DAVOS, Switzerland — The Canadian team at the Spengler Cup is a mix of European league players and locked-out NHLers who have had little time to get used to playing with each other.
You wouldn’t know it by the results on the ice.
Matt Duchene scored twice and added an assist as Canada posted a convincing 5-1 semifinal victory over HC Fribourg on Sunday to lock up a spot in the championship game.
“From top to bottom its been such a good dynamic in the room,” said Duchene, a forward with the Colorado Avalanche. “In our first game we had some tough luck, but we’ve used it as a stepping stone and our chemistry has been awesome.”
Jason Spezza, Marc-Antoine Pouliot and Carlo Colaiacovo also scored for the Canadians, who have outscored opponents 10-1 since losing the tournament opener in overtime on Boxing Day.
Canada will play for the championship Monday against HC Davos after the hosts downed Vitkovice Steel 5-4 in the other semifinal.
“The more we play, the more the more in sync we are and the better we are as a group,” said Colaiacovo. “We’ve been rolling out four lines and eight defenceman, and knowing we can count on anyone that’s out there, that’s is a huge bonus to us.”
Devan Dubnyk, earning the start over Jonathan Bernier, followed up his shutout against Davos on Thursday by making 25 saves for the win. He outduelled his NHL counterpart Cory Schneider, who made 28 saves in a losing effort.
“It can be such a short tournament if you give up that semifinal, so we didn’t want that to happen,” said Dubnyk. “The guys did a good job from start to finish of picking away at them and not giving up much. They blocked a lot of pucks out there.”
Fribourg had two separate 5-on-3 power plays in a tight first period, but Canada fought them both off. Spezza opened the scoring on the power play at 16:32 when he tapped in a rebound off a Colaiacovo shot.
“We took advantage of them playing consecutive games,” said Colaiacovo. “Knowing they were facing an uphill battle, we knew we needed to score early.”
Pouliot made it 2-0 early in the second when he capitalized on a turnover and made a clever deke to beat Schneider. Duchene added a short-handed goal late in the second period but Fribourg answered 24 seconds later on a goal from Canadian-born defenceman Joel Kwiatkowski.
“You can’t criticize a win,” said Canadian head coach Doug Shedden. “But our game was a seesaw with that down time in the second period … we can play better.”
Fribourg pressed the Canadian side in the third period, but Duchene made sure Canada stayed on top for good. He won a clean faceoff to get the puck back to Colaiacovo, who blasted it through traffic at the 6:25 mark to restore Canada’s three-goal lead.
Eight minutes later, Duchene took a nice pass just inside the blue-line from Jason Williams, streaked down the wing and fired home a high wrist shot for another insurance goal.
Duchene and Kwiatkowski were named the players of the game for their respective teams.
Colaiacovo hopes Canada can feed off the momentum in the short turnaround before Monday’s final.
“We’ve still got a goal to attain, we’ve got to win,” he said. “But when you’re playing with this much skill, it makes you elevate your game that much more.”