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INNSBRUCK, Austria – The easy part is over for Team Canada at the world hockey championship.
And the hard part now begins for the two-time defending world champion.
The Canadians beat Slovenia 8-0 Tuesday in the early game and the United States got past Latvia 3-1 in the later game of the 16-team tournament.
Canada and the United States split a pair of exhibition games before they arrived at the world tournament and their next meeting has some added significance. Both Canada and the United States are 2-0 and the winner of Thursday’s game between them gets a slightly easier ride in the qualification round, which is the next round in the 16-team tournament.
“We all realize it is a big game against he United States and everybody is looking forward to it,” said Team Canada forward Kris Draper. “For myself personally, it has been a long time for an important game of this kind of magnitude and everyone is looking forward to getting things going and I think it will be a big test for both teams.”
It wasn’t much of the test for the Canadians against Slovenia. Canada is No. 1 on the international rankings and Slovenia is 16.
The Canadians knew they had to pile on the goals and although it’s not the Canadian way to run up the score, they had to because of the chance that goal differential – the difference between goals-for and goals-against - might come into play at the end of the preliminary round in determining the seeds for the next stage of the tournament.
The tie-breaker formula will be used if Canada and the United States skate to a tie.
So far, Canada has scored 14 goals and allowed 4, while the Americans have scored 10 and allowed 1.
So advantage Canada – 10-9 going into Thursday’s game - if it goes to goal differential.
Joe Thornton and Brendan Morrison each scored twice, while Kirk Maltby, Simon Gagne, Rick Nash and Ryan Smyth added singles.
“We are being told that goal differential comes into play so we kept going right until the end. And that is really the bottom line,” said Draper. “It is not about us trying to run the score up.”
Roberto Luongo got the shutout and he had to make three sparking saves on the way. He had a toe-save, glove-save combination late in the first period and another glove save in the third to keep the Slovenes off the scoreboard for the second straight game. Slovenia lost 7-0 to the United States in its first game.
“It was nice to get a big save in because it makes you feel more in the game,” said Luongo. “It was nice to face a couple of chances.”
Thornton got things going offensively early for Canada, scoring on a breakaway at 1:03 and then on a deke at 5:08. Morrison made it 3-0 at 13:17.
In the second, Maltby made it 4-0 at 1:49 and Gagne padded the lead at 12:58.
Nash got his fourth goal in two games at 4:53 of the third. Morrison scored at 6:43 and Smyth rounded things out with his goal at 14:23.
“We wanted to win but it is difficult for the guys because Canadians don’t like running up the score but goal differential could come into play so we could not take our foot off the gas,” said head coach Marc Habscheid.
And now bring on the Americans.
“There is not too much difference,” said Thornton. “They play the same hockey as we play so and we will be on top of our game and be ready for them.
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Brad Pascall Vice-President, Hockey Operations