Canadian men's hockey team concludes Olympic exhibition on winning note

Rene Bourque, Christian Thomas lead Canadians past Sweden

Canadian men's hockey team concludes Olympic exhibition on winning note
Forward Rene Bourque, pictured during practice, needs to produce goals if Canada is to have a successful Olympics Games. © Nathan Denette/Canadian Press

By Tim Wharnsby, CBC Sports

The Canadian men's hockey team received a big boost to its confidence with a win in its final Olympic tune-up on Monday.

After a pair of uninspiring 2-0 shutout wins over non-Olympic countries Latvia and Belarus last week, the Canadians upended hotshot teenaged defenceman Rasmus Dahlin and the defending world champions from Sweden, 4-1.

Canada fell behind 1-0 in the first period on a goal from Dick Axelsson, a former Detroit Red Wings prospect. But Canadian defenceman Mat Robinson scored a power-play goal to pull the teams heading into the first intermission in Incheon, South Korea, a suburb of Seoul.

VIDEO | Highlights of Canada vs. Sweden

Christian Thomas and Rene Bourque scored in the middle period, while Wojtek Wolski pushed Canada to a three-goal advantage early in the final 20 minutes.

"This win will build our confidence," Canadian centre Eric O'Dell said. "Sweden is a highly skilled team and we were up for this one.

"I don't think our first period was our best. But we made the right adjustments, played a hard physical game that got them off their game. We also made the most of our scoring chances and capitalized."

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Goal scoring will be a concern for the Canadians. They don't have a pure sniper, but if a veteran like Bourque can get on track, it will help Canada's cause.

The 36-year-old Bourque had been nursing a groin injury and as a result, missed the two exhibition games during Canada's week-long training camp in Riga, Latvia last week.

Bourque contemplated retirement last summer but decided to play at least one more season because of the Olympic opportunity with the NHL deciding not to participate. So he found a new hockey home with Djurgårdens IF in Stockholm this season.

VIDEO | Rene Bourque on his swan song

Another positive development for the Canadians was they went 3-for-3 in shorthanded situations.

Ben Scrivens started in goal for Canada and gave way to Kevin Poulin after two periods.

"[We played with] a lot of emotion, we played a playoff-type of game," said Canadian forward Max Lapierre. "[It was] physical, and we came out strong in the second period. It's important in games like these to work on our systems, and to have the opportunity to work on our penalty kill was huge for us, and we got it done. [Looking ahead to Switzerland], it's important for us to focus — the calibre of play is only going to get stronger. The Swiss team has a lot of speed, so we'll have to be ready to go from the moment the puck drops."

Here were the line combinations and defence pairings employed by Canadian head coach Willie Desjardins against Sweden.

Forwards (LW — C — RW)

  • Rene Bourque — Derek Roy — Gilbert Brule.
  • Mason Raymond — Chris Kelly — Christian Thomas.
  • Wojtek Wolski — Linden Vey — Andrew Ebbett.
  • Rob Klinkhammer — Eric O'Dell — Max Lapierre.
  • Quinton Howden.

Defence (LD – RD)

  • Chris Lee – Mat Robinson.
  • Chay Chenoway – Maxim Noreau.
  • Karl Stollery – Cody Goloubef.
  • Marc-Andre Gragnani.

Teams can dress 20 skaters and two goalies in the international game as opposed to the 18 skaters and two goalies you see in the NHL.

Canada will return to Pyeongchang for two days of final preparations before it opens the men's tournament against Switzerland on Thursday (7:10 a.m. ET).