(ISN) – TORONTO, Ont. – It was raining hats inside the Air Canada Centre on Sunday night as Nic Petan (Delta, B.C./Portland, WHL) scored three times to lead Canada’s National Junior Team over Slovakia 5-1 and into the gold medal game at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship.
Canada will play Russia in Monday’s final (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT). It’s Canada first chance at gold since losing to Russia in 2011, and the third straight year the teams will play each other for a medal. Russia has won bronze the past two tournaments.
Curtis Lazar (Vernon, B.C./Ottawa, NHL) and Connor McDavid (Newmarket, Ont./Erie, OHL) assisted on all three of Petan’s goals.
Anthony Duclair (Laval, Que./N.Y. Rangers, NHL) and Shea Theodore (Aldergrove, B.C./Seattle, WHL) also scored for Canada.
Zach Fucale (Rosemère, Que./Quebec, QMJHL) made 14 saves in picking up his fourth win of the World Juniors. The Canadian netminder has a 0.50 GAA and .971 save percentage in the tournament.
David Sholtes had the lone goal for Slovakia. Denis Godla made 39 saves in the loss and was given a standing ovation by an appreciative pro-Canadian crowd after the game.
Head coach Benoit Groulx introduced the motto ‘Tic-Tac-Tao’ during Team Canada selection camp in December, a phrase meant to loosen players up during a stressful tournament.
Canada showed no nerves in the early going Sunday, and on an early power play played its own game of tic-tac-toe.
Lazar took the puck from McDavid and sent a short pass to Petan, who roofed a shot over Godla’s short-side shoulder from the face-off circle to open the scoring.
After being blown out 8-0 by Canada on Boxing Day, Slovakia held its own through the opening 20 minutes and held on through the first 18 of the second.
Canada’s possession advantage finally paid off at 18:06 when a trailing Petan beat Godla on a one-timer.
The lead was three just 1:26 later. After blocking a shot in the defensive end, Theodore finished a feed from Duclair at the other for his first goal of the tournament.
Soltes converted a two-on-one to cut the deficit down to two with only 3.4 seconds left in the second.
Less than three minutes into the third Duclair restored his team’s three-goal lead by banking his own rebound off Godla’s leg.
Petan’s one-timer from the face-off circle – following three point-blank saves by Godla – capped his hat trick and finished off the scoring 12 minutes into the third.