DRUMMONDVILLE, Que. – Alexis Pépin (Candiac, Que./P.E.I., LHJMQ) scored his second goal of the game with 8:46 to go to give Quebec a nail-biting 3-2 win over Slovakia on Tuesday night and keep the French Canadians in the hunt for a semifinal spot at the 2013 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
A loss would have eliminated Quebec from semifinal contention; it has only reached the final four once in five tournaments, in 2010, since winning its fourth and latest gold medal in 2006.
Vincent Deslauriers (Ste-Anne-des-Plaines, Que./Sherbrooke, LHJMQ) had the other goal for Quebec, which looked to be well on its way to victory after one period, up 2-0 and outshooting the winless Slovaks 18-5.
But Matej Palocko scored the lone goal of the second period and Adrian Holesinsky brought the European side even midway through the third period, quieting the pro-Quebec crowd at the Centre Marcel-Dionne.
The tie game, however, lasted just 26 seconds, as Pépin’s goal ensured Quebec’s preliminary round finale against Ontario on Wednesday night in Drummondville (7:30 p.m. ET) will be a winner-take-all affair, with the victor moving on to the semifinals.
Slovak goaltender Maximilian Pajpach stood tall despite the loss, making 37 saves, while his Canadian counterpart, Alex Bureau (Trois-Rivières, Que./Cape Breton, LHJMQ) finished with 25 stops.
Still looking for its first victory, Slovakia will be in tough in its final round robin game on Wednesday afternoon in Drummondville (1:30 p.m. ET) when it takes on the unbeaten United States, which has already clinched a spot in the semifinals.
(Nathan can be reached at email@example.com)