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Canada finishes preliminary round with win over Denmark

The dramatic loss to the United States on Friday in the outdoor game at New Era Field didn't seem to bother Team Canada.

They said all the right things after blowing a two-goal third-period lead and losing in a shootout. Sure, they wanted that game. But a World Junior Championship medal wasn't going to be won in a preliminary round.

And true to their word, the Canadians got right back in action Saturday, outplaying Denmark in an 8-0 win in front of 8,671 in KeyBank Center. It was the last game of the preliminary round for Canada, which secured the top seed in Group A with 10 points. Canada now enjoys two days off before beginning the medal round. Quarterfinals are scheduled for Tuesday and matchups will be determined after the preliminary rounds conclude on Sunday.

"Our mindset was to play the right way, play the Canadian way," said alternate captain Kale Clague. "I thought we did all those things. It's obviously good to get back in the win column. .. Our goal was to build our game through the round robin and it's do or die now. I think moving forward we're going to continue to get better each game."

Canada jumped on the board early -- a theme this tournament. Just 3:52 into the game Robert Thomas put in a nice pass from Taylor Raddysh, finishing what had already been a strong Canadian forecheck with one puck that had gone off the post.

The lead went to 2-0 at 17:21 of the first when Brett Howden backhanded in a loose puck with Denmark goalie Emil Gransoe out of position. Then with 20.4 seconds left in the period, Sam Steel got behind Gransoe and pushed the puck over the goal line for a 3-0 lead as Canada seized firm control.

Cale Makar picked the corner high for a power play goal at 7:52 of the second. Less than two minutes later Howden scored his second of the game on a tip-in for a 5-0 lead.

Three more goals in the third, from Alex Formenton, Michael McLeod, and Drake Batherson (power play), gave Canada the 8-0 decision

"Last night was obviously a little disappointing for us but I thought we bounced back pretty well," Howden said. "We're feeling pretty good about our game but there's still lots of room to improve."

It was the first two goals for Howden in the tournament as 13  players have scored for Team Canada in the opening four games .

"It's a very deep group," Howden said. "We knew that coming in. There's lots of guys that can play lots of different roles and put the puck in the net. We have a really skilled, fast group but guys are willing to adapt to any role. When you get that kind of group it's pretty amazing."

Undisciplined play was part of Canada's demise against the U.S. and they got into some bad habits again against the Danes. Conor Timmins was called for holding and Dillon Dube for interference in the second period. But the Canadian defense, bolstered by starting goalie Carter Hart, kept Denmark off the scoreboard. Those were the only two penalties Canada took during the game.

Canada went back to Hart one day after the second-round pick by the Philadelphia Flyers lost to the U.S. in the outdoor game shootout.

But Canadian coach Dominique Ducharme had faith in his goaltender, particularly with the team having two days off before the start of the quarterfinal round.

"He's solid. There's no doubt about that," Ducharme told the media Saturday morning in KeyBank Center. "He's a key player for us not only for the coaches but for his teammates. He brings confidence. He's just solid and you know how important it is in a tournament like this, in a playoff round or for a team making a run, to have a sharp goalie like him."

Hart had a solid game.  He didn't have to make many saves, 18 in all, but he did have to make some key ones. Midway through the first, he came up with a big save on Denmark forward Joachim Blichfeld, who earned a breakaway. He stopped Blichfeld again, all alone in front, with 2:16 left in the first.

"Our goal was to get back flying and get back to our game plan and stick to playing the right way and we did," Hart said.

"Before the game we had meetings but I think the biggest for us was to get off to a good start and keep that going for the full 60 minutes and get back to playing our way, the Canadian way," Hart said. "I think the biggest thing is we were just excited to get the chance to finish off in first place with the game tonight. That was our mindset going into tonight's game is that we have an opportunity to finish in first place. We're excited for that."

While Canada wrapped up first place in Group A, Denmark will be fighting to stay out of the relegation round in its final preliminary game against Slovakia at 6 p.m Sunday. in HarborCenter. Slovakia has one win (three points) in Group A. Should Denmark win, it will be Slovakia facing Belarus in the relegation series.

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