Di Iorio’s magic paces Canada
by Chris JUREWICZ|29 JAN 2024
Alessandro Di Iorio (CAN) celebrates scoring the second goal in the Ice Hockey Men’s 6-on-6 Tournament Preliminary Round between Canada and Finland at the Gangneung Hockey Centre. The Winter Youth Olympic Games, Gangwon, South Korea, Monday 29 January 2024.
photo: © OIS (Olympic Information Service) / Joel Marklund
Gangneung Hockey Centre, GANGWON, South Korea – Canada has booked its spot in the semifinals of the men’s ice hockey tournament at the Youth Olympic Games.

Alessandro Di Iorio’s hat trick paced the Canadians in their second preliminary-round game, a 4-1 win over Finland in a battle of two teams that headed into the Games as medal favourites. Di Iorio opened the scoring at the 11:40 mark of the first period, a tremendous effort that saw him go around one Finnish defender and then another before needing two shots to beat goaltender Pyry Lammi, who was excellent all game in the Finnish goal, stopping 35 of 38 shots.

Despite outshooting Finland 15-2 in the second, Canada couldn’t score in the middle frame and the score remained 1-0 heading into the third. There, Di Ioiro created more magic, picking up a loose puck in his end, streaking down the right side, and then using a forehand-to-backhand move to go around Finnish defender Samu Alalauri before a great backhanded shot that went top shelf. That made it 2-0 Canada. Ryan Lin would make it 3-0, then Finland cut into the lead with a goal by Alalauri’s, before Di Iorio got the hat trick with an empty-netter.

“We had a really good forecheck today. My teammates were able to get me the puck and I found some success,” says Di Iorio. “We need to buy in tomorrow (for the semifinals), but we have a great group of guys and have become close really fast. If we keep playing the way we have been, we should be in a pretty good spot. To represent Canada here at the Winter Youth Olympics is the best feeling I have ever had. This has been a special opportunity, and I cannot wait to take the next steps in my career.”

Canada will face its archrival, the United States, in the second of two semifinals on Jan. 30. The marquee semifinal was set up due to Czechia edging the United States 6-5 in the other men’s game of the final day of the preliminary round.

The Americans were up 5-3 after two periods, but two goals by Filip Novak in the final frame sent the game to a shootout. Fans got their money’s worth for this one, as American JP Hurlbert and Czech Simon Katolicky traded goals in the first round of the shootout and then goaltenders Gavin Weeks and Jan Larys turned away the next eight collective shooters.

That set the stage for the sixth set of shooters, with Vaclav Nedorost scoring for Czechia, forcing USA’s Zane Torre into a must-score to extend the shootout. Torre went in and tried to snap a shot the far side but just missed the net, giving Czechia the thrilling win.

“It was a disappointing finish to an overall pretty good game," says Joe Bonnett, head coach of Team USA. “The team put themselves in a position in the third period to come away with a win. We’ll put this game behind us and look ahead to the semifinals.”

Czechia moves on to the semis to face Finland, with the winner of that game facing the winner of Canada-USA for the gold medal. The semifinal losers will meet for bronze.

Sweden, Switzerland conclude women’s preliminary round with wins

Switzerland finished atop Group B on the women’s side with a 2-1 victory over Germany.

Following a scoreless first, alternate captain Livia Tschannen scored an even-strength goal in the second to give her team a 1-0 lead. The Swiss would jump ahead 2-0 when Anais Rohner scored six minutes into the third, but the Germans answered five minutes later when Zoe Wintgen found the back of the net.

Switzerland shut the door from there, led by goaltender Norina Schrupkowski, who made 18 saves on 19 shots for the win. Germany’s Tara Bach was also solid in net, stopping 178 of 19 shots.

Switzerland moves on to face Japan in one of two semifinals on Jan. 30. Japan dropped its final preliminary-round game to Sweden by a 2-1 score in a game that featured the two finalists from the 2020 Youth Olympic Games.

Matilda Osterman and Ebba Westerlind scored in the shootout for Sweden, while goaltender Tilde Wyckman turned away two Japanese shooters to give the Swedes the tight win.

Japan actually opened the scoring in the game, with Umeka Odaira – who is enjoying a fantastic tournament – getting the ice breaking goal at 5:07 of the third. Japan’s 1-0 lead would be short-lived, with Nova Svanefjord tying things up just over two minutes later and 1-1 game would be settled by the shootout.

Sweden will face Germany in the other semi, with the winner moving on to play either Switzerland or Japan in the gold medal game. The losing teams will meet for bronze.