Canada 8 Slovakia 2
SASKATOON — Taylor Hall was a little put out that his teammates were piling up goals while he was shooting blanks at the world junior hockey championship.
So the Windsor Spitfires phenom, who is expected to go first overall in the NHL draft, took matters into his own soft hands, scoring three times as Canada blitzed Slovakia 8-2 on Tuesday night for its third straight one-sided win of the tournament.
”Any time your team scores 22 goals, and you’re a forward on the first power play, and you don’t have a goal, you’re a little bit worried,” said Hall, who was held to three assists in wins of 16-0 over Latvia and 6-0 over Switzerland to start the tournament.
”But I knew that as long as I continued to do the right things and contribute to the team, eventually they’d come.”
The 18-year-old left-winger brought a shower of hats from the Credit Union Centre crowd of 13,232 when he scored his third goal late in the second period on a deft cut to the middle on a rush and a backhand shot from the slot.
”It was a fun night for me,” said Hall, who also assisted on a goal by Windsor teammate Ryan Ellis. ”I’ve actually never scored a hat-trick in front of a home crowd and I’ve never had hats come down for me, so it was a nice feeing.”
Alex Pietrangelo, Luke Adam, Brayden Schenn and Stefan Della-Rovere also scored for Canada, which conceded its first goals of the tournament when Richard Panik scored on a second period power play and Martin Bakos added a late goal for Slovakia (1-2).
For a second year in a row, the win set up a clash between Canada and the United States with first place in their preliminary round group on the line. The winner of Thursday’s game gets a bye to the semifinals.
Last year, the Americans took an early lead before Canada roared back for a 7-4 win. Pietrangelo, one of six returning players from that tournament, called it ”one of the best games I’ve been involved in. It was something to remember. Canada-U.S. is always a rivalry.”
While Canada has outscored opponents 30-2, the games have featured plenty of hitting and the team is getting banged up. Hall is playing with a sore left knee that he says hasn’t bothered him thus far. On Tuesday night, forward Jordan Caron didn’t finish the game, although coach Willie Desjardins said it didn’t appear to be anything serious.
They were already missing defenceman Calvin de Haan with an undisclosed injury and Desjardins said he is not certain to play against the Americans.
In earlier games, the U.S. downed winless Latvia 12-1. In Group B in Regina, the Czech Republic (1-2) downed Austria (0-3) 7-1, and Sweden (3-0) defeated Russia (2-1) 4-1.
Desjardins made the surprise decision to start Martin Jones in goal after Jake Allen earned easy shutouts in the first two games. The rangy Calgary Hitman goalie was sharp in facing 27 shots — two more than Canada allowed in the first two games combined.
And now, the impression is that Allen’s status as the No. 1 goalie is not the lock it was thought to be.
”We wanted to give one to Jones to make sure he’s ready and we’ll talk with the coaching staff to see who plays against the U.S.,” he said.
It didn’t go so well for Slovak starter Marek Ciliak, who was yanked in favour of Tomas Halasz after allowing three goals on only four shots.
Slovak coach Stefan Mikes refused to blame his goalies.
”Canada has very good shooters,” said Mikes, whose team now must beat Switzerland to reach the quarter-finals for a second year in a row. ”After the second period, they had seven goals on 20 shots.
”Our goaltenders had an unlucky day.“
Canada’s red-hot power play — with 13 goals in three games — struck on its first chance as Hall got his first of the tournament with a snap shot to the top corner at 7:18.
Only 21 seconds later, Pietrangelo’s screened point shot went in and Hall followed with another bullet high to Ciliak’s glove side at 10:43.
In came Halasz, and Adam came around the net to beat him 5:08 into the second frame for his third in as many games.
The Slovaks were incensed that Matus Rais was called for diving after doing a pirouette after a brush with a defender, and protested louder after Ellis walked into the slot and scored with the man advantage at 13:20.
Moments earlier, Hall had flown in the air from a classic hip-check by defenceman Peter Hrasko, who was crashing into Canadian forwards all night.
”I thought I got clipped or tripped a bit,” said Hall. ”The ref didn’t think it was a penalty, but all I know is I was flying through the air for a good two seconds and it wasn’t too enjoyable.”
Panik made up for it when he was at the net to knock in Hrasko’s rebound on a power play at 17:25, but less than a minute later, Schenn got his first on a rush with Brandon Kozun.
Della-Rovere got a short-handed goal 12:41 into the third, but Andrej Stastny won a puck in Canada’s end and fed Bakos for a goal at 13:43
NOTES: Canada is (5-0-1) all-time against Slovakia at the world juniors. Their largest previous victory margin was 7-2 in 1997. . . Jones and Kozun have put players from the Calgary Hitmen on Canada’s team for a seventh straight year, tying a record previously set by the Ottawa 67s and Spokane Chiefs. . . Gabriel Bourque and Jordan Eberle’s consecutive hat-tricks in the first two games for Canada matched the feat accomplished in 1986 by Jim Sandlak and Scott Mellanby. Now Hall has made it three games in a row.