Slovakia needed to play a perfect game if they hoped to upset Canada in this semifinal match up. Any slip up, especially in the discipline department, would likely cost them.
At 4:07 of the first period, Nic Petan made sure to punish the Slovaks for an early penalty. With David Soltes in the box for tripping, Curtis Lazar found a wide open Petan, who once again displayed his silky smooth hands, beating Denis Godla short side.
From the get go, it was clear that Canada intended on paying special attention to Habs prospect Martin Reway, and rightfully so. Reway has participated in five of Slovakia's ten goals of the tournament. Canada's coach, Benoit Groulx, knows better than anyone about Reway's offensive flair, having coached him for two years in Gatineau.
This extra attention caused Canada's first penalty, when Nick Paul slashed Reway's stick out of his hands. Zachary Fucale was put to the test for the first time in the game, stopping a Robert Lantosi shot from up close.
The powerplay seemed to invigorate Slovakia, who started to create solid even strength scoring chances, including a partial break by Reway, who eventually lost the puck as he tried to cut in front of Shea Theodore.
The period ended with Zachary Fucale's nicest save of the tournament, when he stuffed Pavol Skalicky on a clean breakaway. It wasn't the busiest period for Fucale, but he had to make at least two nice saves, both of them off quality scoring chances.
Despite the 1-0 lead, Nic Petan called it the worst period of the tournament for the Canadians.
Canada would double up their efforts in the second frame, a lot of the pressure coming from the Frederik Gauthier, Lawson Crouse, and Nick Ritchie line. Even though they failed to score, the line was simply too big and too strong for the Slovakian defenders to handle. Godla shut the door on several good scoring chances, but his luck would run out late in the period. Nic Petan, arguably Canada's best forward of the tournament, put home his second goal of the game, off a nice Connor McDavid pass.
Canada wasn't done there, with Shea Theodore padding the score a minute and a half later. It seemed as if Canada was heading into the intermission with a 3-0 lead, but a Madison Bowey blown tire led to a Slovakian 3-on-1, cutting Canada's lead to two, with under three seconds left to play in the period.
Anthony Duclair would beat Denis Godla for a fourth time on the night, thanks to a bit of a lucky bank shot, but it has to be said that the Slovakian goalie was spectacular. I know that's hard to process when a team is down 4-1, but without Godla the Slovakians would be possibly facing a double digit deficit. His lateral movement was spectacular, and helped him save at least three sure goals during one shift in the third period.
During the sequence that led to Canada's fifth goal, Godla was up to his old tricks, but following a series of spectacular saves, he finally allowed Canada's best forward to complete his hat trick. This is probably a good time to remind everyone that Nic Petan had first round talent, but only went midway through the second round due to size concerns.
The game came to an end as the crowd chanted "We want Russia!", but Canadians should be quick to remember the last time Canada met Russia in the gold medal game. It was the last time Canada made it to the finals, and it ended with a 5-3 victory for the Russians.
Can Canada take home the gold medal for the first time since 2009? We won't have to wait long to find out. Puck drop for the final is tomorrow at 8 PM ET.