Redemption. After facing a stunning upset against the Czech’s, Canada game into an important game against the Slovaks in an attempt to prove they still have what it takes to contend for a medal. Slovakia isn’t a pushover, however, giving the Americans a run for their money a few days ago before eventually getting demolished in the latter portion of the game. Highlighting the Slovaks was prospect Martin Reway, who has 6 points already in just two games, while Jonathan Drouin (one goal, four assists) and Anthony Mantha (three goals, two assists) share the Canadian scoring lead with five points apiece. Reway, Drouin and Mantha all had fantastic offensive nights in the exciting, fast paced game, and even after going down 3-1 at one point, Canada was able to battle back to take the eventual 5-3 victory.
Drouin had a terrible start to the game, taking a two minute minor and ten minute misconduct for checking Slovak star Martin Reway in the head. As a result, for the 6th straight game (including pre-tournament exhibition matches) Canada allowed the 1st goal as David Griger potted one after picking the puck up from the lively end boards for the 1-0 victory. Goaltender Zach Fucale, who looked like the potential number one goaltender prior to the tournament, was already off to a tough start after getting the nod over Jake Paterson. Having backstopped the Halifax Mooseheads to a title at the MasterCard Memorial Cup last spring, as well as winning gold at the 2012 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, Fucale already had big game experience coming in to the game against the Slovaks, but the underdogs had their way with him early.
Canada tied it up with just 1:41 left in the period when Curtis Lazar finished a great play started by Anthony Mantha after tremendous pressure from the Slovaks on the power-play. Canada looked like the much stronger team during the first period, but they would need to start capitalizing on their chances in the second period if they planned on winning.
The second period got ugly for Canada real quickly. With Nic Petan already in the box for holding, Scott Laughton took a dumb slashing penalty after chopping a Slovak player in the face. On the opposing power play, Reway made no mistake in getting his fourth of the tournament after pinging the puck off the post and in the net for he 2-1 victory. Penalty trouble would hurt Canada again later in the second, as an additional five on three resulted in another power-play goal for the Slovaks. This time, Reway would get his third point of the net after feeding Griger for his second goal of the game. Canada would get one back before the period was over with 3 minutes left in the 2nd, a massive goal from Mantha as he got his 4th of the tourney.
Thirteen seconds into the third period, Charles Hudon, who missed last year’s WJC with a back injury, would have to leave the game after crashing hard into the end boards, favoring his arm as he left for the change room. Luckily for the Canadians, Hudon would only miss a few shifts as he attempted to help his team tie it up. The team looked completely different on the ensuing shifts after he returned, as Connor McDavid, Sam Reinhart and Bo Horvat were just incredible, getting many perfect chances to get their third goal but they couldn’t make anything out of it. Samuel Baros, playing in his first World Junior game of the tournament, was absolutely fantastic, making nearly 50 saves against a desperate Canadian offense that just wanted to prove they could compete with even some of the weaker clubs.
After a goal by McDavid was waved off, a heated Drouin converted on a great pass in front by Mantha to tie the game up with five minutes to go. The whole country went from scared to ecstatic a few minutes later when Portland Winterhawks star Nic Petan got past the two stationary Slovak defenseman and fired it over the shoulder of Baros for the 4-3 Canadian lead. Slovakia pulled the goalie with 1:40 left in the game, only to see Petan put it away with the 5-3 empty net goal.
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