Team North America Rolls Over Team Europe 7-4 in World Cup of Hockey Warmup
Team North America is living up to its reputation as a fast, skilled hockey team with an explosive offence.
The offence was in high gear Sunday night at the Bell Centre as it scored three goals in two minutes en route to a 7-4 win over Team Europe in a warmup for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey tournament.
But the victory, which came on the heels of a 4-0 win over Team Europe Thursday night in Quebec City, raised concerns about an inexperienced defence and an inability to sustain pressure for a full 60 minutes.
Team North America, an amalgamation of Canadian and U.S. players 23 years of age and under, has scored eight of its 11 goals in the first period. Their other three goals have come on a penalty shot, a power play and into an empty net.
“We were up 5-1 after the first period and we lost some of our focus,” captain Connor McDavid said. “We tried to make that one extra pass and we turned it over.”
“We know we have to clean things up, and that’s one of the things (coach Todd McLellan) talked about after the second period,” Jack Eichel added. “We know we have to get bette,r but we have two wins and we’re going to play the Czechs Wednesday and we expect to be better.”
McLellan said his team’s early success led to the problems later in the game.
“We got a little too cute, a little too fancy and we missed some chances to bury some pucks,” McLellan said. “This was a proud team we played tonight and they came back, but we have some work to do. There are games we’re not going to win if we give up four goals; at some point, we’re going to have to win a 2-1 game.”
Team Europe coach Ralph Krueger said he expected a more structured game by his team of players from what he described as “the underdog nations” after a lacklustre performance in Quebec City.
Krueger got what he was looking for, but not before North America sprinted to a 5-1 lead in the first period.
“We were extremely disappointed after the first period after everything we talked about the last few days,” Krueger said. “We made some adjustments between periods, and we were satisfied with the effort in the final two periods.”
Thomas Greiss all but assured that New York Islanders teammate Jaroslav Halak would be the starting goaltender for Team Europe when he gave up four goals on eight shots before Krueger gave him the hook at 10:22 of the first period.
Defenceman Aaron Ekblad got the kids started when he scored the first of his two goals at 5:20. Dylan Larkin scored at 6:27 and Ekblad scored again at 7:19.
Team Europe’s Pierre-Edouard Bellemare beat John Gibson at 8:55, but Greiss went to the bench after Morgan Rielly scored on what appeared to be a harmless shot from the point at 10:22.
Halak, who has been a fan favourite here since his days with the Canadiens, was the victim of some bad luck when Johnny Gaudreau scored at 15:54. Gaudreau flipped the puck from behind the net and it caromed in off the back of Halak’s helmet.
But Halak was solid the rest of the way as he stopped 22 of the 24 shots he faced and gave his teammates a chance to climb back into the game.
Veteran Marian Gaborik scored twice in the second period and Frans Nielsen beat John Gibson at 8:17 of the third period to narrow the North America lead to a single goal.
Gaudreau put Canada up by two when he scored a power-play goal at 11:29 after Europe was caught with too many men on the ice. The player who has been dubbed Johnny Hockey stickhandled around Luca Sbisa before sliding a backhander past Halak. Larkin provided the winning margin with an empty-net goal. Thirteen different players earned at least one point and none of those were named McDavid.
Team North America moves to Pittsburgh where it should face a tougher test Wednesday against the Czech Republic. It’s the final exhibition before the World Cup begins Saturday in Toronto.