CANADA HOLDS OFF SLOVAK COMEBACK, EARN SEMIFINAL BERTH
JASON LA ROSE
EDMONTON, Alta. – Alexis Lafrenière (St-Eustache, Que./Rimouski, QMJHL) and Josh Williams (Langley, B.C./Medicine Hat, WHL) had a goal and an assist each, sending Canada into the semifinals at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup with a 4-2 win over Slovakia on Tuesday night.
The Canadians controlled the puck for long stretches, finishing with a massive 58-19 advantage in shots on goal, but struggled to put pucks behind Slovak netminder David Borak, who was absolutely spectacular in a 54-save performance.
Kirby Dach (Fort Saskatchewan, Alta./Saskatoon, WHL) had the best opportunity in a scoreless first period, hitting the post behind Borak late in the opening frame.
Lafrenière didn’t waste any time once the puck dropped to start the second; cutting onto the left wing, the Canadian captain snapped home the 1-0 goal after his first shot hit a Slovak stick and dropped back at his feet.
Dylan Holloway (Bragg Creek, Alta./Okotoks, AJHL) extended the lead to two late in the middle frame, jumping on the rebound of a Williams shot and going five-hole on Borak.
After Graeme Clarke (Ottawa, Ont./Ottawa, OHL) roofed a pretty pass from Dach to make it 3-0 on the power play just 78 seconds into the third period, the Canadians looked to be in complete control.
But Andrej Golian had his shot deflect off a Canadian stick and past goaltender Taylor Gauthier (Calgary, Alta./Prince George, WHL) at 5:33, and Artur Turansky chipped a power-play marker up and over Gauthier four minutes later to make it a one-goal game.
Canada kept its foot on the gas, though, and Jamieson Rees (Hamilton, Ont./Sarnia, OHL) went cross-crease to Williams at 12:12 for a two-goal advantage and a little bit of breathing room.
Justin Barron (Halifax, N.S./Halifax, QMJHL) added two more assists for the Canadians; the blue-liner has a tournament-leading four helpers through two games.
The win means the Canadians will take on Sweden for first place in Group A in the preliminary-round finale Wedensday night (7 p.m. MT), while the Slovaks will meet Switzerland in a match-up of winless teams (3 p.m. MT).