Canadian men prevail in Olympic hockey tourney opener
Former NHLers Rene Bourque, Wojtek Wolski, Derek Roy lead attack against Switzerland
By Doug Harrison, CBC Sports
Former NHL players Rene Bourque and Wojtek Wolski had two goals apiece to lead Canada to a tournament-opening 5-1 win over Switzerland on Thursday at the Olympics in South Korea.
Former Quebec junior star Maxim Noreau also scored, one-time Buffalo Sabres forward Derek Roy added three assists and ex-Toronto Maple Leaf and Edmonton Oiler Ben Scrivens made 28 saves as the Canadians displayed plenty of speed, a strong transition game and effective special teams play with two power-play goals.
"I think the speed is huge but I think we're moving the puck very well. Nobody can skate as fast as the puck," the 34-year-old Roy, who played 738 regular-season contests over 11 NHL seasons, told CBC Sports. "We've been practising a lot of things and executing them on the ice."
"A good start," added Canada's head coach Willie Desjardins after paying tribute to the Swiss for their effort. "We needed it from everybody and I thought we got a real good performance from lots of guys tonight."
VIDEO | Canada's Wojtek Wolski says 'everybody came to play'
Simon Moser, who played six games with the Nashville Predators in the 2013-14 season, spoiled Scrivens's shutout bid with his first goal of the tournament at 7:33 of the third period on the power play after Swiss head coach Patrick Fischer pulled former NHL goalie Jonas Hiller for an extra-attacker.
A version of this Canadian squad defeated the Swiss national team 3-0 in the Spengler Cup final on Dec. 31, while Canada also beat Switzerland 3-2 to open the Karjala Cup in mid-November.
"Hockey Canada's done a great job getting us ready [with pre-tournament games] and for us to come out and work hard [Thursday] it's a great feeling," said Roy.
It marked the first time since the 1994 Games that Canada iced a team that wasn't made up of NHLers. And the first time since 1956 that no player on Team Canada had any Olympic experience. Last April, the NHL elected not to have its players compete in Pyeongchang, opening the door for players in the college and American Hockey League ranks along with others in Europe.
Coming off a 4-1 win over Sweden in their final Olympic tune-up on Sunday, Canada carried that momentum into Thursday's first period with a pair of goals at the Kwandong Hockey Centre.
After a strong forecheck, Bourque skated out from the corner to re-direct captain Chris Lee's blast from the top of the faceoff circle past goalie Leonardo Genoni at 2:57. The 36-year-old Bourque, who amassed 163 goals for six NHL teams, has 13 in 33 games this season for Djurgardens IF in the Swedish Hockey League.
VIDEO | Ex-NHLer Rene Bourque opens the scoring for Canada
Montreal's Noreau, who has won back-to-back Swiss National League A titles with SC Bern, blasted a shot through a Bourque screen to make it 2-0 at 7:30 while Scrivens made two big stops on Moser midway through the period.
Fischer pulled Genoni early in the second, following Bourque's power-play goal through the netminder's legs and Wolski's marker 52 seconds later.
A first-round pick by the Colorado Avalanche in 2004, Wolski burst down the wing, made a move around two Swiss players and lifted a shot over Genoni, who was lifted after allowing four goals on 12 shots.
VIDEO | Speedy Wojtek Wolski scores a pretty goal for Canada
"Wojtek Wolski gets that puck on the move and he makes a terrific outside-in move and he snaps that," said analyst Craig Button. "But the quickness of the defence to get that puck moving …"
The 36-year-old Hiller, who has spent the past two years in the Swiss league after nine NHL seasons with Anaheim and Calgary, stopped all 15 shots he faced over 33-plus minutes.
Switzerland played a better third period and outshot Canada 29-28 overall.
"Later in the game we gotta be a little more poised with the puck," Roy said. "They [Switzerland] came at us in the third period and we sat back a little bit. Our power play did a great job, our PK [penalty kill] did a pretty good job and moving forward discipline will be huge."
"Job 1 done," Lee added following his two-assist effort. "And we know it's not going to get any easier moving forward. I think every game's going to be difficult."
Next game for Canada is Friday at 10:10 p.m. ET against the Czech Republic, which beat South Korea 2-1 in Thursday's other evening game.
With files from The Canadian Press