PIESTANY, Slovakia — The real work is only just starting for Canada at the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka under-18 hockey tournament.
After finishing off the round robin with a 6-1 win over Slovakia on Wednesday, the team immediately set its sights on Friday’s semifinal against the Czech Republic.
The two teams faced one another in an exhibition ahead of the tournament, with Canada pulling out an overtime victory. The game was closer than any of the Canada’s three lopsided wins in the round robin.
The semifinal should also be tough as it will be played in Breclav, Czech Republic.
“They’re a very competitive team, they really pressured hard (in the exhibition game),” Canadian coach George Burnett said of the Czechs. “There’s no passive play at all. It was very aggressive and it’s nice that we know that now.
“I’m sure there’ll be a home crowd contingent as well.”
The Canadians have reason to feel good about themselves after outscoring their opponents 19-7 thus far.
Boone Jenner had two goals on Wednesday while Ducan Siemens, Scott Harrington, Myles Bell and Matt Puempel also scored.
Martin Gernat replied for Slovakia (0-3).
With the game comfortably in hand, the Canadian coach rested forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and defenceman Ryan Murray in the third period. Both players have been suffering from flu-like symptoms.
“We were able to sit down a few of our guys that have been really sick over the last three days,” said Burnett. “With the hockey and the travel, it’s catching up with them a little bit.”
The Canadian team is two victories away from winning the tournament for the sixth time in seven years.
Burnett hopes to “tighten a few things up” at practice on Thursday so the team will be at its best in the playoff round. He’s feeling optimistic.
“We’ve got a good group of kids that care about each other and are very sincere in their interest to take care of business here,” said Burnett. “They know the process that we’ve started. I think everyone’s bought in.
“It’s been a nice run so far — we’ve got some work to do though.”