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Canada ends group play with win over USA

Canada finished the group stage of the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship with maximum points, winning all four games following an equal parts skillful and gritty 5-3 win over the United States on Wednesday in Montreal.

Four regulation time triumphs means Canada finishes atop Group A with 12 points, now heading to the quarterfinals against Denmark in Toronto.

Canada’s 17-shot opening period didn’t yield a goal as bounces went the Americans’ way when goaltender Thatcher Demko wasn’t getting in front of the puck. United States responded with 13 shots, having the better of the play in the opening minutes until a thunderous Josh Morrissey shoulder check on Sonny Milano near the glass changed momentum in Canada’s favour.

Anthony Duclair piles on as Canada celebrates Max Domi's opening goal.

Anthony Duclair piles on as Canada celebrates Max Domi’s opening goal.

The first great chance of the second period came less than six minutes into the action when Darnell Nurse found an open lane up the middle, only to be thwarted by Demko.

Undaunted by the goaltending, Canadians continued to skate inside the American zone with purpose, their pace and crisp puck movement clearly causing the United States discomfort and soon it would result in the opening goal.

Max Domi made it 1-0 for Canada at 7:07 of the second, converting a pass from Sam Reinhart after making the initial move to create the scoring chance before his third of the tournament.

Canada’s first power play of the night brought home the second goal three minutes later. Nic Petan sent the puck back to the point for Robby Fabbri, who slid it over to Morrissey for a one-timer – and his first goal – past Demko for 2-0.

It seemed Canada was in firm control when a penalty on Anthony Duclair gave the Americans an opening, which they smartly converted through Anthony DeAngelo and suddenly it was once again a close game at 2-1.

The third period started with a Canadian man advantage following an American penalty to Miles Wood at the end of 40 minutes. It would be a long time before a stoppage whistle would be heard again at the Bell Centre as the teams skated nonstop for the opening eight minutes of the third.

Eventually after a breather, the United States had its best chance to equalize on a three-on-one break following a turnover. Canadian defenceman Madison Bowey though wasn’t having any of it, batting away a pass that could’ve been fatal to Canada’s lead.

Moments later, Connor McDavid got on his bike for Canada, his tight angle shot forced Demko to give up a juicy rebound. Trailing the play, Curtis Lazar rushed the net and the puck bounced off the Canadian captain and into the American net for a 3-1 lead.

The American team refused to give up despite the partisan Canadian crowd counting down the minutes with the Olé song ringing around Bell Centre. A turnover inside the Canadian zone allowed Chase De Leo to make a quick pass to Hudson Fasching, who held on until he found Dylan Larkin perfectly positioned, all alone to Canadian goaltender Eric Comrie’s right. From there it was a simple tap-in for Larkin and the game was in play at 3-2 with 2:34 to go.

Comrie then came up big in the final two minutes with composed goaltending, aided by a key block from Nurse. It was shortly after that Reinhart gave Canada breathing room with an empty net goal making it 4-2.

The Americans answered again with Larkin but the two goal lead was restored by a Domi empty-netter, ending a very entertaining affair at 5-3.

The Canada-Denmark quarterfinal is on January 2 (8 p.m. ET) at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre. All games are broadcast live on TSN.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Canada 4-1 Finland

The bad news is Canada finally conceded a goal. The good news: giving one up didn’t stop the Canadians from beating Finland 4-1 on Monday.

The win keeps Canada unbeaten after three games of the group stage at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship with one more to go on Wednesday before the quarterfinals.

Sam Reinhart opened the scoring on the night at 5:32 of the first period. On the power play, Reinhart passed the puck to the point, from where Shea Theodore fired a low shot toward the net. Reinhart, skating to the crease, tipped the shot on to the post before tapping in his own rebound for a 1-0 lead to Canada.

Sam Reinhart skates away after scoring the opener on Monday night as the referee signals for goal.

Sam Reinhart skates away after scoring the opener on Monday night as the referee signals for goal.

Reinhart doubled his tally in the second period after Canada put on a passing clinic. Moving fluidly, all five Canadian skaters on the ice touched the puck and the play ended with Reinhart deflecting an Anthony Duclair pass over the right shoulder of Finland goaltender Juuse Saros for 2-0.

Canada’s shutout streak ended with just 1:34 to go in the second, when defenceman Samuel Morin lost the puck to Artturi Lehkonen to the right of Canada’s net. Lehkonen skated from the left to right of Canadian goaltender Zachary Fucale’s crease before scoring unassisted and cutting Canada’s lead to 2-1.

It was the first time in the tournament that Canada looked slightly uncomfortable, however any chance of Finland completing the comeback was snuffed out over three-minute span in the third period. At 11:15 an opportunistic Duclair put Canada up 3-1 with Saros helplessly out of sorts lying flat on the ice. Then at 14:25 Saros failed to freeze the puck under his pad, allowing a hard-charging Curtis Lazar to make it 4-1 on the power play.

Curtis Lazar celebrates his goal that left Finland in disarray.

Curtis Lazar celebrates his goal that left Finland in disarray.

Canada now leads Group A with nine points from three wins. The United States has eight after winning its opening game on a shootout, which is worth two points in the group stage. The two sides will meet on Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET on TSN before the quarterfinals begin in January.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Canada 4-0 Germany

Canada made it two wins in as many games in the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship on Saturday with a 4-0 victory over Germany.

Playing in Group A, Canadian players have put the two easy tests at this stage behind them with wins over Slovakia and Germany, scoring 12 times in two nights and not conceding a single goal.

On Saturday, Connor McDavid opened the scoring at 4:11 of the first period, answering his critics who posed questions when the rising star failed to join the goal party against Slovakia the previous night. McDavid set up two more goals on the night to finish with three points.

Canada's Max Domi is stopped by German goalie Kevin Reich on a breakaway. Domi did get the better of Reich with a third period goal.

Canada’s Max Domi is stopped by German goalie Kevin Reich on a breakaway. Domi did get the better of Reich with a third period goal.

The other goals came from Curtis Lazar, Max Domi and Madison Bowey. Another three-point night – all helpers – was had by Nic Petan.

“Finding the back of the net is big for my confidence, it was a step in the right direction,” Lazar, the team captain, said after the match. Like McDavid, he too was kept off the scoreboard on Friday.

“For Connor and myself it’s nice to finally contribute a little bit.”

Curtis Lazar and Robby Fabbri on their way to celebrate Connor McDavid’s first goal of the tournament. McDavid would later add two assists to make it a three-point night against Germany.

Goaltender Eric Comrie saved 17 shots for the shutout with Friday’s goalie Zachary Fucale rested.

“When you’ve got two goalies with confidence going into the next game, there’s not much more you can ask for,” defenceman Shea Theodore said praising the “huge” boost in Canada’s net.

Three of the four Canada goals came on power plays, while they also killed off man advantages for Germany on six occasions.

Canada gets Sunday off before facing Finland on Monday and the United States on Wednesday to end the group stage in Montreal. All games are shown live on TSN in Canada.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Canada 8-0 Slovakia

Canada flexed its offensive muscles Friday night, overpowering Slovakia 8-0 in its 2015 World Junior Championship debut in Montreal.

Mississauga’s Robby Fabbri had himself a game with two goals and as many assists, leading his team to its first win of the tournament.

“Getting the first game out at the Bell (Centre) always feels good, points are one thing, but the way the team played throughout the whole game, staying level headed, sticking to our game, it was good to see,” said the 18-year-old St. Louis Blues prospect of his fast start.

New York Rangers prospect Anthony Duclair scores Canada’s second goal en route to a 8-0 victory over Slovakia. (Photo: Steve Boudreau)

Both Fabbri goals came in the first period spaced in between Anthony Duclair’s back hand tally as Canada enjoyed a 3-0 advantage after 20 minutes of play.

Goals by Nick Paul and Brayden Point put Slovak goaltender Denis Godla out of his misery midway through the second period – much to the crowd’s delight – with backup David Okolicany stepping in hopping for a momentum change.

Less than five minutes later Max Domi put an end to that hope, surprising Okolicany over the shoulder on the upper right corner with a powerful wrist shot as he cut to the slot atop the face-off circles. Nic Petan closed out the second with a top-shelf beauty of his own that landed on the opposite side this time increasing Canada’s lead to seven.

Canada added another one for good measure in the third period while preserving Zachary Fucale’s shutout.

“No matter how many shots I get, I just want to be as ready as possible back there. My job doesn’t change and I just want to help the team win and that’s all that matters,” explained the Canadian netminder after his 12-save performance.

Canada will look to keep the goals flowing as they prepare to face Group A rival Germany Saturday, 8 p.m. ET on TSN.