Team Canada advanced to the Spengler Cup Final in Switzerland after defeating Fribourg Gottéron 5-1 in the first semi-final match of the day. Canada met Fribourg after finishing first in its group and securing a bye into the semi-final. Fribourg advanced to the semi-final after defeating Adler Mannheim 5-2 in quarterfinal action on Saturday. Matt Duchene led the way with two goals and an assist, while Devan Dubnyk posted 25 saves for Canada.
The game between Fribourg and Canada was a penalty-filled affair, as twelve different penalties were called in the first two periods of play. Overall, Canada committed eight penalties in the game and Fribourg committed five penalties. The first penalty of the game was assessed just 39 seconds into the game when Simon Gamache was sent off the ice for committing interference. Fribourg committed two penalties within the first ten minutes of play but Canada was unable to capitalize on their early opportunities. Tyler Sequin broke caused Fribourg all kinds of problems and had two wonderful Grade-A opportunities against Fribourg goaltender Cory Schneider but failed to score on either play.
Although Canada continued to crash the net and wreak havoc against their foes, the team was penalized when Jason Spezza bowled Schneider over 10:40 into the game. A series of penalties followed and Fribourg earned two different 5-on-3 opportunities in the opening period. Fortunately for Canada, the team was able to kill these penalties off and keep Fribourg off the score sheet. Spezza redeemed himself for Canada when notched a power play goal at 16:32. John Tavares blasted a shot towards Schneider just beyond the left face-off circle and Spezza swatted the puck out of mid-air into the Fribourg net when Schneider deflected the puck off his skate towards the opposite side of the rink.
Play during the second period became even more wide-open, with both teams pressing for an advantage. Marc-Antoine Pouliot put Canada up 2-0 at 2:47 when he took a nice pass from Byron Ritchie. It was a feel-good contribution from Canada’s fourth line. Unfortunately, Ritchie then aimed to get himself a Gordie Howe hat trick. At the 26:06 mark, Ritchie was penalized for delivering a vicious elbow to the jaw of Fribourg defenseman Roman Loeffel. Loeffel collapsed on the ice and had a Fribourg team trainer had to run out on the ice to help him. After consulting some video monitors to review the play, the officiating crew working the game assessed Ritchie a two-minute penalty and a ten-minute misconduct. To make matters worse for Canada, the IIHF decided to announce Ritchie’s suspension from international play following the game.
Fribourg was unable to make Canada pay for the penalty and actually took the next two penalties of the game. The penalties continued to come with Jason Demers caught for holding at 12:32. Shortly afterwards, Canada was assessed a bench penalty for having too many men on the ice. With another opportunity to go on the power play, Fribourg pressed to score a goal but Canada’s penalty-killers had other ideas in mind. At the 15:50 mark, Matt Duchene took a loose puck bouncing through the neutral zone, curled towards the middle of the ice and across the Fribourg blue line and blasted a shot over the arm of a surprised Cory Schneider. The score was now 3-0 Canada.
Yet even with the tally, Fribourg showed no sign of giving up. Just fourteen seconds after Duchene’s goal, Joel Kwiatkowski replied for Fribourg on the power play. His goal energized Fribourg and gave the Swiss team a sense of hope that the game could still be won. Action on the ice remained extremely wide open throughout the rest of the second period and both teams had wonderful chances to score. At one point, Sam Gagner took the puck right in front of Schneider and almost slid the puck under the goaltender’s legs. After Kwiatkowski’s goal, Fribourg stayed completely out of the penalty box the rest of the evening and Canada committed just one more infraction early in the third period.
The balance of play in the third period belonged almost exclusively with Canada and it was almost as if Fribourg sapped all of their energy reserves in the first two periods of play. Canada committed a penalty at 2:14 of the third period and was obliged to kill off its final penalty of the game. However, shortly afterwards Canada put Fribourg three goals down. At the 6:25 mark, Carlo Colaiacovo took a pass from Duchene and sent the puck past Schneider. Duchene sealed the game for Canada with his second goal of the night at 14:34 and Canada coasted to a 5-1 victory over Fribourg.
Canada now plays HC Davos in the Final of the Spengler Cup tomorrow afternoon. The game takes place at noon in Switzerland and will be aired lived on TSN2 at 3:55 Mountain Time. TSN will re-broadcast the game at 1 pm on TSN and again at 11:30 pm on TSN2.