Center Mitchell Stephens scored two goals to lead Canada to a 5-1 victory against Sweden in preliminary-round play in Group B of the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup on Tuesday at Zimny Stadion in Piestany, Slovakia.
The six-time and defending tournament champion, which outshot Sweden 41-28, will look to earn its third straight victory on Wednesday when it faces Slovakia at 11:30 a.m. ET.
"I thought as the game went along we got better as a group," Canada coach Jody Hull said. "We're starting to come together as a team and every player was doing the right thing. Moving forward, that's going to be key."
The Canadians led from start to finish, opening a 2-0 lead in the second period on goals by Travis Konecny at 6:36 and Lawson Crouse in the opening 14:30 before Sweden pared the deficit to one on a goal by Philip Magnusson from the high slot at 16:34.
Konecny of the Ottawa 67's in the Ontario Hockey League and Crouse of the Kingston Frontenacs (OHL) were each named to NHL Central Scouting's Futures List as top prospects eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft. Canada's player of the game, Stephens, who plays for the Saginaw Spirit (OHL), scored both his goals in the third at 3:21 and 12:09 to give Canada a 4-1 lead. Jansen Harkins of the Prince George Cougars in the Western Hockey League converted a penalty shot at 16:46 to close out the scoring. Harkins was also listed on Central Scouting's Futures List in July.
Canada goalie Zachary Sawchenko, who isn't eligible until the 2016 NHL Draft, made 27 saves to notch his second straight win. He made 12 saves in the first period when Sweden generated plenty of pressure but couldn't beat the 5-foot-10, 179-pound goalie of the Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL).
"Zach was great again, especially when we were killing penalties," Hull said.
Canada is not only seeking its record seventh straight gold medal and 19th overall at the Hlinka Memorial, but its 10th championship in the past 11 years.
The top two teams from each group advance to the semifinals on Aug. 15 and the winners face off in the championship game on Aug. 16.
Also in Group B action on Tuesday:
Switzerland 3, Slovakia 1: Dominik Schmid, Lee Roberts and Roger Karrer, who was named to NHL Central Scouting's Futures List as a top prospect for the 2015 draft, scored to give Switzerland a 3-0 lead at Alcaplast Arena in Breclav, Czech Republic.
Schmid scored a power-play goal 18:08 into the first and Roberts and Karrer scored in the second at 5:26 and 8:15, respectively. Tim Guggisberg made 19 saves for the Swiss, who next play Sweden on Wednesday at 8 a.m. ET. Peter Valent scored 3:07 into the third for Slovakia, which was outshot 25-20.