HAMILTON — Only Dillon Dube thought he was sluggish after missing two weeks with an injured shoulder. To everyone else, he was the best player on the ice.
Dube scored twice and added an assist to power Canada past Switzerland 8-1 on Friday in a final pre-tournament exhibition game before the world junior hockey championship.
It was Dube’s first game for Canada after missing all three games at selection camp and Wednesday’s 9-0 win over the Czech Republic. The Calgary Flames prospect had been out after injuring his shoulder while playing for the Western Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets on Dec. 9.
“At the start I was a little heavy, getting my legs back under me and into game shape,” said Dube. “I’ve been skating a lot throughout this time off, doing a little bit extra, so the cardio is there but I’m getting into game shape.
“Overall I thought it was a good 60 minutes.”
Dube had 18 goals and 21 assists in 27 games for Kelowna this season before his injury. As one of seven players returning from Canada’s silver-medal roster last year, head coach Dominique Ducharme has been counting on the 19-year-old forward to be a leader on and off the ice.
Ducharme is also expecting Dube to produce offensively, putting him on a line with Ontario Hockey League points leader Jordan Kyrou and reigning WHL player of the year Sam Steel.
“He was himself,” said Ducharme of Dube’s performance. “Speed, skills. We can see that even though it was his first game with Kyrou and Steel you can see the chemistry building and I think it’s really positive. It can only keep going.”
Tyler Steenbergen also had a pair of goals for Canada, including the eventual winner. Kyrou, Jake Bean, Drake Batherson and Kale Clague also scored for Canada in front of 12,562 at FirstOntario Centre.
Carter Hart started in net for Canada, making three saves in a scoreless first period. Colton Point took over after the intermission, stopping 3-of-4 shots.
“We’re a defence-focused team this year and I think we’re proving that right now,” said Point. “Our D blocked probably more shots than I stopped today.”
Hart will likely be in net when Canada opens the world junior championship on Dec. 26 in Buffalo, N.Y.
Guillaume Maillard replied for Switzerland. Philip Wuthrich played in net for Switzerland for the first two periods, turning aside 36-of-42 shots. Matteo Ritz subbed in for the third period, making 16 saves on 18 shots.
Canadian defenceman Conor Timmins, who was hurt blocking a shot against the Czech Republic, did not dress on Friday but is expected back for the first game of the world championship. Fellow defenceman Dante Fabbro (lower-body contusion) hasn’t skated in a week and is still considered day to day.
Kyrou streaked in from the wing to redirect a pass from Josh Mahura into the net early in the first period to open scoring.
Steenbergen stayed on the lip of the crease and took a couple of whacks at a loose puck before putting one past Wuthrich to make it 2-0 near the midway point of the first.
Dube one-timed a pass from Steel into the net at the 2:39 mark of the second period, before Maillard took a pass from behind the goal-line and backhanded the puck over Point’s shoulder to cut Canada’s lead to 3-1.
“I just settled in a little bit there,” said Dube. “It’s nice playing with those guys, they’re giving me chances to feel comfortable out there. I think they clicked well and it made me look a lot better.”
Bean responded for Canada jut as a power play expired, wiring a wrist shot past a screened Wuthrich.
Batherson tipped in a long shot from Mahura into the Swiss net to increase the Canadian lead to 5-1.
Dube brought the crowd to its feet for a second time on the night with 1:53 to go in the second. Kyrou sent a cross-ice pass to a wide open Dube who fired it straight into the net.
Steenbergen’s second of the night came 7:36 into the third when he swatted the puck past Ritz to make it 7-1. Clague added another goal for Canada moments later, carrying the puck up from his own end and snapping a wrist shot past Ritz.