Capital City Challenge Day 5: Yager, Benson Shine in Semifinals

During the fifth day of the Capital City Challenge, the semifinal matchups took place, and the intensity rose between all four teams. There were a lot of secondary scorers contributing in both matchups, and that was the key factor for the two teams that moved on to the gold medal game. They almost did the impossible for one of these teams and completed a miraculous comeback, but it was never meant to be.

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Let’s take a deeper look into both semifinal matchups, which players stood out for each team, and how the results came to be.

Team Red Wins Lopsided Matchup

Although the game was closer than the score indicated, Team Red set the pace early into the game. Their goaltender, Jackson Unger, made a few impressive saves early on against Team White, and there was a sense that whoever scored the first goal of the game was going to have the advantage. Just over 10 minutes into the first period, Sam Oremba, who plays for the Seattle Thunderbirds in the Western Hockey League (WHL), scored to give Team Red the lead.

Team Red Celebrates
Team Red Celebrates (Josh Kim / The Hockey Writers)

Oremba was promoted to the team’s first line for Tuesday’s game, and he proved that he deserved it on that goal. Another player that has surpassed expectations is Carson Rehkpof, who plays for the Kitchener Rangers in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), as he scored Team Red’s second goal of the game to make it 2-0. He currently has two goals and three points through four games and can handle his defensive matchups when tasked.

Both teams were more aware of the penalty troubles in their previous matchups and were trying to play cleaner in this one. However, early in the second period, Quinton Burns took a cross-checking penalty, which sent Team Red to the power play. Although that should have put them at a disadvantage, it was the determination of Brayden Yager, who plays for the Moose Jaw Warriors in the WHL, as he created space and unleashed a powerful wrist shot to score the shorthanded goal.

Team White made this a very close matchup, as Kalan Lind, who plays for the Red Deer Rebels in the WHL, scored two consecutive goals to make this a one-goal game. However, Team Red prevailed and scored the following three goals to solidify their place in the gold medal game, winning by a score of 6-2, while Team White will play in the bronze medal matchup. Riley Heidt, who had missed the team’s previous game in the preliminary round, spoke about his team’s performance that led to the victory.

Related: Previewing the Bronze and Gold Medal Games – Capital City Challenge

“From day one, we have been talking about staying connected as a team. I thought we were great on the forecheck tonight, and we were responsible in the defensive zone, which helped us a lot. We played well as five-man units, got some good bounces and scored a few good goals, and we competed hard right to the end of the game.”]

This game set the pace for the chaotic matchup that took place at TD Place Arena just a few hours later.

Team Black Wins OT Thriller

In the two games they played each other, it appeared Team Black had met their competition in playing against the Canadian National Women’s Team. Although the first matchup was a more straightforward victory as they won 4-1, there were moments where it looked possible for the women to pressure and force a comeback. There were not just moments in this game, but heart and resilience were displayed by the Canadian National Women’s Team as they came back from a 3-0 deficit to tie the game at three and force overtime. Let’s take a closer look into how this came to be.

Ty Haliburda Team Canada
Ty Haliburda, Team Canada (Josh Kim / The Hockey Writers)

In the first period, Logan Crosby, who plays for the Halifax Mooseheads in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), scored the icebreaker. It was a strong start at sustaining offensive zone pressure for Team Black, which ultimately led to Jocelyne Larocque taking an interference penalty to put them on the power play. During the man advantage, Tanner Howe, who isn’t a first-year draft-eligible until 2024, scored on a nice pass from Oliver Bonk, who assisted on the game’s first two goals.

After Team Black was leading 3-0, it appeared that the matchup was over, until it wasn’t. Jordan Tourigny took an interference penalty that sent the Canadian National Women’s Team on the power play, and Brianne Jenner scored on the man advantage. Just a few minutes later, Sarah Fillier crashed the net and, in a chaotic sequence, was able to bat the puck into the net and make this a one-goal game. Again, just a few minutes later, after this goal, Micah Zandee-Hart took a shot from the point, and it found a way past Unger to tie the game.

The third period led to scoring chances for both teams but remained scoreless, and overtime was needed to settle this semifinal matchup. It only took 11 seconds into the extra frame for the game to be decided, as Zach Benson, who plays for the Winnipeg Ice in the WHL, scored on a breakaway to send Team Black to the gold medal game. Although it was a tough pill to swallow, Renata Fast was proud of how her group came together against a team that had gone undefeated in this tournament.

“We were not happy with our first 10 minutes of the game. We were chasing from that point on, but since the world championship in August, there has been so much belief amongst our group even when we get behind a couple of goals. We know if we stick to our game plan, play our way and focus on the things that make us successful, we can fight back. I think we proved that again today. We have done it in the past, and it shows a lot of resiliency and that we can stick to our plan and not get off course when things are not going our way.”

The bronze medal game between Team White and the Canadian National Women’s Team today at 2:30 PM ET, while the gold medal matchup between Team Red and Team Black takes place at 7 PM ET at TD Place Arena in Ottawa.


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