Playing on Canadian ice for the first time since 1996 in what’s now called the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, Team Canada made it a memorable and lopsided homecoming at Rogers Place on Monday, opening with a 10-0 win over Team Switzerland.
Canada, the defending champion and gold medallist in 21 of the 27 previous editions of the annual best-on-best under-18 tournament, produced a top-to-bottom performance that was every bit as dominant on the ice as it was on the scoreboard in waltzing past the Swiss.
“It’s nice to see,” Canada head coach Andre Tourigny said. “I think we’ve got a lot of depth in our line-up.
“We have four lines that can produce, we have seven good defencemen. We have two good goalies. We’re really happy about the way we came out today.”
While the Canadians have a roster laden with players projected to go in the first round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, it wasn’t just the top-end talent the Swiss couldn’t handle as Canada got goals from nine different players.
“It’s an unbelievable experience,” said Edmonton Oil Kings defenceman Matthew Robertson, who is from Sherwood Park, Alta., and scored the sixth goal. “Playing in front of friends and family, who are here to support us and just playing in my home rink here, it’s almost like a dream come true.”
When Canada jumped to a 3-0 lead in the in the first 16 minutes on goals by Graeme Clarke of the Ottawa 67’s, Ryan Suzuki of the Barrie Colts and Jakob Pelletier of the Moncton Wildcats, goaltender Nolan Maier of the Saskatoon Blades had more than enough of a margin to work with. He got plenty more.
“We’re really deep,” Robertson said.
“We had a lot of chemistry that game. I don’t think you can underestimate anybody in this tournament. Don’t give them a shift. Don’t let them breath at all.”
Canada poured it on in the second period with five goals, chasing Swiss starter Sascha Ruppelt at 5-0 in favour of Thibault Fatton.
Dylan Cozens of the Lethbridge Hurricanes, Xavier Parent of Halifax, Robertson, Maxence Guenette of Val-d’Or and Peyton Krebs of the Kootenay Ice made it 8-0 before the second intermission.
“We tried to focus on ourselves,” Tourigny said. “We want to be better every day. We have an end goal to be the best team in the tournament. To do that, we have to get better in every period. I think we have a lot of leadership in our room.
“The boys were focused after the second (period). Not too excited. We had an objective for the third period in the way we wanted to play and the boys were really good with it.”
Kirby Dach, who plays with the Saskatoon Blades but hails from Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., and had friends and family in the stands, scored a short-handed goal to make it 9-0 early in the third period. Krebs got his second late to close out the scoring.
“Growing up just outside of Edmonton, it’s pretty special just to be able to play for Team Canada,” Dach said. “We’ve got a pretty balanced line-up. We’ve got a lot of depth with our team. I think that can help us go a long way in this tournament.”
Canada continues preliminary play in Pool A in a matchup with Slovakia Tuesday at Rogers Place.