Welcome back, fellow lunatics!
After giving the Russians a run for their money on Wednesday, the Slovakian Juniors will probably being feeling pretty good about themselves heading into this morning’s tilt.
Canada has some things to clean up, particularly on defense, if they hope to make today’s game a comfortable one. Aside from Harrington, every one of Canada’s defensemen can be better than they were on Wednesday and they’ll need to be if we want to keep considering ourselves the favourites in this tournament.
The bottom-6 looked a little out of sorts on Wednesday as well, in my opinion, with Jenner out of the lineup. He won’t be back in time for our key tilt with the USA so we’d better hope that they can find a little chemistry in the interim. McNeill was a great replacement for Jenner in the faceoff circle (12 for 13) but he isn’t as good in the defensive zone (giveaway notwithstanding).
On a positive note, the first line looked fantastic and Strome/Drouin looked pretty sharp as a second scoring unit as well. We should have a decisive advantage against all the other top-6 groups in the tournament and if these guys can keep playing the way they did the other day, we’ll be able to overcome some of the other hiccups that invariably present themselves in these short tournaments.
As with Game One, I’ll be tossing up updates during the intermissions. Looking forward to the game and to hearing your thoughts on some of the promising young talent in this game.
1st Intermission Update
Well, hopefully that was an eye opener. The Slovakians definitely play an effective trap game and play with a lot of guys deep in the defensive zone when Canada has possession. It’s pretty clear that getting pucks through to the net will be a challenge this morning.
Slovakia’s first goal came on a scramble in front of the net as the initial shot bounced around a bunch of bodies in front. Murphy gets lost in the defensive zone as he’s apt to do and 2013 eligible Marko Dano found the loose puck before Subban was able to pick it up and put it past him.
Slovakia’s second goal came during a 5-minute man advantage. Some good in-zone cycling led to lost coverage for the Canada penalty killers and a heck of a shot by Tomas Mikus sees the Slovakians go ahead 2-0 and that’s where we stand through one period of play.
I see very little reason why JC Lipon should be getting any more icetime for Canada. He wasn’t good in their game against Germany and this morning’s headshot infraction is the kind of penalty you simply can’t take as a fourth line player in limited minutes. I’d expect that he’ll become the extra forward once Jenner returns to the lineup for the game against Russia.
2nd Intermission Update
What a period! Canada drew first blood with Ryan Strome skating around the offensive zone with the puck and taking advantage of some flat-footed Slovakian defense to find some space in the middle of the ice, firing a wrist shot into the top half of the net.
After Camara saw himself kicked out of the game on what looked like a pretty bad penalty call, the Slovakians ended up drawing a tripping penalty and took advantage of the ensuing 5 on 3. Once again it was Dano after some good passing by the Slovakians on their powerplay.
Canada then found themselves on a 5 on 3 of their own and Rielly fired a shot past the Slovakian goaltender Nagy.
With Canada still on the powerplay, Rielly played pitch and catch with Ouellet who made an outstanding pass from the blueline to the crease and Ty Rattie makes a nice adjustment to tip the puck past the Slovakian goalie.
The fourth Canadian goal came after a fantastic shift from Mark Scheifele. After keeping the puck in the zone while covering for the pinching defenseman, Scheifele then tipped in the Xavier Ouellet shot, giving Canada their first lead of the game.
Rielly and Ouellet have both been outstanding (though Rielly didn’t see much icetime in the first) and have been the straw that has stirred the drink from Canada’s defense during this comeback. Scheifele and Strome have been the most noticeable Canadian forwards with an honourable mention going to Drouin.
6 – 3 Final
Canada got a little insurance off of the stick of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on another powerplay. RNH shows off some pretty slick hands on the goal and probably has Steve Tambellini smiling smugly, as per usual.
The sixth and final Canadian goal came after a great pass from Wotherspoon sent Strome in alone on Nagy. Strome made a great five-hole move to beat the Slovakian goalie as Canada capitalized on the team’s bad line change.
Scheifele was Canada’s player of the game and deservedly so — he was buzzing all morning and seemed to be at the center of just about everything. Next game is Sunday at 4:30am before we get a bit of a reprieve with a 9:00am start on Monday.