ALMATY, Kazakhstan (U SPORTS) – The Canadian men’s hockey team used four power play goals and timely penalty killing to edge Slovakia 5-3 and finish atop Group B at the 28th Winter Universiade, Friday afternoon.
The Ontario University Athletics all-stars improved to 3-0 at the biennial tournament and are now off to the quarterfinals. The date (either Saturday or Sunday) and time of their first sudden-death contest as well as their next opponent will be known later tonight, once all three groups have completed the preliminary round.
All four quarterfinals will be streamed live on www.livefisu.tv/.
After winning their first two games by a combined score of 20-0 against the United States and Great Britain, the Canadians knew they would face a much tougher challenge versus a big and physical Slovak team. They just didn’t know their pool finale would be this wild.
The affair featured 23 penalties and 21 power plays, with the winners converting four of nine opportunities and their European rivals going 2-of-12. Canada’s fifth goal, while not scored with the man advantage, came six seconds after a Slovak penalty had expired.
Pierre-Olivier Morin of Trois-Rivières, Que., scored twice, including the eventual game-winner late in the second period, while defenceman Martin Lefebvre of Terrebone, Que., rearguard Spencer Abraham of Campbellville, Ont., and Slater Doggett of Oakville, Ont., each found the back of the net once.
Doggett added an assist for a two-point afternoon and Brett Welychka of London, Ont., chipped in with a pair of helpers.
Making his second start at the competition, Kevin Bailie of Belleville, Ont., turned aside 23 of 26 shots, including a number of key saves in penalty kill situations.
At the other end of the ice, Samuel Kosut was saddled with the loss after stopping 30 of 35 pucks fired his way.
“Special teams played a huge role obviously,” said Canadian head coach Brett Gibson. “Any time Team Canada has success at this type of tournament, we have to be at the top or near the top in special teams. We’ve been working on it a lot in practice, we’ve really been focusing on it.
“The Slovaks are a great team. They have a lot of players who play professional on that team. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of them. They’ll be contending for a medal,” added the Queen’s University bench boss. “We’ve completed the first phase of our journey. It was important for us to win our pool. Now we start the second phase.”
Morin and Doggett were proud of the way the team responded to adversity.
“We faced a lot of adversity today. It was by far our most intense game so far. Emotions were flying high,” said Morin, a forward from the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières. “Whenever you wear the Team Canada jersey, it gives you an extra jolt of energy. I’m happy I was able to contribute offensively today.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever been in a game like this, with so many power plays and penalty kills. It was tough to deal with all that adversity, especially in the second period. But I think we handle it well. We were ready for this kind of game,” said Doggett, who plays under Gibson at Queen’s. “They were a very resilient team every time we scored. I give them credit for battling for a full 60 minutes. We knew what was coming and we were up to the challenge. All the credit goes to the coaches and the guys in this locker room.”
It was a physical affair from the get-go, with four minor penalties – two on each side – called in the first five minutes.
Morin opened the scoring at 6:42 on the power play when he completed a superb three-way passing play with Welychka and UQTR teammate Tommy Giroux. Welychka found Morin wide open on the right side and the sniper fired the puck into an open cage.
Canada almost doubled its lead with seven minutes remaining in the first period, not once but twice in a span of 10 seconds. Michael McNamee was first robbed by Kosut’s lightning quick glove. On the ensuing face-off, Eric Ming’s shot trickled through Kosut’s pads and sat around the red line before being cleared by a defenceman.
The score remained unchanged going into the second period… and then all hell broke loose.
Slovakia needed only 72 seconds to tie the game, courtesy of a power play goal by Edmund Piacka, who found himself all alone in front and beat a sprawling Bailie along the ice.
The Canucks regained the advantage two minutes later – on the power play of course – when a charging Lefebvre took a perfect feed from behind the net from Alex Basso and promptly beat Kosut with a shot just inside the left post.
That second Canadian lead would last less than five minutes as Ivan Brezniak tied it up again at 7:59 – while the teams were skating 4-on-4 – after taking a cross-ice pass from Michal Kabac.
The OUA all-stars responded with two markers in 61 seconds to go into the second intermission with a two-goal cushion.
Abraham made it 3-2 during a two-man advantage at 14:47, using his lethal wrist shot that has produced four of his team-leading five goals so far at the FISU Games.
Moments later, with Canada still up one skater, McNamee found a wide open Morin on the far post and his teammate easily converted for his second of the afternoon, and fourth of the tourney.
In comparison to the wild second period that featured 14 infractions, the third was relatively uneventful until the Slovaks narrowed the gap to one at 9:34… on the power play. A nice cross-ice feed from Samuel Ivanic to Peter Gapa left no chance to Bailie, who had no time to react on the play.
Doggett gave Canada some breathing room at 12:39, when he converted a Ryan Van Stralen pass from behind the net. It was the only even-strength goal of the contest for the Canadians, but came only six seconds after Slovakia’s Nikolas Ketner had left the penalty box.
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).
Monday, Jan. 30 (19:30): Canada 6, USA 0
Wednesday, Feb. 1 (16:00): Canada 14, Great Britain 0
Friday, Feb. 3 (12:30): Canada 5, Slovakia 3
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
SCORING SUMMARY (official boxscore: CLICK HERE)
Canada 5, Slovakia 3
1. CAN Pierre-Olivier Morin (3) (Brett Welychka, Tommy Giroux), 6:42 PP
Jakub Loydl (SVK) hooking, 1:31
Mathieu Pompei (CAN) holding, 3:49
Étienne Boutet (CAN) slashing, 4:23
Jan Zlocha (SVK), elbowing, 5:01
Pierre-Olivier Moring (CAN) high sticking, 10:18
Peter Gapa (SVK) interference, 14:30
2. SVK Edmund Piacka (3) (Ivan Jakubik), 1:12 PP
3. CAN Martin Lefebvre (2) (Alex Basso, Mathieu Pompei), 3:21 PP
4. SVK Ivan Brezniak (3) (Michal Kabac), 7:59
5. CAN Spencer Abraham (5) (Slater Doggett), 14:47 PP2
6. CAN Pierre-Olivier Morin (4) (Michael McNamee, Brett Welychka), 15:48 PP
Alex Basso (CAN) holding, 0:17
Michael Moffat (CAN) cross-checking, 1:12
Michal Kabac (SVK) slashing, 2:17
Scott Simmonds (CAN) tripping, 3:53
Corey Durocher (CAN) hooking, 5:33
Brent Pedersen (CAN) slashing, 6:34
Martin Uhnak (SVK) hooking, 7:33
Ryan Van Stralen (CAN) slashing, 10:29
Jakub Loydl (SVK) holding, 13:05
Michal Pichnarcik (SVK) slashing, 14:03
Ivan Brezniak (CAN) elbowing, 15:55
Peter Gapa (SVK) roughing, 19:40
Denis Nociar (SVK) roughing, 19:40
Michael Van Stralen (CAN) roughing, 19:40
7. SVK Peter Gapa (2) (Samuel Ivanic, Tomas Hluch), 9:34 PP
8. CAN Slater Doggett (1) (Ryan Van Stralen, Eric Ming), 12:39
Pierre-Olivier Morin (CAN) roughing, 9:23
Nikolas Ketner (SVK) holding, 10:33
Charles-David Beaudoin (CAN) interference, 19:51
GOALS (by period)
CAN: 1-3-1: 5
SVK: 0-2-1: 3
SHOTS ON GOAL (by period)
CAN: 14-15-6: 35
SVK: 6-9-11: 26
CAN – Kevin Bailie (W, 2-0, 26 shots, 23 saves, 60:00)
SVK – Samuel Kosut (L, 0-1, 35 shots, 30 saves, 60:00)
REFEREES: Lucas Martin (USA), Michael Tscherrig (SUI)
LINESMEN: David Laksola (SWE), Nikita Viliugin (RUS)