O’Dell gets Canada going
by Andrew Podnieks|10 FEB 2022
Canada's Maxim Noreau #56 celebrates with Eric O'Dell #19 and Eric Staal #12 after scoring a goal against Germany.
photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
Canada scored three unanswered goals in the first period en route to a 5-1 win over Germany in the first game for both teams in Beijing. The result erased bad memories for the Canadians, who lost to Germany 4-3 in the semi-finals of the PyeongChang Olympics four years ago and also lost 3-1 to the same team at last year’s World Championship.

Canada got goals from five players, and 11 players had at least one point. Tobias Rieder scored the lone German goal. Eddie Pasquale was rock solid in goal for Canada, turning aside 23 of 24 shots. Canada fired 27 pucks at Mathias Niederberger, who looked strong and shaky at various moments.

If Canada goes deep into this Olympic tournament, it will be able to look back at a moment only four and a half minutes into their first game as the main impetus. On a routine-looking play, German defender Marco Nowak made a pass along the boards behind his own goal, but he had his head down. Canadian Eric O’Dell hit him with a clean but thunderous check that stunned Nowak, forced the turnover, and seemed to paralyse his teammates.

The puck went into the corner, and as Canada’s Kent Johnson picked it up goalie Mathias Niederberger also lost his stick. Johnson fed a quick pass to the point. Alex Grant’s long shot beat Niederberger, who was off balance. The goal gave Canada a 1-0 lead, but no one was talking about the goal. It was the hit. Nowak went right to the dressing room and never returned.

"He just came around the net with his head down," O'Dell related. "I just went to finish off my check. I think the team built off that. We got a couple more goals. It was definitely good to get the win."

“It was lucky enough to go in and it is kind of what you dream of," Grant said. "It was a great start and it was everything you hope for happens. Anytime you get a start like that it is nice. It was overall a solid performance.”

"They didn’t take us by surprise," said coach Jeremy Colliton. "We were ready. We knew it’s going to be a challenge. They play a style that’s tough to break down. And even with the zone time we have it’s tough to break through. They block a lot, but we stayed patient."

Canada took this moment and ran with it, scoring two quick goals midway through the opening period to build an impressive 3-0 lead. O’Dell made a great pass from the corner out to Ben Street in the slot, and Street sniped a one-timer past Niederberger at 9:47. 

Just 32 seconds later, on a similar play from the other side, Adam Cracknell made a pass from the boards to Daniel Winnik, who also beat the goalie with a quick shot from close range that should have been saved. Just like that it was 3-0. 

"It was a tough start for us," Rieder acknowledged. "To be down 3-0 after the first period against Team Canada, it is pretty hard to come back from that. One defeat doesn't end our tournament. It's just the first game and there's a lot more games to play."

Canada incurred three late penalties in the period but played solid defence inside its own blue line. But those penalties had an effect, and Germany came out with a much more aggressive start to the second, moving the puck better, getting deep into Canada’s end, and creating some chances. They also got a fourth power play in a row, and Canada’s huge momentum from the first had diminished.

Sure enough, Germany got on the board at 10:45 when Mark Barberio’s clearing was picked off by Leonhard Pfoderl. His quick shot was stopped by Pasquale, but the rebound came right to Tobias Rieder and he made no mistake.

Canada reversed course, though, on a power play of its own soon after. Eric Staal won a faceoff in the German end and got the back to Maxim Noreau at the point, and Noreau lasered a shot to the blocker side of Niederberger to make it a 4-1 game. Canada dominated the rest of the period.

In the third, Canada gave Germany nothing to work with and added to their lead at 11:22. After some good possession and cycling in the corners, Adam Tambellini fed Jordan Weal in the slot, and his quick shot went high over Niederberger's shoulder.

Both teams have a day off now. Canada will play the U.S. for the de facto bye that comes with finishing first in the group, while the Germans play a must win...or perhaps "would really like to win" game against China. No team is eliminated in the round-robin preliminary round, but all teams will be ranked 1-12. The top four go straight to the quarter-finals while the other eight play a qualification elimination game.

NOTES: Canada's coach, Jeremy Colliton, played at the 2005 World Junior Championship. So did Moritz Muller, Germany's captain in today's game...Colliton will give way as head coach for the team's next game against USA to Claude Julien, who broke some ribs in a freak fall during the team's training camp and couldn't fly to Beijing. But he has since recovered, watched the game from the seats, and is ready to assume duties once again.