Canada advances to world hockey semifinals with win over Slovakia

Slovakia's Juraj Slafkovsky, right, challenges Canada's Dylan Guenther during the quarterfinal match between Canada and Slovakia at the Ice Hockey World Championships in Prague, Czech Republic, Thursday, May 23, 2024. (Petr David Josek/AP)

PRAGUE — Any anxiety Canada felt entering the elimination round of the world hockey championship was put to rest quickly in a 6-3 win over Slovakia in quarterfinal action Thursday.

Canada scored twice in the first four minutes, 15 seconds and led 5-1 in the third period, giving them enough a cushion to comfortably endure the inevitable pushback from the Slovaks.

“It was important for us to get out to a good start,” Canada coach André Tourigny said. “The quarterfinal always comes with a lot of pressure, and it is a weird pressure because if you lose you are going home.

“Our start helped relieve that pressure a little bit. (The Slovaks) battled back, but we maintained our rhythm.”

Nick Paul led the way offensively with two goals and an assist.

Dylan Guenther had the game-winning goal and an assist, while Jared McCann, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Brandon Tanev also scored for the defending-champion Canadians.

“Right from the start, guys were winning their battles and we were able to move the puck up the ice and put pressure on (Slovakia),” Paul said. “We generated a lot of shots and tried to build momentum early because we knew they were a good team.”

Jordan Binnington made 18 saves for Canada.

Peter Cehlarik, Milos Kelemen and Marek Hrivik scored for the Slovaks, who made it close with two late goals before Paul scored his second of the game into an empty net.

“We knew they were going to push back, but I thought we did a good job of playing a full 60 minutes,” Paul said.

Samuel Hlavaj was busy in Slovakia’s goal and made 37 saves.

Switzerland defeated Germany 3-1 in Thursday’s other quarterfinal. Sweden faced Finland and the United States took on host Czechia in later quarterfinals.

Canada will face either Switzerland or Finland in the semifinals.

McCann gave Canada early breathing room with a goal 2:15 into the game when he got a step on the Slovak defence and beat Hlavaj.

Dubois pounced on a big rebound from a Bowen Byram shot less than two minutes later to put Canada up 2-0.

Cehlarik scored to cut Canada’s lead to 2-1 heading into the first intermission, but Paul picked up his first of the game early in the second period, and Slovakia would not threaten again until it was too late.

Goals from Guenther and Tanev 20 seconds apart in the third period all but cemented the win for Canada, though its nerves were tested when Kelemen scored 28 seconds after Tanev and Hrivik cut the lead to 5-3 with a power-play goal coming with just over three minutes remaining.

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