Vernon’s Curtis Lazar says short-term memory works best in a tournament like the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships in Malmö, Sweden.
Canada quickly filed Saturday’s 5-4 shootout loss to the Czech Republic and rallied to stop Slovakia 5-3 Monday night.
Lazar, 18, scored once and set up another as Canada improved to 2-0-1 going into Tuesday’s (8:30 a.m. PT) Group A showdown with the U.S. Win or lose, Canada is assured of a quarterfinal game Thursday. The semis go Saturday with the gold- and bronze-medal tilts set for Sunday.
“We all wanted to bounce back in this game and we stuck with the game-plan and were able to get the job done,” said Lazar. “Netting that first goal was something we were really focused on and it sunk us a bit when Slovakia scored. We put that behind us and really took over the second half of the first period.”
Slovakia jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the second period on two goals from defenceman David Griger and another from Martin Reway. Canada answered on goals from Lazar, Anthony Mantha (Longueuil, Que.) Jonathan Drouin (Huberdeau, Que.) and Nicolas Petan (Delta).
The Slovaks scored at 7:06 with Petan and captain Scott Laughton serving minors, as Reway picked the top corner on goalie Zach Fucale (Rosemere, Que.), making his first start of the tournament.
At 12:33, Griger gave the Slovaks a 3-1 lead four seconds after a penalty to Mathew Dumba expired. Derrick Pouliot was also in the box, sent off for slashing a minute after Dumba went for tripping. Lazar scored late in the first period on a powerplay. Mantha (1+3) and Petan drew helpers.
“I’ve felt great about my game these past couple games and to finally get rewarded felt really good. Mantha gave me a perfect pass out front and I was able to direct it past the goalie, I had no idea where the puck was but to see that red light go on was a pretty special feeling.”
Lazar, an alternate captain with the WHL Edmonton Oil Kings, said the Canadians will have to be more disciplined and make the opposition earn their goals.
“Giving up two 5-on-3 goals against was tough and it really took a lot to climb out of that hole. The third period, we knew to pull this one out, we had to outwork the Slovaks and that’s just what we did. Nic Petan was snakebit for the beginning of the tournament but he scored a couple clutch goals for us. It was a good victory for our team leading into the showdown with the Americans. This win was a step in the right direction but nothing is complete yet. We need to continue to get better each day.”
Petan netted the winner with 2:46 remaining, assists going to Mantha and d-man Pouliot (Weyburn, Sask.), waiting out goalie Samuel Baros before beating him with a low shot.
Petan added an empty-netter with 80 seconds to play. Sam Reinhart (West Vancouver) and Lazar collected assists.
Griffin Reinhart returns to Canada’s lineup after sitting out the final three games of a four-game suspension from last year.
“Having Griff back will really help out our back end,” said Lazar. “He is a great shutdown defender and has great mobility on the big ice. His experience from last year is something we can also use. He knows what it takes to play at this level and I speak for everyone when I say we are welcoming him with open arms.”
Lazar, who rarely came off the ice in the third period Saturday, said the Canadians got caught playing catch-up.
“We played a pretty solid game. We outchanced the Czechs by quite a bit but couldn’t capitalize on our chances and we gave up a couple goals off faceoffs. Those are the small details that can be the difference as we saw.
“The third period was wild no doubt. I really wanted to take command of the game and do enough to put my team over the top. I had a nice rush on the penalty kill and was able to outmuscle the defenders and feed Scott Laughton a pass which led to a rebound that Aaron Ekblad buried.”
I had another rush where I drove the Czech defender wide but had too much speed and was unable to put the luck behind the goalie. I felt good about my play, I had my speed and generated a lot of scoring opportunities for our team.”
ICE CHIPS: Lazar is rooming with F Kerby Rychel of Tecumseh, Ont. (Guelph Storm). His seat buddie on the flight overseas was Connor McDavid (Newmarket, Ont.) of the Erie Otters. Neither player could get comfortable and sleep on the long flight…Reinhart will join his younger brother Sam in a Canada sweater, marking only the third time brothers have played for Canada in the same world junior. Dougie and Freddie Hamilton were teammates in 2012, while Mike and Randy Moller were teammates in 1982…HC Genève-Servette clipped Canada 6-5 in the Spengler Cup semifinals in Davos, Switzerland. Matthew Lombardi pocketed 2+2 for HC Genève-Servette. Vernon Laker grad Glen Metropolit had one assist for Canada.