EDMONTON — With a resounding win on opening night already in the books at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, the Canadians expected a tougher test against Slovakia at Rogers Place on Tuesday.
They got it, and then some, on the way to a 4-2 victory.
Goals by captain Alexis Lafreniere of the Rimouski Oceanic, Dylan Holloway of the AJHL’s Okotoks Oilers, Graeme Clarke of the Ottawa 67’s and Josh Williams of the Medicine Hat Tigers were the difference as Canada improved to 2-0 in Pool A.
"We knew they were going to watch the game film from last night and realize what we can do," said Clarke, whose goal stood up as the eventual winner. "Obviously, it comes back to our depth and we just kept rolling."
Canada went from running up a double-digit decision in a 10-0 romp over Switzerland Monday to relative a nail-biter in the span of 24 hours against a Slovakian team that battled in front of goaltender David Borak, who kept it closer than it should have been with 54 saves.
"You just try to keep shooting," said Lafreniere, who got his first goal of the tournament. "Our mentality is to keep shooting and bring a lot of pucks to the net. He was hot, but if you bring a lot of pucks to the net …"
While the Canadians were up by three goals in the first 15 minutes against the Swiss and never looked back on Monday, they found themselves in a scoreless tie through 20 minutes in this one.
Borak had a hand in that, stopping all 13 shots he faced. So did a string of three minor penalties taken by the Canadians in the first 12 minutes.
"I did not have to say anything," Canada coach Andre Tourigny said when asked about the first period. "I think the guys knew. At that moment, I did like our mindset.
"I think the guys knew what was ahead and what we had to do better. I really liked the focus so I did not talk about penalties and stuff like that."
Lafreniere got things started just over a minute into the second period, snapping a high shot behind Borak. Holloway made it 2-0 in the final four minutes of the period. All told, Canada fired 23 shots at Borak. When Clarke made it 3-0 early in the third on a power play it seemed the Slovaks might fade, but it didn’t happen.
"They kept forcing us hard and pushing us," Clarke said. "They had a good push-back, but we just kept rolling. I was looking at the shots at the end of the game and he (Borak) played amazing.
"Credit to him that we only got four on him, but it was a well-deserved win by us."
Andrej Golian and Artur Turansky, on a power play, put pucks behind Taylor Gauthier four minutes apart to cut it to 3-2 and it was game on with more than 10 minutes to play. Williams ended any drama, lifting a puck up and over Borak to make it 4-2 with just under eight minutes to play.
"What I liked most about that game is the way we reacted after giving up the second goal," Tourigny said. "I think we stayed really composed. The guys, they didn’t panic. They stayed in control and we played, I think, our best hockey after that."
Canada continues preliminary-round play in Pool A against Team Sweden (2-0-0) at Rogers Place Wednesday.