Hockey Canada

Duchene lifts Canada past Swiss at U-18 tournament

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The Canadian Press
8/12/2008 2:01:30 PM
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PIESTANY, Slovakia - It was the kind of situation where a young hockey team could crack.

Canada was thoroughly outplaying Switzerland in its opening game of the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament on Tuesday, but found itself with only a 3-2 lead after the Swiss scored early in the third period.

"You feel like you should have a bit of a lead at that point," said Canadian coach Bill Peters. "We dominated the second period territorially and on the shot clock, but we gave up a goal the first shift of the third."

Instead of panicking, his team tightened up and scored the next two goals to secure a 5-3 victory.

A loss probably would have brought an early end to Canada's gold-medal hopes at an event featuring the best players under the age of 18 in the world. However, the players were able to block out those kind of thoughts and get the job done.

"We just kept focusing on the positives," said captain Matt Duchene, who had a goal and an assist and was named Canada's player of the game. "We were playing well and just wanted to stick to the gameplan."

It certainly impressed a coach who has seen his team steadily improve through two exhibition games and the tournament opener against Switzerland.

He hopes it's a trend that continues.

"That's a good characteristic to have," said Peters. "Every time we've faced a little bit of adversity so far, our game has gotten better.

"Whether we've cleaned up our (defensive) zone or smartened up through the neutral zone with decisions and found a way to extend the lead, we've done that. It's a good characteristic to have."

Evander Kane, Louis Leblanc, Ryan O'Reilly and Scott Glennie also had goals for Canada (1-0). Brayden Schenn and Taylor Hall each had two assists.

Reto Schappi, with two, and Tristan Scherwey replied for Switzerland (0-1).

Nathan Lieuwen made 16 saves in goal for Canada while Benjamin Conz stopped 42 shots for the Swiss.

Canada opened last year's tournament with a shootout loss to Sweden and ended up finishing fourth after taking gold the three previous years.

There's very little margin for error. The teams are split into two pools and the winner of each of pool advances straight to the gold medal game. As a result, every round robin game is important.

"If you lose once, you're not going to play for the gold," said Duchene.

The next challenge for Canada comes from Sweden, the defending champion at the event. The teams face one another on Wednesday at Zimny Stadium.

"They're a very good team with some elite players," Peters said of Sweden.

He and assistants Andre Tourigny and Steve Spott stuck around to watch the Swedes face the host Slovaks in Tuesday's late game.

It was the first chance for those men to see their next opponent play live.

"It will give us a little bit more of a comfort level knowing what they're all about system-wise," said Peters. "We'll come up with a plan and make sure our game is in order, in order to have success (on Wednesday)."

Matt Duchene (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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