The two North American teams are both unbeaten after dominating Switzerland, Latvia and Slovakia. The winner of the December 31st game will earn first place in the group and, more importantly, an automatic berth to the semi-finals.
Canada – Slovakia 8-2 (3-0, 4-1, 1-1)
Canada was all business today against the Slovaks, making sure not to put their hopes for first place in the group in jeopardy. Halfway through the first period Taylor Hall put in a wrist shot to break the ice. The fans hadn’t even settled back into their seats when Alex Pietrangelo fired in a shot from the blueline 21 seconds later for the 2-0 lead.
Hall’s second goal at the 10:43 mark was the end of the game for Slovak goaltender Marek Ciliak, who was replaced by Tomas Halasz.
Canada put in another four goals in the second period, but the stanza was most notable for the end of Canada’s shutout streak of 157:25 minutes when Slovakia’s Richard Panik netted the first goal against Canada at this year’s event late in the period.
On Canada’s side it was Luke Adam, Ryan Ellis, Brayden Schenn and Hall scoring to break the game open for a 7-1 lead at the end of 40 minutes. Despite trailing, the Slovaks kept up their hard-hitting game plan. For much of the second period, delivering hard hits was almost as important as scoring for both teams.
With things all but decided, the third period was mostly academic as the teams slowed, scoring one goal each and bringing the final to 8-2.
USA and Canada have a combined 52 goals in their six games with Canada holding a 30-2 goal advantage and the Americans putting in 22 goals while allowing four.
Slovakia has a day off before they have a key game in the bid to make the quarterfinals against Switzerland. The highest Slovakia can place in the group is third as Canada and USA have the top two spots locked up.
(Nathan also is a writer for Maineiacs Post to Post and the Maine Hockey Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)