Braden Schneider ended up receiving a one-game suspension after his high hit on Jan-Luca Schumacher in Team Canada’s opener. That hit in many ways summed up what kind of a game it became for the Canadians, as they fully steamrolled a Team Germany which was inferior in every single aspect.
However, as great as it can be with a lot of goals, there is something to the fact that with such a limited time to glue the team together, a game such as that doesn’t exactly help the coaching staff seeing which players actually stood out and found true chemistry.
Most spectators were probably expecting, if not something similar, at least a comfortable victory against Team Slovakia as well. Instead, the Slovaks ended up being a much tougher nut to crack for André Tourigny’s side as Canada only won their second game by a score of 3-1 on Sunday.
Schneider’s replacement, Australia-born sensation Jordan Spence scored on his very first shift in his first World Juniors game. Spence, who lived in Japan for most of his childhood, has walked a longer and more winding road than most hockey prospects his age. Spence rose to stardom during three seasons with the Wildcats in Moncton after previously playing in the MJAHL, after moving to Prince Edward Island right before his teens.
Sometimes, fairytales do come true.
But Spence’s goal wasn’t the start of some kind of dominant performance from the home team. Instead, the Slovaks fought back and grew into the game as it wore on. And when Canada finally did get shots on net, goaltender Samuel Hlavaj stood in the way to prevent whatever was fired his way. Thankfully for Canada, so did birthday boy Devon Levi.
When the clock was ticking down toward the final minutes of the last period, the score was still 1-0. A penalty on Dawson Mercer after a duel with impressive 16-year old Simon Nemec caused Slovakia to raise their stakes a bit, trying to use the power play to get that tying goal.
Unfortunately, pushing for the equalizer meant that they got just ever so slightly out of position on defence for the remainder of the period. Against a team like Canada, you have to be on your toes for sixty minutes straight or they will punish you. That was exactly what Nashville Predators-prospect Philip Tomasino did when he put a second nail in Hlavaj’s coffin with three-and-a-half minutes to go.
Did this mean that Slovakia yielded and that Levi would get his shutout? No sir. Slovak coach Robert Petrovický pulled his goalie and with an extra attacker, they were finally able to break through the Canadian wall. Martin Chromiak moved into the slot and hung it high, demonstrating his best assets as an offensive dynamo. Why Chromiak, who last winter acted as Shane Wright’s linemate in Kingston, fell to round five this October is beyond me.
This ended up being way closer than it probably should have been, but Canada eventually could seal the deal with Jack Quinn scoring the last goal with an empty netter.
They will now move on to face the third of the lesser teams in Group A, facing a Switzerland without a single NHL draft pick on their roster on Tuesday afternoon. For Slovakia, they will try to build off this brave effort when they square off with a Team Germany in the evening game on Tuesday.