In what other country would exhibition games for any under-19 sporting event be televised? The lunacy of the world junior predictions were finally over, as Canada took on Slovakia on opening day. Slovakia is never pegged as a medal threat in these events, but Canada couldn't afford to take them lightly. Last year, Canada squeaked past the Slovaks 5-3. The year before that, Canada fell behind 2-0 early to the Slovaks, before clawing back to win 6-3. However, the Slovaks had only medalled once in their World Juniors history (bronze in 1999) and had finished eighth at four of the last five tournaments.
The game started well for Canada, with the first real scoring chance coming for the Canadians on a turnover intercepted by Connor McDavid. Under five minutes into the game, Robby Fabbri ripped home Canada's first goal of the tournament. It was a the result of a beautiful four-way passing play. Two minutes later, Rangers loan Anthony Duclair picked up his second point on an unassisted goal. Less than a minute later, Fabbri picked up his second of the night, effectively sealing the victory in the first period.
The second period featured four more Canadian goals, including one by Senators prospect Nick Paul. Nic Petan picked up points two and three on the night, and Fabbri added two assists to his two earlier goals.
The third period was played merely as a formality, featuring only a single goal by the Canadians. Interestingly, the highly-hyped Connor McDavid failed to pick up a single point in an 8-0 rout by Canada, even though he took six shots on goal. The other big story before the game was the decision to play Zach Fucale over Eric Comrie. Comrie has the better stats, but Fucale has won the Memorial Cup. The 12 saves Fuacle had to make to get the shutout do very little in helping the coaches to make a decision. This was a game the Canadians should have dominated, and to their credit, they did.
Canada Hero: Robby Fabbri
Anyone who has a four-point night is a hero.
Canada Hero: Nic Petan
Had three points, including two in the second to ensure Canada would hold on to the win.
Honourable Mention: Anthony Duclair
He had the TSN Highlight of the Night with some sweet hands in front of goal. That's worth a mention.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>.<a href="https://twitter.com/aduclair10">@aduclair10</a> gives Canada a two-goal lead <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BigPlay?src=hash">#BigPlay</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TSN?src=hash">#TSN</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/CanadianTire">@CanadianTire</a> - <a href="http://t.co/dOuws4UwuR">http://t.co/dOuws4UwuR</a></p>— TSN Hockey (@TSNHockey) <a href="https://twitter.com/TSNHockey/status/548658120453402624">December 27, 2014</a></blockquote>
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Sens prospect updates:
Nick Paul - He only showed up on the scoresheet once with a second period goal, but was part of the Canadian third line that was the best line of the night. Nic Petan and Robby Fabbri may have had better nights statistically, but so far Sens fans should be happy with what they've seen of him.
Curtis Lazar - The second line (Lazar - McDavid - Nick Ritchie) didn't show up on the scoresheet at all tonight. Lazar was also the only forward of the night with zero shots on goal. It's too early to be concerned, but Team Canada will need the captain and his linemates to show up against tougher teams.
Rundown of the other games of the day:
Russia 3, Denmark 2 (SO)
Russia overcame an early 2-0 deficit to win in the shootout. The lost point against what should have been an easy opponent could hurt Russia later.
USA 2, Finland 1 (SO)
The States also had to come back, erasing a one-goal deficit to win in the shootout. These two teams are in Canada's group, and the lack of a regulation win should be helpful to the Canadians in the standings.
Sweden 5, Czech Republic 2
Sweden staked an early 2-0 lead, watched it evaporate, and then scored the last three of the game to take the win. Sens prospect Andreas Englund put up zeros across the board, which at least means he wasn't on the ice for a single goal against.