PIESTANY, Slovakia – After watching his team steamroll its way through the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament, Canadian coach Bill Peters had just one small complaint – he wanted to see more.
The Canadian under-18 team completed its perfect run at the event by beating Russia 6-3 in the gold medal final on Saturday.
“Their play is just getting better and better,” said Peters. “If we could stay together for two more weeks, it would be pretty outstanding to watch.”
They did more than enough damage in the time they were together.
Canada outscored its opponents 24-10 in four tournament games while outshooting them 177-69. A major key to its success was a balanced attack that saw seven Canadians finish among the top-13 scorers at the event.
“I think it’s a special group,” said Peters. “When you win with a group, you’re always going to remember the guys. These guys have done a wonderful job.”
The victory over Russia provided a perfect example of the team’s balanced attack.
Taylor Hall, Carter Ashton, Ryan Ellis, Simon Despres, Brayden Schenn and Ryan O’Reilly all scored goals while goaltender Nathan Lieuwen made 10 saves.
Dmitry Orlov, Alexander Burmistrov and Vladimir Tarasenko replied for Russia.
It’s the fourth time in five years that a Canadian team has left this tournament as the champion. The future looks pretty bright for this particular age group as Canada also won gold at the world under-18 championship in Russia during the spring.
“Every time you win one, the feeling just keeps getting better and better,” said Schenn, one of four players who was on both those Canadian teams.
With the exception of Hall, every player on this squad will be available at next year’s NHL draft. Captain Matt Duchene and Schenn are currently projected to be among the top picks while Hall is likely to find himself in a similar position in 2010.
The team came together extremely fast.
Forty players attended a training camp in Calgary two weeks ago and the 22 players selected for the team arrived in Europe on Aug. 7. The Canadians then won two exhibition games before going unbeaten during the tournament.
The turning point for Duchene came when Canada pulled out a 4-3 win over defending champion Sweden in the round robin portion of the event.
“After we won that game, we knew that gold was within our grasp,” he said. “We just had to continue doing what we were doing, and we were able to do that.
“That’s why we have a gold medal hanging around our neck right now.”
Peters and assistant coaches Andre Tourigny and Steve Spott constructed a team that could score no matter who was on the ice.
With so much size and skill, they were too much for anyone to handle.
“Everybody checked their egos at the door,” said Schenn. “We played good defence and that created our offence. I think that was our key to going 6-0 (including the exhibition games).”
Added Peters: “When you have elite players and they compete and they don’t care who gets the credit, good things are going to happen. That’s what happened over the last 10 days with our group.”
Many of these players will be in the mix to play for Canada at the world junior championship over the next couple years.
The international experience they received at this event should be extremely helpful down the road.
“Everyone gets jacked up to play Canada,” said Peters. “We’ve got to have our ‘A’ game going as quick as we can in a tournament because the other countries are going to compete against us as hard as anybody.
“(The recent success Canada has had) is a complement to the program in our country and the young guys that are playing.”