Canada blanks Czech Republic at Hlinka tournament
Defenceman Aaron Ekblad had three assists and goalie Julio Billia stopped every shot he faced to help lead Canada's Under-18 Select Team to a 4-0 victory against the Czech Republic in preliminary-round action of the 2013 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka on Monday in Breclav, Czech Republic.
Michael Dal Colle of the Oshawa Generals, Haydn Fleury of the Red Deer Rebels, Spencer Watson of the Kingston Frontenacs and Daniel Audette of the Sherbrooke Phoenix scored the goals for Canada, disappointing the 1,300 fans.
The opening-day victory put Canada into a first-place tie with Switzerland; both teams have three points. Canada, which seeks a sixth consecutive gold medal at the Ivan Hlinka, will play Sweden on Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. ET. Host Czech Republic will play Switzerland at 1 p.m. ET as preliminary-round matches continue in Group A.
"The boys worked really hard," Canada coach Dale Hunter told the tournament website. "We had a good power play and our goalie played well, which you always need if you want to win. The Czechs had their chances. He made a really crucial save on a 2-on-1 when we were up 2-0."
Ekblad, of the Ontario Hockey League's Barrie Colts, is expected to be selected among the top 10 picks at the 2014 NHL Draft in Philadelphia. Billia, of the Chicoutimi Sagueneens in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, was named Canada's player of the game.
Watson, another highly regarded 2014 draft prospect, connected on a penalty shot 17:55 into the second to extend Canada's lead to 3-0. Ekblad, Canada's captain, made the play possible off a great feed to Watson that sprung him free before he was tripped from behind.
Audette gave Canada a commanding 4-0 advantage 1:24 into the third on a power-play goal off assists by Ekblad and Dal Colle. Audette, the first pick of the 2012 QMJHL draft and eligible for the 2014 NHL draft, is the son of former NHL forward Donald Audette.
Canada opened a 2-0 lead in the first on power-play goals by forward Dal Colle and defenceman Fleury. Ekblad assisted on both goals. The Canadians connected for three power-play goals against the Czechs, who took seven minor penalties.
Ekblad had 10 goals and 29 points in 63 games as an OHL rookie in 2011-12, then had seven goals, 34 points and a plus-29 rating in 54 games last season despite dealing with lower-body injuries. He was named captain of Team Ontario at the 2013 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and finished as the tournament's second-highest scoring defenceman with six points (two goals, four assists).
The top two teams from Group A and Group B will cross over for the semifinals on Friday before the gold medal and bronze medal games on Saturday.
In other first-day action:
Switzerland 3, Sweden 2: Timo Kessler's power-play goal 1:40 into the third period snapped a 2-2 tie. Switzerland had pulled into a 2-2 tie when Noele Trisconi ripped a shot just under the crossbar 11 seconds after Sweden's Filip Karlsson scored his second of the game 8:26 into the second. Denis Malgin also scored for Switzerland and William Altelius Nylander chipped in with two assists for Sweden.
Swiss goalie Gauthier Desloux made 31 saves, including 14 in the third when Sweden pressed for the equalizer. Swedish goalie Jesper Eriksson turned aside 36 shots in defeat. Nylander, the son of former NHL forward Michael Nylander, is regarded as one of the top 2014 draft-eligible European skaters.
Russia 2, Slovakia 1: Kiril Pilipenko scored on a breakaway 18:20 into the second period to snap a 1-1 tie in preliminary-round action in Piestany, Slovakia.
Slovakia took a 1-0 lead 1:09 into the second when Marco Halama knocked in a shot from in tight. Maxim Lazarev evened the score for the Russians 4:08 later. Russia will meet the United States, a 4-3 overtime loser to Finland, on Tuesday at 8 a.m. ET. Slovakia will face Finland at 11:30 a.m. ET.
The victory gives the Russians three points and put them atop the Group B standings after the first day of the tournament. Slovakian goalie Maximilian Pajpach, who is eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft, made 51 saves. He stopped all 19 shots in his direction in the opening period.
"I'm used to a lot of shots because I play in a club [HK SKP Poprad] which is close to relegation," Pajpach told the tournament website. "Every match, I have to face 40 or 50 shots, so I’m used to it."