Rene Bourque and Wojtek Wolski scored twice and Derek Roy had three assists as Team Canada opened its Olympic campaign by dispatching Switzerland 5-1 on Thursday.
For a team expected to score by committee, the Canadian men found their offence early at the Pyeongchang Winter Games. They led 2-0 after 7.5 minutes and made the Swiss pay when they went to the penalty box.
Maxim Noreau had a goal and an assist for a hard-working, hard-skating Canada. Chris Lee had two assists.
WATCH: It’s been 24 years since the NHL hasn’t participated in the Winter Olympics, until now. Just like the 1994 team, Canada’s 2018 25-man roster lacks household names, but former NHLer and ’94 silver medallist, Todd Hlushko says there’s power in the underdog mentality. Megan Robinson reports.
“I thought it was a good game for us,” said Canada head coach Willie Desjardins. “I think the Swiss have a very good team, we had a lot of respect for them.
“I think we were fortunate to get a couple of goals early. The power play was good. But I think they played hard throughout. For us though, it was a good start.”
Simon Moser pulled one back for Switzerland on the power play at 7:33 of the third, tapping in a puck that trickled through Canadian goalie Ben Scrivens’ legs after a goalmouth scramble.
It marked the first time since the 1994 Games that Canada fielded a team that wasn’t made up of NHLers. And it’s the first time since 1956 that no player on Team Canada had any Olympic experience.
WATCH: Canadians attending the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang aren’t concerned NHL players won’t be competing in the Games, saying they’re excited to cheer on whoever puts on the maple leaf.
Canada’s 25-man roster does boast 5,544 NHL games played, led by captain Chris Kelly’s 833 outings with the Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators. Lee and fellow defenceman Mat Robinson are the only players without NHL experience.
The Swiss team is made up entirely of Swiss league talent. Canada’s squad is European-based with the exception of the players from the North American minors.
Swiss coach Patrick Fischer reckons he is without some 12-13 NHL players here. “But Canada is missing 200,” Fischer said with a wry smile.
The Canadians chased Swiss goalie Leonardo Genoni less than six minutes into the second period after he gave up his fourth goal on 12 shots. Scrivens, who plies his trade in the KHL these days, was solid in the Canada goal. The Swiss outshot Canada 29-28.
“The team played well,” Scrivens said.
“We’ve been here for a week now. I think everyone was excited to get going. I thought we executed, stuck together.”
Canadian flags were visible all around the 6,000-seat Kwandong Hockey Centre but so were empty seats.
Canada’s next game is Saturday against the Czech Republic, which played South Korea in the other night game at the Gangneung Hockey Centre.
Bourque, who potted 163 goals for six NHL teams, scored on Canada’s first shot when he cruised out from the corner to deftly tip in a Lee slap-pass from the blueline at 2:57.
Noreau made it 2-0 on the power play at 7:30, with his shot from the blueline beating Genoni with Bourque screening. Defenceman Rob Klinkhammer, a physical presence at the other end, rang one off the post late in the period.
The Canadian power play struck again five minutes into the second period with Bourque stuffing the puck in from in front. Wolski scored on a brilliant solo rush 52 seconds later, slicing through two Swiss players before beating Genoni high on the glove side.
That was it for the Swiss starter, who was pulled in favour of former NHLer Jonas Hiller.
Wolski capped the scoring with an empty-net goal.
Switzerland pushed back at the end of the second period, keeping the puck in the Canadian zone but could not convert the pressure.
Canada won 23 of 30 faceoffs in the first 40 minutes.
The Canadians had to survive 33 seconds of five-on-three in the third. But Moser scored with the one-man advantage.
Two-time defending champion Canada has won four of the five Olympic men’s tournaments (2002, 2006, 2010, 2014) since NHL players started competing in the Games in 1998.
The NHL accounted for 49 per cent of the players at the 2014 Games in Sochi, compared to Nagano 1998 (36 per cent), Salt Lake City 2002 (45 per cent), Turin 2006 (54 per cent) and Vancouver 2010 (51 per cent).