Friday, December 28, 2012

2013 World Juniors: Nugent-Hopkins picks up two more points in Canada's comeback win

While it may not have been the start that many had envisioned for Team Canada's second preliminary round game of the 2013 World Junior Championship, at the end of the day, all that matters are the two points. On the strength of a three point night from Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Morgan Rielly and another two point performance from captain Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Canada remained perfect at the World Juniors, with a come from behind 6-3 victory over Slovakia.

The combination of a strong first period from Slovakia and the return of undisciplined play from Canada, found the boys in the Maple Leaf down 2-0 after the opening period of play. After Marko Dano gave the Slovaks the early lead, slipping a loose puck behind a down and out Malcolm Subban, the Canadians decided to make things a whole lot tougher on themselves.

An ill-advised head shot from J.C. Lipon at the 13:39 mark, put Slovakia on a five minute power play and ended the young forward's afternoon, before it even got started. Just under two minutes later, Tomas Mikus wired home his first of the tournament and just like that, Canada were down a pair. Not exactly the start Steve Spott's squad were looking for. 

Ryan Strome would get Canada on the board early in period two, as the middle of the Slovakian zone parted like the red-sea, allowing the Niagara IceDog forward to skate in and fire home his second of the tournament. That goal appeared to be just what the boys in Red and White needed but unfortunately for them, they could not stay out of the penalty box.

Having already lost Lipon in the first, Anthony Camara joined him in the dressing room, after being assessed a five minute major for charging at the 6:21 mark of the middle stanza. In Camara's defence, the hit he annihilated Patrik Luza with was clean in theory but the fact Luza had his head down and the Canadian still decided to bull-doze him over, saw his afternoon come to an early end.

Midway through the Camara major, Strome was whistled down for tripping, putting Canada down two men. Not surprisingly, Slovakia would restore their two goal cushion, courtesy of Dano's second of the afternoon. The momentum gained from Strome's ice breaker was gone and Canada had some major work to do. 

Cue the comeback.

Literally seconds after putting his side back in front by two, Dano took a bonehead spearing penalty, that was followed by an interference call against Richard Buri, eighteen seconds later, and suddenly Canada was on a 5-on-3 power play. The penalty on Buri looked to be nothing more than a make-up call but to Canada's credit, they took full advantage.

With Canada on the two man advantage, Rielly jumped in form the point and hammered home his first of the tourney, after Mark Scheifele and Nugent-Hopkins played keep away behind the Solvak goal, to make it a one goal game. Less than four minutes later, Canada was back on the man advantage and Ty Rattie would soon have Canada back on level terms.

Xavier Ouellet spotted the wide open Portland Winterhawks forward and fed him a perfect slap-pass, that Rattie easily deposited behind Adam Nagy, for his second in as many games. The energy was back but they were not done there, as the tide had completely turned and Canada were swarming.

Scheifele would complete the comeback, tipping home Ouellet's point shot before the period was out, for his third of the championship and more importantly, giving Canada their first lead of the afternoon.

Nugent-Hopkins would extend the lead early in the third, executing a perfect give and go with Jonathan Huberdeau, before the Edmonton Oilers young centre beat Nagy with an absolutely ridiculous move, to make it 5-3 Canada.

Strome would close out the scoring with his second of the game, beating the shell-shocked Slovak netminder on a breakaway, after being sprung on a beautiful stretch pass from defenceman Tyler Wotherspoon. 

Canada's win, coupled with Russia's 2-1 victory over Team USA, now leaves Canada alone atop Group B, with there two toughest games still to come.

TSN 2013 WJHC Broadcast Schedule

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