ALMATY, Kazakhstan (U SPORTS) – The much-anticipated men’s hockey opener between Canada and the United States lived up to the hype for 25 minutes but it was all red and white the rest of the way as the team made up of Ontario University Athletics all-stars skated to an impressive 6-0 win on Monday night, in front of a capacity crowd of over 3,000 at Halyk Arena.
Brent Pedersen of Arthur, Ont., Brett Welychka of London, Ont., and defenceman Spencer Abraham of Campbellville Ont., each scored twice and Kevin Bailie from Belleville, Ont., recorded a 17-save shutout for the winners, who next face Great Britain (0-1) Wednesday at 4 p.m. local (5 a.m. EST) before wrapping up Group B play on Friday against Slovakia (1-0).
Pederson, a forward from Laurentian University, sent the many Canadian fans in attendance into a frenzy only 30 seconds in when he circled around the net to beat American goalie Jordan Gluck.
Despite an 18-4 advantage in shots for Canada in the first period, the score remained unchanged until the 25-minute mark, when the OUA standouts broke the affair wide open with three goals in nine minutes.
“It was a great start to the tournament. Overall I thought the guys came out real strong, they were ready to go right off the bat,” said head coach Brett Gibson from Queen’s University. “Our power play looked great tonight, we moved the puck around real well. I think the one thing we need to clean up is we turned the puck over way too much. Against the top teams, if we turn the puck over at our blue line we’re gonna get scored on.”
“We were a little nervous coming in, playing the USA in front of a packed house, it doesn’t get any better than that,” said Abraham, who plays for Gibson at Queen’s. “But I think our coaches prepared us better than any team in this tournament. We just executed tonight and we just have to get better every day.”
While he wasn’t overly tested against the USA, Bailie was solid when he needed to be and was especially sharp late in the first period when the Americans enjoyed a two-man advantage for a minute and 19 seconds.
“It was definitely a good way to start the tournament. A win is a win and I don’t think we would have cared if we had won 1-0 instead of 6-0. Now we have to keep going,” said the talented netminder who is also a member of the Queen’s Gaels. “We might need to work a little on our discipline. At the international level, the referees often call things a little differently than they do in Canada. In a close game, once we start moving on, this is something that could hurt us.”
Holding on to their slim 1-0 lead early in the second frame, the Canadians were finally able to put a couple more behind Gluck, who finished the night with 34 saves and prevented an even more lopsided result with a number of acrobatic stops.
Pedersen made it 2-0 courtesy of a friendly bounce. A shot by defenceman Étienne Boutet hit an opponent’s skate and ended up on his stick right in the slot, from where the Laurentian sniper one-timed it to the back of the net.
Just over two minutes later on the power play, Welychka took a pass from rearguard Martin Lefebvre and his one-timer from the left circle left no chance to Gluck.
Abraham took advantage of a USA turnover to make it 4-0 at 13:38. The all-star defenceman took the puck inside the American blue line, took a few strides forward and roofed it glove side, all but putting the game away.
Welychka and Abraham rounded out the scoring in the third, both with exact replicas of their second period marker, the former with a one-timer from the left circle and the latter with a deadly wrister just under the cross bar.
Boutet, Lefebvre and Michael McNamee contributed two assists apiece in the win.
NOTES: Since 1997, Canada has been represented at the biennial Universiade men’s hockey tournament by each of the three U SPORTS conferences on a rotating basis… The Canada West all-stars captured bronze in 2015 in Spain, giving Canada its 14th medal in 15 appearances at the competition, including gold in 2013 (AUS all-stars), 2007 (AUS all-stars), 1991 (Canadian national team) and 1981 (University of Alberta)… In three previous appearances, OUA skaters have won bronze in 1999 (Poprad-Tatry, Slovakia) and 2011 (Erzurum, Turkey) and finished fifth in 2005 (Innsbruck, Austria).
TEAM CANADA SCHEDULE & RESULTS (all times local / 11 hours ahead of ET)
Monday, Jan. 30 (19:30): Canada 6, USA 0
Wednesday, Feb. 1 (16:00): Canada vs. Great Britain
Friday, Feb. 3 (12:30): Canada vs. Slovakia
Saturday, Feb. 4 (TBD): Quarterfinals
Sunday, Feb. 5 (TBD): Quarterfinals
Tuesday. Feb. 7 (TBD): Semifinals
Wednesday, Feb. 8 (11:00): Bronze
Wednesday, Feb. 8 (15:00): Final