BRECLAV, Czech Republic - Canada's entry at the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka under-18 hockey tournament is benefiting from a potent Ontario Hockey League connection.
OHL forwards John McFarland, Tyler Toffoli and Tyler Seguin were the difference for the second straight game, combining for six points in a 6-3 win over Switzerland that improved the defending champions to 2-0 in Pool A. The Swiss fell to 0-2.
McFarland scored twice - giving him three goals in the first two games - while Toffoli had a goal and an assist and Seguin added a pair of helpers. The trio had seven points in Tuesday's tournament-opening 3-2 win over Sweden.
McFarland, coming off a solid rookie season with the Sudbury Wolves, said the team's training camp earlier this month in Calgary helped the players build cohesion, both on and off the ice.
"Having that couple days at camp to grow with some linemates has really helped us," said McFarland. "(It's) a great group of guys that all want to get better as a team, and are all here to do one thing, and that's win a gold medal."
Canadian coach Bob Boughner lauded the trio for its offensive creativity, going so far as to suggest that the team's gold-medal chances hinge on how well the line performs the rest of the way.
"That line's got great chemistry," said Boughner. "They're a line that doesn't need many chances to bury it. Sometimes, because they're so talented, they tend to get overcreative, but our job as coaches is to make sure that they play the same as every other line.
"That line's got to be our best line every night for us to win a gold medal."
Jeffrey Skinner of the OHL's Kitchener Rangers also had a pair of goals and was named the player of the game, while Michael Bournival of the QMJHL's Shawinigan Cataractes added a single. Calvin Pickard stopped 14 shots to earn the win.
Reto Schmutz, Eric Arnold and Gaetan Haas replied for the Swiss, who fought gamely for one period but couldn't keep up with a relentless Canadian attack. Canada outshot Switzerland 42-17 - highlighted by a 15-2 advantage in the second period - and would have won by more had it not been for a strong performance from Swiss netminder Lukas Melli.
Switzerland actually held a brief lead in the first period, when Schmutz and Arnold scored just over a minute apart to erase a 1-0 deficit. McFarland tied things up late in the first, but that didn't spare the players from a Boughner tirade between periods.
"I was thinking about calling a timeout early, but I didn't want to waste it," said Boughner. "So I let them get through the first period, and I laid into them pretty good in between the first and second about not coming out hungry and prepared and focused.
"To tell you the truth, that's been our problem the last two games. I challenged the leadership and character of the team, and they came out harder."
Skinner's short-handed goal early in the second gave Canada the lead for good, and Toffoli, who plays for the Ottawa 67's, expanded the lead on a power-play at 7:05. Haas cut the deficit to 4-3 late in the period, but McFarland restored the two-goal advantage at 12:24 of the third on a pass from Seguin, a Plymouth Whalers winger.
Bournival completed the scoring with 23 seconds left.
The Canadians face the host Czechs on Thursday, and McFarland said the players are encouraged by the progress they've made so far - though there's still plenty of room for improvement.
"We're getting there as a team," said McFarland. "We have one more game to ultimately get ourselves ready to win a gold medal.
"We have things that we want to get better in, and things we're learning night in, night out."
Wednesday's other Pool A game saw the Swedes even their record at 1-1 with a 4-1 victory over the Czechs (1-1) at Breclav.
In Pool B action at Piestany, Slovakia, Russia improved to 2-0 with a 7-1 rout of Slovakia (1-1), while U.S. (1-1) earned a 3-2 victory over Finland (0-2).