The win puts Canada on top of Group A with a perfect 3-0 record and 9 points, while the loss keeps the Slovaks in a four-way jam underneath with 3 points.
Canada outshot Slovakia 44-35, and although both goalies were excellent Canada's Logan Thompson made several tremendous saves when the game was tight. Adam Huska in the other goal was plenty busy, though, and until a weak goal early in the third also made his fair share of great saves.
"We got off to a bit of a slower start," suggested Canada's captain Thomas Chabot. "Slovakia came pretty hard. And it got us a little surprised. But I think just the way we rallied up for the second and third, I think it was exactly what we wanted. I think we're slowly getting there, playing the way we want to play. And obviously there's still some work to do. But I think that's what the start of the tournament is, making sure everybody gets used to playing with each other."
"I just think we have to look forward to the next game, and that's it," said 18-year-old Slovak Juraj Slafkovsky. "We need to compete hard and play on the highest level we can, so we can give ourselves a chance to win. I think most of the time we competed on the same level as Canada. But at the end, they won 5-1. So that's important, and that's bad for us."
It may have been a quiet school day in the city, but inside the Helsinki Ice Hall it was raucous and rowdy. At times the Slovaks overwhelmed Canada with sheer energy and force of determination. But Canada always had a response, either calm and confident, or pressure of their own.
One flurry early in the first looked certain to result in a goal for the Slovaks. Pavol Regenda had a chance alone in front, only to be stoned by Thompson, but the Slovak got the puck a moment later and had another chance. In the mayhem Thompson lost his slick and slid well out of his net, but when Michal Ivan took a point shot with an open net the goalie managed to slide back and make the save. The crowd went wild, but the score was still 0-0.
Two minutes later, the Slovaks tied the score six seconds after starting a power play. It was a similar play to Canada’s, but with more artistry. Samuel Takac snapped a nice pass to Regenda at the top of the crease, and he deftly re-directed the puck past Thompson to make it a 1-1 game.
The first period was only the warmup, though. In the second, Canada got an early break when Mislav Rosandic took a four-minute minor for high-sticking Max Comtois. Canada responded, taking a 2-1 lead with a power-play goal at 6:11. Again, it wasn’t a gem. Pierre-Luc Dubois was looking for a man in front, but the puck went off a leg and past a helpless Huska.
Then the fireworks began. Michal Kristof made a pass to Tomas Tatar across the crease, but they failed to connect. Soon after, Takac hit Alex Tamasi with a back-door pass, and Thompson got his right pad out to take away a sure goal. He then denied Kristof with his left pad. Later in the period, he dove across to make a body save on Michal Ivan, another sure goal denied.
At the other end, Huska made a great stop on Dylan Cozens with a dive of his own and maintained his composure as Canada buzzed around looking to increase the lead. In the end, Dubois made it 3-0 at 17:56, sliding the puck in while almost on his stomach. Another play for the highlight reel.
Canada made it 4-1 on a lucky play. Cole Sillinger, the son of well-travelled retired NHLer Mike, fired a shot on Huska from a bad angle, and the puck squirted under his arm on a shot the goalie should have stopped. The goal came on Cole's 19th birthday.
"It's every kid's dream, right?," he enthused. "This is my first time representing Canada. It's obviously very special now that I'm playing with grown men. When you put the Maple Leaf on, you just try to help out in any way you can and not really think about your ego. I think you just kind of leave that aside and do anything you can to help the team win. So it's truly an honour to put the Maple Leaf on."
Canada got a more impressive goal at 11:18 to close out the scoring when Cozens sent Morgan Geekie in alone with a breakaway pass. Geekie beat Huska cleanly with a shot.