Canada shows no mercy against Slovakia in opener

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Oh my Godla.

Canada ran roughshod over Slovakia and that nation’s allegedly best teenaged netminders on Friday night.

In its first game of the 2015 world junior, Canada chased goaltender Denis Godla with five goals on 23 shots, and then beat up on David Okolicany for three more in an 8-0 romp at the Bell Centre.

The Canadian players spoke in the morning of the importance of not being over-confident. In a sense, they had no time to get cocky, considering they had a 3-0 lead just past the nine-minute mark of the first period.

Two goals by Robby Fabbri, which sandwiched a score by Anthony Duclair, made it clear that the Canadian firepower the hockey world was buzzing about in the days leading up to the tournament was real.

We understand it was just the opening game and competition will get more difficult (though not on Saturday night when Canada plays Germany). Anything but dominance against Slovakia would have been cause for concern in some corners, keeping in mind Canada has not won gold in the world junior since 2009 and has finished fourth the past two years.

Importantly, Canada didn’t change its habits as the game progressed, ignoring the fact it was on the way to a relatively easy victory.

“We saw Duclair at one point coming from the top of the circle in their zone, taking the puck away from their team at our blue line, turning the puck and re-attacking on our side,” coach Benoit Groulx said. “It’s a good sign. It is easy for certain guys to pass on that, to pretend we are not coming back, the game is (over), and I like that fact that at 5-0, 6-0, we had the effort on our team.

“We are a pretty confident group, and it is up to us to keep playing the right way. I am not afraid of complacency at all. You can’t allow yourself to be complacent. We’re very happy the way we came out of the game.”

Even before Canada — now 9-0-1 against Slovakia at the world junior — sent Godla to the bench, there was no indication it was going to be much of a test. Slovakia had three shots on Canada goalie Zach Fucale in the early going, but then did not give up another until after Nick Paul made it 4-0 at 6:56 of the second.

Brayden Point, Max Domi and Nic Petan also scored in the middle period, with the Point goal, a one-timer from the slot after a heck of a pass from Petan, ending Godla’s night.

By the time the game ended, Fucale, a Montreal Canadiens prospect who one day will probably make a bigger impact in the building, needed to make just 12 saves for the shutout. Afterward, Groulx announced backup Eric Comrie will start against Germany on Saturday night.

The 12 shots against tied the fourth-fewest Canada has allowed in one game. The record is six, done versus Norway in 1983. Canada had 34 shots on goal.

Slovakia’s goaltending was less than sharp, but we’re not sure any goalie at any level would have stopped Domi’s shot at 16:14 of the second period. The London Knights star and Arizona Coyotes prospect carried the puck over the Slovakia blue line, moved to his forehand and fired a shot into the top corner over Okolicany’s glove hand.

That brought a reaction of cheers and gasps from the crowd (which, at 14,142 was not close to capacity), and a few minutes later, Petan’s goal had the same impact. The Winnipeg Jets prospect went high over Okolicany’s shoulder from a tight angle.

Connor McDavid did not record a point, but he had several excellent chances. He threw a bit of a scare into observers when he doubled over in pain after blocking a shot, but Groulx said the 17-year-old star was fine.

McDavid’s absence on the scoresheet would be worrisome if he wasn’t involved. But the opposite was true. He had a team-high six shots on goal.

Fabbri had two assists, as did Sam Reinhart, Petan and defenceman Madison Bowey also had a pair of assists.

Jake Virtanen scored late in third.

“It’s a good win for us,” Lazar said. “We don’t really look at the score or anything. We were hungry off the get-go and that’s what we need.”


Robby Fabbri had just finished playing a great hockey game and wanted to forget about it almost right away.

That’s the way it is at the world junior, when the next game comes fast.

“Coach (Benoit Groulx) did a great job of letting us know it’s only one game,” Fabbri said. “We have another game (Saturday against Germany), and they are a big, fast team. We have to play hard right off the bat.”

Fabbri, a St. Louis Blues prospect who normally stars for the Guelph Storm, had two goals and two assists and was named Canada’s player of the game.

“Points are one thing, but the way the team played throughout the whole game, staying level-headed, it was good to see,” Fabbri said.

Canada’s top line of Sam Reinhart between Max Domi and Anthony Duclair also was dangerous, combining for six points.

“They’re such good hockey players,” Domi said, “so you just try to ride that.”

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