Team Canada set the tempo early and never looked back, soundly defeating Team Denmark 8-0 in Friday’s quarterfinal matchup.
Captain Curtis Lazar scored a pair, and Connor McDavid, Lawson Crouse, Nick Paul, Nick Ritchie, Sam Reinhart, and Braydon Point also found the back of the net. Outshooting the Danes 50-14, Friday’s victory is a character win that bodes well heading into Sunday’s bout against Slovakia.
“It’s one more step for us,” said Canadian head coach Claude Groulx. “We’re getting closer.”
Zach Fucale recorded his second shutout, letting in just one goal the entire tournament. His best save was made early against Denmark’s Nikolaj Ehlers on a breakaway, keeping the game tied at zeros.
But it wasn’t all great for Canada, as forward Robby Fabbri left the game early after suffering what appears to be a lower body injury. The 18-year-old forward crashed hard into the boards, and his injury may prove to be tournament ending.
In Fabbri’s absence, Groulx moved Point – Canada’s 13th forward – on to the Lazar-McDavid line, while Jake Virtanen was moved to fill in Fabbri’s wing alongside Paul and Petan. Minutes later, McDavid found Lazar in the slot at 10:37, and Canada’s offense exploded for the rest of the game.
“Once we got the first one, we were able to relax and play our game,” said Reinhart. “And the crowd really helped. We’re getting more confident with each win.”
Lazar leads Canada with five goals in as many games, and the team has outscored the opposition 29-4. Amazingly, there are only three skaters on Canada’s 20-man roster who have yet to register a single point.
Reinhart recorded his team leading ninth point in the victory, and McDavid was named Canada’s player of the game after posting an impressive three point performance. Number 17 ranks third in team scoring with seven points (2G, 5A) in five games, which is already three more than he had a year ago.
“It’s a dream come true to skate out there,” McDavid said of the Toronto crowd. “The atmosphere was pretty special, but that’s kind of what I was expecting. The fans were great.”
Over their two final contests, Canada will face the same Slovakian group they dominated 8-0 in game one, followed by either Team Sweden, or a Russian squad held to a shootout victory against this same Danish lineup a week ago. Given Canada’s depth on top of the teams remaining, a gold medal almost seems inevitable.
But even a team as poised as Canada cannot make the mistake of jumping to conclusions.
“The coaches are always stressing that we have good habits,” said Crouse. “In a tournament like this, you always have to play with good habits. Even though you’re winning, you still have to do the right things at the right time.”
Canada is now an impressive 5-0-0-0, and is headed to their 17th consecutive semifinal tilt. Canada has not won gold since 2009, and has not earned a medal the past two years. The quest continues this Sunday at 8 p.m. at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.