For Team Canada, the path to the podium is paved with strong work ethic and unyielding desire. The Canucks, after surrendering the game’s first goal, overcame a 3-1 deficit to Slovakia and fervently rallied back for a 5-3 victory.
Canada breathed a sigh of relief and anxiously awaits a meeting with the Americans.
With today’s victory, Canada (2-0-1) is two points behind the Americans (3-0-0) as the squads prepare to square off for first place in the final round robin game of the tournament. A win in regulation would lift Canada over the Americans to claim first place in their grouping. For Canada, the forthcoming contest is shroud in a narrative of redemption. The objective is lucid—trump a bitter rival that eliminated the Red and White last year in Ufa, Russia.
Today’s showing of heroics and skill—the best performance for the club thus far buoy Canada’s hopes of snagging gold. Canada’s troops managed to weather the storm, despite frequent trips to the penalty box that served to ignite a dangerous Slovakian power play.
“We regrouped, we found a way,” Canada’s coach Brent Suter commented. “In the third, I thought we dominated. We got a break when they hit the post after we got the lead, but the third was maybe the best period we’ve played in the tournament so far.”
Suter opted to start backup netminder Zach Fucale in hopes of restoring confidence in his club. Fucale is a decorated goalie—winning the QMJHL championship, Memorial Cup, and snagging top honours at the Ivan Hlinka under-18 tournament in the Czech Republic. In Fucale, the Canadians also have confidence behind the skill. Fucale’s 19 saves not only secured a victory but a start against the Americans on Tuesday.
“It was a tough start — a little nervous — but as the game went on I felt better and better. I just wanted to be there for the team and I think that in the end I accomplished that.” Fucale told the media following the game.
Anthony Mantha answered the call for the Canadians and helped led the offensive in the most dire of moments. An offensive dynamo in the QMJHL, Mantha notched a goal and three assists, totaling nine points in three games. It was Mantha’s patience and diligence that sparked a rally in the third period. Knocking in a rebound from teammate Aaron Ekblad at 17:00 in the final frame, Mantha breathed life into the club. Nic Petan and Curtis Lazar were also standouts for the Canadians, with the duo credited with three of Canada’s five goals.
“Me and Curt were talking about our bad luck a bit,” said Petan about recent offensive struggles. “It should be good for (Tuesday). I’m just looking forward to playing a good offensive and defensive game.”
If anything, today’s effort serves to lift the spirits of Team Canada. Moving forward, the Canucks hope to end a four-year skid, which has left the youngsters without the coveted goal medal.
Tuesday’s meeting with the Americans marks the fourth meeting in six years—with Canada winning in 2009, 2010, and 2012.