Canada wins opener
Solid outing leads to 4-1 win over Latvia
Although the first period ended 1-1, Canada outshot the Latvians 54-19 overall and controlled the last 40 minutes. Niklavs Rauza was stellar in goal for the Latvians.
"We just needed to regroup after the first and listen to our coaches," defenceman Ty Smith said. "We came out much stronger in the second."
"The Canadians broke our game plan," Rauza said. "It felt good that I played well, but a win would have been like heaven."
The Canadians lost the bronze-medal game last year while Latvia finished ninth, and although both teams might have different aspirations this year, it's fair to say both hope to improve.
"In the exhibition games we had some slow starts, but today we really brought our game," said defenceman Jett Woo, at 16 the youngest player on Canada. "We kept pounding in the second and third, and we're really proud about the way we ended the game."
Latvia continues its schedule tomorrow against Switzerland while Canada has a day off before playing Slovakia on Saturday night in what should be a marquee game here in Poprad.
Stylianos Mattheos opened the scoring at 11:50 on a penalty shot. He was tripped by Daniels Berzins on a clear path to the goal. Mattheos made a quick leg kick and a nice deke on Niklavs Rauza before roofing a forehand over the goalie's glove.
"I was trying to get my glove on it," Rauza said, "but when he scored, I thought to myself, 'Wow, that's fast hands.'"
The Latvians tied the game late in the period, though. Ian Scott couldn't handle a Deniss Smirnovs slapper, and Rihards Paskausks was right there to knock in the rebound.
The Canadians overwhelmed their opponents in the second, outshooting them 25-6 and scoring the only two goals. They got an early power-play marker on a great three-way passing play between Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Mackenzie Entwistle, and Maxime Comtois. Comtois, the only Canadian on last year's team, finished the play with a quick shot at 3:36.
Isaac Ratcliffe made it 3-1 five minutes later. He claimed a loose puck off a faceoff and snapped a hard shot past Rauza.
Entwistle added to the tally midway through the third on a nice tip-in.
Latvia vs. Canada
Canada scored the first goal of this year's U18 on a penalty shot, controlled the second and third periods, and skated to an impressive win over Latvia.