Canada started its 2013 IIHF U18 World Championship campaign on the right foot, outlasting Slovakia 4-1 in its tournament opener. Connor McDavid scored the go-ahead goal and assisted on the insurance.
"We had a good start, though we were down 1-0 early on there," said Team Canada head coach Dom Hay."We generated a lot of shots and a lot of offence. Btu then the penalties crept in and we have to watch out for those because we won't be able to take so many against Russia or the USA."
It was the Slovaks who surprisingly drew first blood in the game. 3:16 into the first period David Soltes took off for the Canadian net on a two-on one, keeping the puck and finishing the play with a goal and the 1-0 lead.
About four minutes later however the Nicholas connection evened the score for Canada. Taking possession at the back of the Slovak net, Nicholas Ritchie made a quick pass to Nicholas Baptiste just as the Canadian forward arrived in front of the net to jam it home.
Penalty trouble in the second half of the period put Slovakia on the defensive and gave the Canadians time to find their legs. With Erik Cernak in the box for holding, the third straight penalty taken by his team, Connor McDavid scored with a great individual play, streaking down the middle of the ice, splitting the Slovak defenders and forcing the puck through goaltender Denis Godle for the 2-1 lead.
"I tought we played really well and it was a good tournament opener," said McDavid. "We had a strong forecheck and good cycling. We do need to stay out of penalty box more, but that's just something we need to get used to playing in international competition."
The second period saw Canada called for four penalties to Slovakia’s one, but despite this Canada was able to maintain its one-goal lead going into the final frame.
Canada closed out the game midway through the third. A solid goaltending effort from Godla was thwarted when McDavid won a faceoff at the right circle in the Slovak zone and made a nice backhand pass to captain Sam Reinhart in the high slot for the insurance goal. Seconds later Samuel Bennett-Mcdowell jumped on a loose puck in front of the net and fired it home to give his team a three-goal lead with 8:16 to go.
Canada will have a day off before playing Germany on Saturday, while Slovakia takes on Switzerland tomorrow.
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)