Lightning prospects couldn’t have kicked off the New Year any better on Sunday at the World Junior Championships.
Three out of the team’s four representatives at this year’s tournament cashed in big performances, as Richard Panik recorded a hat trick and an assist, while Adam Janosik added two assists himself to help Team Slovakia stay alive in the first match of relegation play, as they blanked Norway 5-0. Team Canada, also in action Sunday, got help from Carter Ashton, who assisted on a goal as the Canadians defeated Switzerland 4-1. Brett Connolly was held off the score sheet, but recorded three shots on goal and an even rating.
Panik got things started for Slovakia when he opened scoring with the game’s first goal 12:25 into the contest. Despite being held scoreless in the second period, Slovakia still managed to take a two-goal lead into the final frame that they were able to sit on.
Norway worked hard in order to cut the lead, but Slovak net minder Juraj Holly stood tall in net, stopping all 37 shots he faced and earning his first shutout of the tournament. Panik wasn’t finished, however, scoring twice more and adding an assist on a goal by Juraj Majdan as Slovakia took over possession of first place in the relegation round standings.
Team Canada did not have much trouble in its match either, although it received an early scare that was eventually overcome.
After spotting the Swiss a 1-0 lead just over a minute into the game, Canada responded with four unanswered goals, including one in the opening stanza to tie the game.
Ashton assisted on his team’s second goal, this one from Casey Cizikas that made it 2-0, before the Canadians scored twice more in the third period on goals by Louis Leblanc and Zack Kassian.
Team Canada will meet the United States in the semifinals on Monday, while Slovakia will have to wait an additional day for its game against the Czech Republic on Tuesday.