Canada overcomes Slovaks

Ward tallies twice as CAN gets first win

11.05.2014
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Chizhovka Arena Minsk  Belarus

Team Canada celebrates after scoring their first goal of the game against Slovakia. Photo: Richard Wolowicz / HHOF-IIHF Images

The crowd wasn't on their side, but the Canadians didn't care as they beat Slovakia 4-1 on Saturday night. Cody Hodgson scored the third-period winner.

With 12:53 left, Hodgson used Slovak defenceman Martin Marincin as a screen and zinged a wrister past goalie Jan Laco’s glove.

Joel Ward scored twice for Canada, Kevin Bieksa added a single, and Jason Garrison had a pair of assists.

"First I got the call, I said that this was my Olympics," said Ward, a Team Canada rookie. "I grew up watching international hockey and I’m very happy to put a Canadian jersey on and be a part of it. I’m trying to make the most of it, just trying to have fun and not get too nervous."

"It’s nice to get the four goals, but I think it was a closer game than that," said Hodgson.

Karol Sloboda replied for Slovakia.

"Today we played 47 minutes very well, but Canada scored twice in the very end and they won," said Slovak coach Vladimir Vujtek.

Canadian goalie Ben Scrivens made 23 saves to win his -- and Canada's -- first game, while Lacos had 24 stops for Slovakia.

A drum-pounding, chanting pro-Slovak crowd left disappointed after their team remained winless through two games.

It was the first World Championship meeting between Canada and Slovakia since the 4-3 Slovak quarter-final win in Helsinki in 2012. Canada retains an all-time head-to-head edge with nine wins, two ties, and two losses.

Both teams were coming off tough opening defeats, Canada falling 3-2 to France in a shootout shocker and Slovakia blowing a late lead versus the neighboring rival Czech Republic to lose 3-2 in overtime. The Canadians mustered a significantly better effort here.

"It was a competitive game," said Canadian coach Dave Tippett. "I thought our team played better than last night, which is a step forward for us."

There was a tinge of bitterness at Chizhovka Arena from the get-go. Multiple scrums erupted around Laco’s crease.

Canada got the first three power plays on obstruction fouls as the Slovaks struggled at times with the pace. The Canadians couldn’t score, but Bieksa and Troy Brouwer established the red-and-white squad’s physical presence with crushing hits in the offensive zone.

It was Canada’s turn to run into penalty trouble in the second period with consecutive tripping minors to Alex Burrows and Brayden Coburn.

Canada nearly capitalized shorthanded on a ghastly Slovak giveaway. Sloboda left a backhand drop pass that Kyle Turris gobbled up to burst in solo, but he couldn’t outwit Laco.

The Slovaks picked up their intensity and Nazem Kadri was called for a high stick next to the Slovak bench. That broke the game open. With 7:36 left in the middle frame, Sloboda’s blue line drive found its way past Scrivens for a 1-0 lead on the power play.

Canada responded with pressure, and it paid off. At 17:21, Garrison whipped a shot from above the left faceoff circle that Ward deflected high past Laco to tie the game.

After Hodgson's third-period go-ahead goal, Bieksa gave Canada some breathing room when his heavy slapper from the right side bounced up, over and past Laco to make it 3-1 with 2:04 remaining.

Less than a minute later, Ward rounded out the scoring when he converted a nice Burrows feed from behind the goal line.

"We didn’t take the selfish or cheap penalties tonight, and that’s going to have to continue," said Tippett. "We stayed with the game and ended up getting the goals we needed to win."

Canada will face its toughest test on yet with the Czechs, while Slovakia faces France that day.

LUCAS AYKROYD

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