The start of the 2015 IIHF Inline World Hockey Championships started off positively for Canada as the 2014 silver medalists finished off their first game with a 5-2 victory over Slovakia.
Canada looked like they had control of the game early on. Playing a faster, more open-ended style of play, Canada forced Slovak netminder Vladimir Neumann to make some tough stop early, including some solid chances from Brett Bulmer and Josh Foote.
The first goal of the game didn’t end up going in Canada’s favour, though. Slovakia, the seventh place team from a year ago, would get a quick one just two minutes in from Juraj Jurik, who found an open lane near the net and made quick work with a snap shot that beat Brett Leggat over the glove for the 1-0 goal. It was the only shot the Slovaks would get on net in the opening 12 minutes, eventually finishing down 10-1 in that department after the first period of play.
Mid-way through the opening quarter, the Slovaks would take a pair penalties, giving Canada an extended 4-on-3 opportunity. The Canadians struggled to find the back of the net despite intense pressure, with Dave Hammond’s chance at the doorstep hitting the post on their best chance. Hammond came in as Canada’s top returning scorer from their silver medal effort a year ago, tying with Chris Terry with 11 points for eighth in tournament scoring. Terry, who spent 57 games wit the Carolina Hurricanes this past season, did not make the trip over, meaning Canada would need to make up for some of the offense from last year.
Canada would finally find a way to get the puck past Neumann. With the Slovak goaltender putting on an incredible performance, Hammond made sure to make the Slovaks pay for their penalty issues. With Canada on another power-play, Hammond took a blast from out far, with his slap shot blowing past Neumann’s right arm and in for the game-tying goal.
A lethal mistake by Neumann with under seven minutes remaining in the third quarter really cost the Slovaks. Canada had a few plays take shots in the attacking zone, but it would be Bulmer who would exploit Neumann’s inability to correctly handle the puck, scooping it up from right outside the crease before flipping it into the top corner for the 2-1 goal.
Canada’s dominance would finally begin to pay off. With five minutes to go, and yet another Slovak in the box, Bulmer would fake out a defenseman with a quick pass, sending it off to Hammond who would tally his second power-play goal of the game.
Neumann couldn’t save the Slovaks, who really struggled to help out their goaltender in any way. This was proven with about eight minutes to go in the game when James Isaacs went end-to-end before scoring a diving wrist shot goal over the opposing netminder for the 4-1 goal. Just over a minute later, Richard Vanderhoek got one of his own after Neumann’s exhaustion caught up to him, cheating too early on the shot to help Canada make it 5-1. Miroslav Preisinger would score a goal with two minutes left to go in the frame, but by then it was already over as Canada held on for the 5-2 victory.
With the win, Canada will finish the first day tied with the Americans for first in Group B. Canada will play their next game on Monday against the Germans, who came in sixth place last year, before taking on USA in the final preliminary round game on Tuesday.
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