BOISBRIAND, Que. — Sam Steel made a solid first impression with a pair of goals in his first game at the Canadian junior team selection camp.
The Regina Pats winger got put on an offensive line with Mathew Barzal and Julien Gauthier and delivered as Canada downed a U Sports all-star team 5-3 in exhibition play Monday night before a sparse crowd at the Centre d’Excellence Sports Rousseau.
“There’s always a bit of nerves coming into the first period of a try out like this so once you get the first one out of the way and you get your feet under you, things go a bit better,” said Steel. “I thought it was a good start.
“The team played well and I had some good chemistry with my linemates.”
Dylan Strome, Taylor Raddish and Mitchell Stephens also scored for Canada in the first game at its annual camp ahead of the world junior championship, but there were some nervy moments.
After taking a 4-0 lead early in the second period, Canada got sloppy and the student team put in three quick goals but order was restored in the final frame.
“The first half of the game we moved the puck well and created a lot of offence, but at one point we got carried away a bit and got reckless,” said coach Dominique Ducharme. “We gave them life, but we reacted the right way.
“There’s a lot for us to discuss and talk about.”
The teams meet again Tuesday afternoon and Canada winds up camp with a game against the Czech Republic on Wednesday night.
Philippe Maillet of New Brunswick, Brett Welchka of Carleton and Nathan Chiarlitti of McGill scored for U Sports.
In order to give him playing time, Canada’s Connor Ingram played in goal for U Sports. He allowed five goals on 29 shots, but Ducharme was content with his performance.
“I thought he did some good things,” the coach said. “In the first half, we created a lot of chances and capitalized on them, but he made some good saves at the same time.”
For the second game, Michael McNiven will play the whole game for U Sports while Imgram will split time in Canada’s net with Carter Hart.
Strome scored on a power play 5:49 into the game when he took a feed from Thomas Chabot at the top of the right circle and fired a wrist shot that may have touched U Sports defenceman Tim Campbell on the way in.
Raddysh trailed in on a rush was left wide open to convert Philippe Myers’ pass into an open side at 13:48
U Sports’ best chance of the period came when Maillet poked the puck away from Chabot but saw his shot sail high.
Canada made it 4-0 in just over four minutes in the second frame as Steel intercepted a pass in the slot and beat Ingram at 3:06 and Stephens banged in a rebound at 4:09.
Hart left midway through the second having stopped all 10 shots he faced, but McNiven gave up three on seven shots in the second half of the frame as his teammates got loose and committed several turnovers.
Elgin Pearce picked up a puck on his way out of the penalty box and sent Maillet in alone to score at 13:23. Welchka scored on a one-timer on a power play at 13:51 and, only 31 seconds later, Chiarlitti scored from close range on a rush up the middle.
Steel got his second on a power play 11:31 into the third as he completed a nifty rush with Mathew Barzal through traffic to score from a tight angle.
“He showed he can finish and the way that he scored them — a nice shot on his first one from distance and the second up close in a tight area,” said Ducharme. “He showed his skills.”
It is the second year that the Canadian juniors have faced a national university all-star team, after splitting a pair of games in Toronto last year. Previously they played against regional universities, who often didn’t deliver the same calibre of opposition. Since the tradition started in 2003, Canada is 12-5 against student teams.