Canada opens U18 worlds with win over Latvia

Canada 4 Latvia 1

POPRAD, Slovakia — Maxime Comtois scored the game-winning goal on a power play as Canada downed Latvia 4-1 on Thursday, the first day of action at the world men’s under-18 hockey championship.

Stelio Mattheos also had a power-play goal for Canada, while MacKenzie Entwistle had a goal and an assist and Isaac Ratcliffe also scored.

Rihards Paskausks scored for Latvia. The teams were tied 1-1 after a tight first period, but Canada opened the game up with a pair of goals on 25 shots in the second.

“We knew (Latvia) were going to be excited to play us,” head coach Darren Rumble said. “They gave us everything we could handle in the first.

“We definitely tested the waters there then came out on a mission in the second.”

Ian Scott made 18 saves in goal for Canada, while Niklavs Rauza picked up the loss despite stopping 50 shots.

The Canadian team came together in a bout a week, with the process complicated by the fact that all three Canadian-based major junior hockey leagues are in playoff mode right now. Still, Rumble said the players have bonded quicker than he expected.

“We feel like we’re miles away from where we thought we’d be from a chemistry standpoint,” Rumble said.

Canada next plays host Slovakia on Saturday. The Slovaks can score, putting up four straight goals in a tight 5-4 loss to Finland on Thursday.

Rumble said Saturday’s game is sold out, and he plans to prepare his players for a raucous crowd.

“I don’t know if you’ve seen a European hockey game, they sing and chant and play drums the entire time,” Rumble said.

“It’s like a soccer game in a smaller environment with a roof.

“I’m thinking about practising with the music blaring.”

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