losing really sucked,” said Canada East captain Trent Crane (Morden, Man./Summerside, MHL). “Wearing the Canadian jersey meant everything to me, I will never forget it and always cherish these two weeks. I will think about this the rest of my life.”

Canada West finishes fourth

In the bronze medal game earlier on Sunday, Canada West fell 3-2 in a shootout to Sweden.

Caelan Fitzpatrick (Moose Jaw, Sask./Brooks, AJHL) opened the scoring just 17 seconds into the game off a pass from Sam Huck (Calgary, Alta./Okotoks, AJHL). Lukas Sagranden and Felix Unger Sörum responded with power-play goals, giving Sweden a 2-1 lead heading into the third period.

Aiden Fink (Calgary, Alta./Brooks, AJHL) scored the game-tying goal on the power play with 15:28 left in regulation – tying the tournament scoring record with 12 points. Noah Erliden made 29 saves and was perfect on five West attempts in the shootout, while Unger Sörum scored the lone shootout goal, giving Sweden its first bronze medal at the tournament.

“You want to be playing for gold, but every one of our guys left it all out there today. It was great to see how our guys played and battled,” said Canada West assistant coach Clayton Jardine (Lacombe, Alta./Camrose, AJHL). “Cornwall did a great job of hosting the tournament. It is always an honor for a player or coach to represent the Maple Leaf.”

“[Head coach Justin] Falk and this coaching staff were unbelievable to us. It was an honour to put this jersey on just for warmups. My linemates [Watkins and Malinoski] were awesome, we moved the puck well and buried on our chances,” said Fink. “Coming into this tournament, we were all rivals in the AJHL, but these guys are like brothers to me now.”

Following the gold medal game, the tournament all-star team was announced:

F: Aiden Fink (Canada West)

F: Cole Knuble (United States)

F: Liam Watkins (Canada West)

D: Eric Pohlkamp (United States)

D: Tom Willander (Sweden)

G: Noah Erliden (Sweden)

Knuble was named the tournament’s most valuable player after recording three goals and nine points in six games.

Photo credit: Robert Lefebvre / Hockey Canada Images