It wasn’t easy, but at the end of the day, Team Canada walked away from their game against Slovakia with a 6-3 win. Like Russia earlier in the tournament, Canada received a wake up call early from the Slovaks and had to overcome two, two-goal deficits to get the win. Canada also lost two forwards to game misconducts and both could be facing suspensions for their hits, which would leave the Canadians with 10 forwards in their next game. The score is a deception for how close most of the game ways and Canada still needs to tighten up their play before playing the other top teams in their pool.
First Period: Canada opened the period very uncharacteristically, giving up an early goal to a Slovak team that had never led against Canada before this game. After pinning the Canadians in their zone for a long time, Matus Matis fired a shot that beat Malcolm Subban and sat in the cease, resulting in an easy tap-in goal for Marko Dano. After a few minors for both teams, the first of Canada’s two majors was called, this one to JC Lipon for checking to the head. The receiver, Tomas Mikus, didn’t get injured on the play, and came back to play the point on the powerplay. From there, he scored Slovakia’s second goal of the game with a beautiful writer that Subban had no chance on. The whole first period was a disaster for Canada, full of undisciplined and sloppy play in all ends of the rink. It looked like Slovakia would run away from Canada in this one, but as we will see in the later periods, that didn’t happen.
Second Period: The first 10-minutes of the second were not much better for Canada, but their play improved greatly in the bottom 10. Things started out great for Canada, with Ryan Strome walking into the slot and scoring a goal on a nice wristshot that cut the score to 2-1. But after that Canada went back to their sloppy play from the first, taking penalties and letting Slovakia get tons of scoring chances. That all came to a head with the second game misconduct of the game, this time to Anthony Camara for charging. Now everyone will have their own interpretation of the hit, but there was no penalty called until after the injured player, Patrik Luza, was taken off on a stretcher. Canadian fans were very upset on Twitter, saying that a hit like that is legal in the CHL. However, there was an injury on the play and the refs made a snap decision. The penalty ultimately cost Canada a goal, but not the game.
While killing the 5-minute major, Strome took a tripping penalty that put Slovakia up by two men. It was on that advantage that they scored again, extending their lead to 3-1. But the goal didn’t crush the Canadians spirits and instead motivated them. The comeback began when Canada got their own powerplay and Morgan Rielly made no mistake firing a hard shot into the goal. With the score now 3-2 and Canada back to the powerplay, Rielly and Xavier Oullet connected on a cross-ice pass before Oullet fed Ty Rattie with a beautiful pass to tie the game. Slovakia’s lead was gone and soon Canada would begin to pull ahead, the comeback now in full swing. With less than a minute to go, Mark Schiefele tipped home an Oullet shot to give Canada their first lead, 4-3. Suddenly in the second intermission, Canada was in control and playing like team, something that was nonexistent in the first 30 minutes. And they carried that play into the third.
Third Period: Canada kept their momentum going from the second with a quick goal from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins only 3:32 into the frame, and Slovakia was never able to recover. Hopkins used his NHL skill to dangle in close to the goal and fire a shot into goal. Shortly after, the final goal of the game came from Strome, who picked up a long stretch pass from Tyler Wotherspoon and slid the puck five-hole to give Canada a 6-3 lead. From there, Canada took two penalties but Slovakia was unable to get any more chances. Subban did make a couple big saves, but Canada had taken control of the game and Slovakia could not compete. After playing so unorganized in the first period, it was amazing to see them come together as a team and finish the Slovaks off in the third. Coach Spott will have somethings to discuss with the team; they are still undisciplined and they need to start better. But Canada is in first place and ready to take on the tougher opponents on the way.
Canada’s next game is Sunday December 30 against the Americans at 4:30 am EST.