Saturday, May 03, 2008

Heatley leads Canada in home opener

"I see it's written here 65 shots, I thought it was 95."—Slovene head coach Mats Waltin expressing amazement at goaltender Robert Kristan’s fortitude in the wake of an all out Canadian Assault on Friday.

Dany Heatley is becoming the wise old man of Team Canada, owing more in the past to playing for teams that found the Stanley Cup playoffs to be a rumour; Heatley has found that most of his springs over the last few years have been tied up with Canada’s entry at the World Hockey Championships.

This year, much to the disappointment of Ottawa Senators fans, he once again has been available to answer the call, and judging by Friday’s opening match with Slovenia it’s a good thing that he was taking calls. Heatley scored three times for Canada, as the home side took a 5-1 victory from Slovenia and opened up the 100th anniversary of the IIHF on a winning note.

His three goals moved him to the top of the Canadian list as Canada’s top scorer in the yearly competition. Heatley passed Marcel Dionne on Friday scoring his 22nd goal during his participation in the international competition.

Slovenian net minder Robert Kristan faced 65 shots, a total that surely must qualify him for a medal of meritorious service in Slovenia, the last line of defence did all he could to help his team stay close to the flying Canadians including surviving a remarkable 31 shot second period, but eventually Canada (and Heatley with the goals) wore him down.

At the other end of the rink, Cam Ward had a bank holiday by comparison as the Slovene’s could only muster 20 shots when they had the puck, with only the LA Kings, Anze Kopitar able to direct one behind Ward’s back.

The game never really seemed in doubt for Canada, as they controlled the play and made good use of the Slovenia end of the rink, Canada had a good cycle working in front of Kristan, able to fire shots from every conceivable angle.

It was a welcome result for an opening game, more of a real time practice in the end, as the Canadian line combinations worked out the bugs and began to gel much to the dismay of the over matched Slovenes.

Canada gets a day off from tournament action, with their next game on Sunday against Latvia, the problem for the Canadians may be that they look beyond Latvia to game number three against their arch rivals the Americans.

Head coach Ken Hitchcock will have to ensure that his Canadian team is focused on game number two, before they worry about game number three on the preliminary round schedule. Surprises happen when the focus isn’t quite there, a dangerous thing in a short cycle tournament such as the World Championships, where a couple of losses can spell the difference between claiming gold or settling for the thanks for coming parting gifts.

CBC Sports-- Heatley nets hat trick for Canada
The Toronto Star--Hat trick for Heatley as Canada downs Slovenia
Ottawa Citizen-- Slovenia's goalie steals show but can't steal game
The Chronicle Herald-- Canada clips Slovenia 5-1

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