BRATISLAVA, Slovakia – Maxime Comtois (Longueuil, Que./Victoriaville, QMJHL) scored his second goal of the game 4:31 into overtime, leading Canada’s National Men’s Summer Under-18 Team to a 3-2 win over Slovakia to kick off the 2016 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup on Monday.
Comtois’ first goal gave the Canadians a 2-0 lead less than seven minutes into the first period, but a pair of Slovak goals in the last 10 minutes of the third pushed the game to an extra period.
With a shootout less than a minute away, Comtois stripped a Slovak defenceman deep in the offensive zone and beat goaltender Juraj Sklenar from in close for the game-winner.
Canada wasted no time taking the lead; Owen Tippett (Peterborough, Ont./Mississauga, OHL) took a pass in the high slot from Michael Rasmussen (Surrey, B.C./Tri-City, WHL) and wired a shot past Sklenar just 69 seconds after the puck dropped.
Comtois doubled the lead 5:16 later, firing a one-timer off a feed from Nick Suzuki (London, Ont./Owen Sound, OHL) that found its way through Sklenar for a 2-0 advantage after one period.
After a scoreless second period that saw the tournament co-hosts outshoot Canada 9-8, the Slovaks finally found a way past Canadian netminder Ian Scott (Calgary, Alta./Prince Albert, WHL) midway through the third; Michael Ivan cruised through the slot and redirected in a pass from Milos Roman to make it a 2-1 game.
With Sklenar on the bench for an extra attacker in the dying minutes, Filip Krivosik tipped a shot from Ivan past Scott to bring Slovakia even with just 62 seconds to go, setting up Comtois’ overtime heroics.
Canada finished with a 43-23 advantage in shots on goal in a game largely played at five-on-five; both teams had just a single opportunity on the power play, both in the first period.
The Canadians are right back to action Tuesday at Slovnaft Arena in Bratislava, taking on Russia in the early game in Group B (5:30 a.m. ET/2:30 a.m. PT).
Paul McFarland, head coach:
“I thought that we improved in a lot of areas compared to our first exhibition game, but we also understand that we will have to find another level of consistency and effort for tomorrow’s contest versus Russia.”
Since 1991, Canada has won the annual summer tournament 20 times, and captured two silver medals and one bronze. Canada plays in Group B with Russia, Slovakia, and Sweden; Group A consists of the Czech Republic, Finland, Switzerland, and the United States. The top two teams from each group advance to the semifinals on Friday, Aug. 12, with the gold-medal game scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 13.