It wasn't a matter of if but rather when would Team Canada start earning some rewards for generating a plethora of quality scoring chances against an overmatched Team Slovakia in their Group A World Junior Hockey Championship preliminary-round contest Wednesday night.
When came early in the second period courtesy of St. Louis Blues prospect Jordan Kyrou. More goals followed, but none were as jaw-dropping as Kyrou's.
The 2016 second-round draft pick's highlight-reel goal proved to be the key that opened the floodgates as the Canadians scored three times in the middle period as they trounced Slovakia, 6-0, during the second day of tournament competition.
Kyrou's power-play goal just 1 minute, 24 seconds into the second period sparked a blitz that gave the Canadian fans in attendance reason to be loud and proud even though there were still more empty seats than filled ones at KeyBank Center.
Kyrou received a pass at the point, weaved around a defender, making two slick moves through the slot, and overpowered goaltender David Hrenak with a wrist shot to the stick side. The play gave Canada a 2-0 lead after a dominant first period in which it only had one goal to show for its efforts.
"I was honestly in disbelief (when I saw it)," said forward Jonah Gadjovich, who scored twice in the win. "He made the one move and I thought he was going to shoot it and then he went to make another. I was like 'oh no what is he doing?' I don't have to question what he's doing. He knows what he's doing. To see Jordan pull off that move was incredible. He's a skilled player. I think that just motivated us to get more pucks on net."
Boy did the Canadians pepper the Slovakian net.
They finished with 54 in all, flaunting their speed and skill against a Slovak crew playing its first game of the tournament.
The Canadians limited their foe to just 20 shots to get Colton Point the shutout in his first World Juniors start. The Colgate University sophomore and native of North Bay, Ont., got the call one night after junior-team veteran Carter Hart made 29 stops in a 4-2 win over Finland.
But that goal by Kyrou, part of a three-point night by the leading scorer in the Ontario Hockey League, sure was something. Video of it quickly made the rounds on social media with someone even giving it the GIF treatment before the end of the second period.
Kyrou said the moves just happened in the flow as it's not something he's worked on in practice.
"It was good work on the power play retrieving pucks and obviously a nice move and just put the puck on net," said Kyrou, who has 58 points in 30 games with Sarnia. "It got the guys fired up."
That it did as the Canadians added two more goals over the next 9 minutes.
Gadjovich swept in a rebound of a Cale Makar (two assists) point shot. Taylor Raddysh scored his second of the tournament shortly after that, depositing the rebound of his own shot on the power play after receiving a slick pass from Kyrou.
Kyrou earned an assist on Canada's opening goal at 3:39 of the first period as Sam Steel was in the right place at the right time. Makar's point shot hit a skate in front of the Slovak net and bounced right to Steel, who fired it past helpless goaltender David Hrenak.
Canada continued peppering Hrenak, beating him two more times before the game was 10 minutes old. One didn't count, while the other shot came close.
An offside ruling by the officials on a close play at the Slovak blue line negated a goal roughly a minute after Steel's tally. Minutes later, Brett Howden unleashed a hard wrister that beat Hrenak with ease, but the puck clanked loudly off the post and stayed out of the net. Hrenak finished with 14 saves in the first period, including a stop on a one-timer from the slot just before the end of the frame to keep it a 1-0 game.
The saves by Hrenak, who has posted a .947 save percentage and 1.82 goals-against average in six games with St. Cloud State – the top-ranked team in Division I hockey, only prolonged the inevitable as the Canadians now head into Friday's heavyweight matchup against 2017 champion United States rolling with a 2-0 mark.
Maxime Comtois also scored for Canada.
"Big win," Gadjovich said. "I thought we got better as the game went on. That was important for us."
"We played the game we wanted to play," Canada coach Dominique Ducharme said. "We'll take it from there and make it better next time."
There was a worrisome collision behind the Canada net late in the first period as Slovakia's Marian Studenic and Jake Bean slid into the wall a little awkwardly as both chased puck. Studenic appeared to be bloodied, perhaps getting nicked by Bean's skate. Bean seemed to get the worst of it as he was helped off the ice after being down for several minutes.
However, both returned and finished the game with Bean logging nearly 8 of his total 15 minutes, 3 seconds during the third period. Studenic received 13:12 of ice time.
In a tournament like the World Juniors, there's no shortage of talent and leaders on each team. In the case of Canada, it has a lot of both and that's why Dillon Dube feels extremely honored to have been named team captain for the red and white.
It's even more special considering Dupe doesn't even wear the 'C' on his own junior team, Kelowna. That honor belongs to Team Canada teammate and defenseman Callan Foote.
"Honestly, it's incredible (being named captain)," said Dube, one of seven returnees from last year's silver-medal-winning crew and an alternate captain with Kelowna. "Every guy is a leader on their team, most of them are captains so it makes it pretty easy for me but it definitely is an honor to be able to wear that."
"That's the best thing about our team," Dube said. "Every guy is worried about winning. If you put your egos aside then you can accomplish great things."
My goodness pic.twitter.com/WH110BEawa
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) December 28, 2017