Canada facing relegation

Canadian coach Guy Carbonneau has a theory about where it all went wrong, and he offered it after watching his team stumble to another defeat at the IIHF World U18 Championship.

Sweden 5 Canada 4

BOBRUISK, Belarus — Canadian coach Guy Carbonneau has a theory about where it all went wrong, and he offered it after watching his team stumble to another defeat at the IIHF World U18 Championship.

“I just have the feeling that they thought everything was going to be easy,” Carbonneau said on Sunday. “And that wasn’t the case.”

Canada fell 5-4 to Sweden in its final preliminary round game on Sunday, and faces relegation play for the first time in tournament history. Under a worst-case scenario — such as finishing in ninth or 10th place — the Canadians face deportation to the B Pool, with the lesser lights of the hockey world.

The team finished fourth in Group A this year after losses to Switzerland (3-1), the United States (5-0) and Sweden. Canada thrashed host Belarus 11-3 for its only win in the preliminary round.

Canada returns to the ice to face Latvia on Wednesday and Slovakia on Thursday in relegation play. It only needs to win one of those two games to maintain its spot in the championship pool.

“I think they’re starting to realize that they need to get mad at themselves and not at the rest of the world, or at the other teams,” Carbonneau said of his young players. “I think the other teams are just playing their games, and I think there’s been a lot of frustration in our game.”

Canada stumbled to a slow start against Sweden on Sunday, falling behind 4-0 before discovering a spark in the third period. Ryan O’Connor (Saginaw, OHL), Christian Thomas (Oshawa, OHL), Freddie Hamilton (Niagara, OHL) and Quinton Howden (Moose Jaw, WHL) all scored for Canada.

After Sweden scored the go-ahead goal, Canada pressed furiously for the final 90 seconds of the third period. Sweden missed a pair of empty-net attempts, with goaltender Jonas Gunnarsson making a critical save as time expired.

Had Canada been able to harness that kind of intensity at the beginning of the game, the outcome might have been different.

Gunnarsson stopped 15 of 19 shots in the win for Sweden.

Canadian goalie Kent Simpson allowed three goals on 16 shots before he was replaced in the second period with Calvin Pickard, who allowed two goals on 14 shots.

The Canadian roster is comprised of 13 players from the OHL, seven from the WHL and two the QMJHL.

Canada finished fourth at the tournament last year, and won it two years ago.

“We’re not where we want to be,” Carbonneau said.

“Our goal was to go to Minsk and play for a medal. Now, it’s not the case, but we still want to finish the tournament on a good note.”