Andreas Athanasiou scored a pair of goals and Kerby Rychel had a goal and an assist to pace the Canadian Under-18 select team to a 6-0 victory over Switzerland on Wednesday in preliminary-round action of the 2011 Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament at Alcaplast Arena in Breclav, Czech Republic.
Canada, which has now won two straight by a combined 12-1 after dropping a 5-1 decision to Sweden on Monday, will advance to Friday's semifinal round against Russia. The medal round will be held Saturday. The other semifinal matches Sweden against Finland.
The Canadians opened a 4-0 lead in the first period. Derrick Pouliot (Portland Winterhawks) and Rychel (Windsor Spitfires) connected in a span of eight seconds less than two minutes into the game before Scott Laughton (Oshawa Generals) and Athanasiou (London Knights) scored in a span of 3:19 later in the period.
"For us it started with our entries," U-18 Canada coach Steve Spott said. "We were able to get the puck in deep and we were able to protect the puck down low and use our size and strength in the offensive zone."
Spott praised Athanasiou.
"Andreas' greatest weapon is his speed and he's using that to his advantage," Spott said. "He's not afraid to take the puck to the net and he's been our go-to guy."
Goalies Daniel Altshuller (Napean Riders) and Domenic Graham (Drummondville Voltegieurs) combined for 27 saves to notch the shutout. Hunter Shinkaruk (Medicine Hat Tigers) converted a penalty shot 14:46 into the second to extend the lead to 5-0 and Athanasiou scored off a feed from Morgan Rielly (Moose Jaw Warriors) 9:05 into the third.
"I've been pretty up front with the way I see out team identity right now," Spott said. "I don't see a (Taylor) Hall or a (Steven) Stamkos or a (John) Tavares. I think we have to play a legitimate team game, a five-on-five game, and outwork our opponents and the boys have bought into that and that's what we're going to have to do to be successful."
Athanasiou, a 6-foot, 165-pound left wing from Woodbridge, Ont., produced 11 goals and 22 points in 57 games with London during the 2010-11 season. The 2012 draft-eligible prospect is one of 17 players on Team Canada's roster to win a gold medal with Ontario at the 2011 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Winnipeg and Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, in January.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale