Sluggish Team Canada tops Korea in men's hockey
South Korea goaltender Matt Dalton (1) makes the save on Canada forward Wojciech Wolski (8) during second period men's hockey action at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, on Sunday, February 18, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
Published Sunday, February 18, 2018 9:48AM EST
GANGNEUNG, Korea, Republic Of -- Team Canada had a hard time disposing of South Korea on Sunday, looking unconvincing for large parts of a 4-0 win over the hockey minnow at the Pyeongchang Olympics.
Third-period goals by Maxim Lapierre and Gilbert Brule helped make the score look more flattering for Canada, which struggled for two periods to assert its superiority.
While Canada emerged victorious, a game Korean side and its loyal fans had a night to remember. They hung tough with a Canadian squad that, while not NHLers, plays in far better leagues than the so-called Asia League Ice Hockey circuit that is home to all the Koreans.
Canada has 20 Olympic men's hockey medals (13 gold, five silver and two bronze). Korea -- bolstered by seven North American imports -- was playing its third-ever Olympic game and four years ago didn't own a skate-sharpener or glove-dryer.
Christian Thomas and Eric O'Dell also scored for Canada, which fired 40-plus shots at Canadian-born goalkeeper Matt Dalton.
It was a party-like atmosphere at the 10,000-seat Gangneung Hockey Centre with a Korean chant starting seconds after the puck dropped. Korea had the first shot with the crowd noise rising metre by metre as Young Jun Lee skated towards the Canadian end.
Canada had the next 14 shots and Thomas made it 1-0 on No. 14 with a high wrist shot that beat Dalton at 7:36.
Helped by penalties, Korean came on in the second period and Canadian goalie Kevin Poulin had several uncomfortable moments. Korea seemed to grow in confidence as Canada failed to add to its slim lead.
Canada finally beat Dalton again with its 26th shot of the evening after the goalie misread a bounce off the backboards and O'Dell was there to tuck the puck into the unguarded side of the net at 14:22 of the second.
Canada outshot the Koreans 18-5 after 20 minutes and 32-13 after 40.
The three group winners and the best second-place team advance directly to the quarterfinals. The remaining eight teams face off to see which four joins them.
The Czech Republic defeated Switzerland 4-1 earlier in the day to assure top spot in Group A with eight points.
Canada needed a win over the Koreans -- to finish with seven points -- and the Finland-Sweden game in Group C to finish in regulation time to avoid delving into tiebreakers. The Canadians got just that as Sweden beat the Finns 3-1.
Slovenia, the second-place team in Group B, has four points.
With Canada playing back-to-back games, Poulin started in goal in place of Ben Scrivens.
But the spotlight was on Dalton, who stood tall in the Korean goal as he faced one shot after another in the first period. The 31-year-old native of Clinton, Ont., who has dual citizenship after moving to South Korea in 2014, is a fan-favourite here.
Wojtek Wolski came close late in the period while penalty killing but his shot went into the side of the net as he tried to beat Dalton.
The crowd did not like it when Mason Raymond got four minutes for high-sticking Hyonho Oh early in the second period. Korea came close during a goalmouth scramble and Poulin later made a big pad save on Jin Hui Ahn on the power play.
Poulin found himself in no-man's land later in the period on a bad bounce off the backboards but no Korean was there to take advantage.
Lapierre made it 3-0 at 3:43 of the third, slipping the puck between Dalton's legs after heading to the goal on a solo rush down the wing. Dalton doubtless would like to have that one back.
Brule rounded out the attack with a backhanded shot that hit the post before going in.
The Canadian men opened with a 5-1 win over Switzerland before losing 3-2 in a shootout to the Czechs. Korea, No. 21 in the IIHF world rankings in 2017, lost 2-1 to the Czechs and 8-0 to Switzerland.
The Korean team, coached by Seoul-born former NHLer Jim Paek, features six Canadians: Dalton, defencemen Bryan Young of Ennismore, Ont., Eric Regan of Whitby, Ont., and Alex Plante of Brandon, Man., and forwards Brock Radunske of Kitchener, Ont., and Michael Swift of Peterborough, Ont.
Dalton was in the Boston Bruins organization. Plante, Radunske and Young were Edmonton draft choices.
The roster also includes American-born winger Mike Testwuide.
Dalton was recently named the Asia league's best goaltender for the third time. Swift, who once notched 100 points for the OHL's Niagara IceDogs, was tops in points and assists.
Pyeongchang represents the Olympic debut of Korean hockey. The Korean team has never qualified for the world championships.