UFA – Canada managed to win its first game of the 2013 U20 by defeating Germany 9-3 this afternoon at Ufa Arena. Captain Ryan Nugent-Hopkins led the attack with a goal and four assists.
Eight players scored for Canada while Nugent-Hopkins's linemates Mark Scheifele (two goals) and Jonathan Huberdeau (one goal, two assists) brought the top troika's production to ten points on the night.
"We had to work as hard as they did, and I think we did that," Nugent-Hopkins began. "And we have to work on our habits. It takes a couple of games to get the chemistry, but I thought tonight we were working well together. We seemed to know where we were.
Nugent-Hopkins was deemed the top player by coach Steve Spott and as such wore a black cape afterwards in honour of his heroics, a new tradition conceived by Spott.
"He has to be our leader, and the cape is something we started this past summer. We knew that every night we're going to need a different hero. Someone is going to have to make an heroic play or lead or hockey club, and I thought tonight it was fitting for him. He had a great game."
Canada remains perfect against the Germans in U20 with an 11-0-0 record and a goals differential of 60-16.
The first period started off as though the Canadians would waltz through the game. Xavier Ouellet scored on the power play just 3:02 into the game, and Nugent-Hopkins made it 2-0 midway through the period. But a bad giveaway by Griffin Reinhart a short time later showed all was not well, and the Germans had some decent scoring chances. Goalie Malcolm Subban, though, was well positioned to make the saves.
The Germans made the game close in the final minute when Tobias Rieder scored at 19:29 on a German man advantage. He took a great back-door pass from Dominik Kahun and had an empty net into which he fired the puck.
The Germans got another early power play in the second, but instead of tying the game they fell behind 3-1. Mark Scheifele’s shot missed the mark, but it caromed in front and passed a surprised Elmar Trautmann in goal for a short-handed marker.
Soon after, Jonathan Huberdeau showed soft hands around the net in taking a nice pass from Dougie Hamilton to create a 4-1 lead. Nugent-Hopkins drew an assist on the play, his fourth point of the game.
Canada gave up a couple of sloppy goals towards the end of the second period but also scored a couple of gems on three-way passing plays.
Ty Rattie made it a 5-1 score at 12:21 after some nice stickhandling behind the German net from Nathan MacKinnon, and later Scheifele picked up his second, finishing off a nice play off a turnover in centre ice.
Leonhard Pföderl and Nickolas Latta scored within two minutes of each other, and although that made the high-scoring game a little closer, there was little sense that this outburst would result in a memorable comeback.
"I think we could tighten up a little defensively," Nugent-Hopkins conceded,"but I think overall we played a solid game. We gave them only a couple of high-chance scoring opportunities, and unfortunately they capitalized on them."
Canada pulled away in the third with the final two goals, but more important the players didn't incur a penalty. Spott had hoped the team wouldn't get more than four minors in the game--a problem during the pre-Christmas, exhibition games--and that was exactly the number of infractions they were whistled for.
Canada now has a day off before playing Slovakia on Friday while the Germans play the Americans tomorrow.