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Canada skates to Hlinka trophy

Fifth-straight win for under-18s

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PIESTANY, Slovakia -- Canada won its fifth straight Ivan Hlinka Memorial hockey championship with its most complete game of the tournament, using a dominant forecheck to tire out a fading Finland team.

Nathan MacKinnon scored three goals, including two on the power play, as Canada defeated the Finns 4-0 on Saturday to claim the under-18 tournament for the 17th time since it was introduced in 1991.

"That was our best game from start to finish. Everybody bought in," Canada coach Todd Gill said. "Our slogan was 'I am willing,' and everybody was willing tonight and it showed."

MacKinnon finished the tournament with five goals and six assists in five games.

Curtis Lazar also scored for Canada, while Zachary Fucale made 23 saves for the shutout.

The game was scoreless after the first period, but Gill could sense the Finns were being tired out by Canada's forecheck and ability to cycle the puck. Canada took advantage by scoring three goals in the second period while outshooting Finland 22-9.

MacKinnon kickstarted the offence with his first goal of the game 1:14 into the second.

"The way the game was going you could just tell that the kids were getting a lot more confident," Gill said. "In my opinion it was just a matter of time before we started scoring goals. We dominated the second period and it just got better and better, and they were getting tired and their goalie was getting tired so we knew the goals would come."

Finland had a chance to get back in the game when Nicholas Ritchie was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for a check to the head 2:10 into the third period.

"It was a good hard hit," Gill said of the penalty. "The kid fell and skated off real quick but by that time (the referee) had made his decision."

The Canadians killed off the major, then shortly after MacKinnon scored his second power-play goal of the game to suck the rest of the life out of the Finns.

"After killing off a five-minute penalty it gave us an advantage I think. It sparked the boys," MacKinnon said. "Shortly after that we had a 5-on-3 power play and some good puck movement and I found a way to finish it off."

While Canada outshot Finland 44-23 in the game, Fucale was good when he had to be. A teammate of MacKinnon on the QMJHL's Halifax Mooseheads, Fucale formed a solid goaltending tandem with Eric Comrie at the tournament.

"He just calms it down," Gill said of Fucale. "He's calm and cool in there, there's no panic to his game. When a shot does get through he controls rebounds very well.

"Comrie played awesome for us when he was in there. We had two goalies that we trusted and it makes the game so much easier when you trust your goalie."

Finland came into the game with the reputation of having the most North American style of all the European teams at the tournament. But the Finns couldn't seem to keep up with the physical Canadians.

"They don't back down. They're in your face the whole game," MacKinnon said. "They wanted it bad but I thought we just tired them out. We played good Canadian-style hockey. We're really physical, which led to our success."

MacKinnon said he's not used to playing this level of competitive hockey in the summer, but figures the experience will give him a good foundation for his next season with the Mooseheads.

"I've never experienced anything like this before, but it's a great way to start the season," he said.

Gill said that scouts for Canada's under-20 team were at the tournament, and that his players showed they're ready to take their game to the next level when the time comes.

"All of them, it looks like their future is bright to go forward," he said. "I feel really good about Hockey Canada over the next two, three years."

Earlier Saturday, Sweden bet the Czech Republic 2-1 in the bronze-medal game.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 19, 2012 B4

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