KOSICE – Jordan Eberle and Jeff Skinner, not even 40 years old as a pair, led Canada to a 4-1 win over Belarus in Preliminary Round action at the lively Steel Arena tonight. Eberle had two goals while Skinner had a goal and an assist. John Tavares had the other goal for Canada.
Goalie James Reimer was excellent in goal, allowing only an Andrei Stepanov shot to elude him.
The win gives Canada three points and top spot in the Group B standings.
"We’ve got a good group of guys and a good mix, good character," Skinner said. "What makes it easy is that the guys are all really smart. They all think well and play off the puck well. Rotating through the wingers, they were all easy to play with."
Canada got off to a fast start thanks to a veritable unknown and two fine rookies. Defenceman Mario Scalzo stopped a Belarus rush and moved the puck up to Evander Kane, and he went down the wing and behind Andrei Mezin’s goal. But before he went around, he slid the puck out front and Eberle was right there to smack it home.
"It was a great start for the team and myself also," said Sclazo. "I was grateful for the chance they gave me, so I’ll try to keep playing the same way and the team has to go the same way."
The Canadians came at Belarus with size and tremendous speed, but as the period progressed Belarus gained confidence, especially after killing off a 5-on-3 for Canada. Near the end of the period Belarus had a power play which produced several great chances, but no goal. In the final minute, though, Luke Schenn was checked off the puck by Alexander Kitarov. He whipped the puck out front of Canada’s goal to Alexander Kulakov who made a sensational little pass to Andrei Stepanov, who merely redirected the puck into the back side to tie the game, 1-1.
The Canadians pulled ahead again midway through the second period on two great little plays. John Tavares had to puck in the slot and looked ready to shoot, but instead he passed it ahead just slightly to Skinner, and the 18-year-old roofed a shot over the glove of Mezin.
Despite being outplayed, Belarus still had its share of the play. Three times great rushes resulted in Canadian defencemen taking penalties, but each time the penalty killers were up to the task. When tested, Reimer was solid.
In the third, Tavares scored on a lovely shot from a bad angle after skating around a sliding defenceman, and Eberle added his second knocking a puck in from just outside the goal line. Mezin stopped Chris Stewart on a late penalty shot.
For Belarus captain Mikhail Grabovski, he was excited to play against three Maple Leafs he usually calls friends, even though he didn't get a goal. "It was difficult playing against teammates, especially the goalie," he admitted, "but it was fun. We played a good first and second period. The third period we were maybe a little flat but I was proud how the team played."
Canada next plays on May 1 against France while Belarus plays Switzerland also that night.