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Canada cruises past Denmark to reach WJC semifinal

by Mike G. Morreale /

TORONTO -- Captain Curtis Lazar had two goals and an assist, and goaltender Zachary Fucale made 14 saves to lead Canada to an 8-0 victory against Denmark in the quarterfinal round of the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship at Air Canada Centre on Friday.

Canada will play Slovakia on Sunday in a semifinal in Toronto at 8 p.m. ET. Canada defeated Slovakia 8-0 in the preliminary round on Dec. 26.

The other semifinal slated for Sunday at Air Canada Centre pits unbeaten Sweden against Russia at 4 p.m. ET. The semifinal winners advance to the gold-medal game in Toronto on Monday at 8 p.m. ET. The losers will play for bronze at 4 p.m. ET.

Canada, which has won all five games in the tournament, outscoring the opposition 29-4, will be making its 17th consecutive appearance in the tournament semifinals. It is seeking its first medal of any kind in three years.

After winning an unprecedented five straight gold medals between 2005 and 2009, Canada has added only a bronze medal at the 2012 tournament to its resume since. An entire country is hoping that will change on home soil. The last time a host nation won WJC gold was in 2009, when Canada celebrated the title in Ottawa. That was also the year Canada finished unbeaten in the tournament (6-0-0), outscoring its opponents 46-12.

In the past 41 years, the host team has won a medal 24 times at the WJC, but just seven have won it all.

In addition to Lazar (Ottawa Senators), Canada got goals from Sam Reinhart (Buffalo Sabres), Lawson Crouse (2015 draft eligible), Connor McDavid (2015 draft eligible), Nick Paul (Ottawa Senators), Brayden Point (Tampa Bay Lightning) and Nick Ritchie (Anaheim Ducks). Fucale (Montreal Canadiens), who entered the game with a 0.50 goals-against average and .975 save percentage, earned his third win in the tournament for the unbeaten Canadians.

"I think we're gaining more confidence with each win, but you can't get too comfortable," Reinhart said.

McDavid's goal midway through the second period brought the capacity crowd to its feet. After gathering the puck he skated hard down the left wing, cut to the slot and went forehand-backhand-forehand before tucking the puck inside the left post for a 4-0 advantage.

"I just tried to carry the puck to the middle," McDavid said. "I think their defense was making a quick change, but I wasn't expecting the quick turnover at center. I was able to get a step on them, and the move is just something I like to do."

Canada opened a 5-0 lead in the second period on goals by Lazar and blue-chip draft prospects Crouse and McDavid, who is projected to be the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. Crouse dangled in the left circle before scoring at 7:50 to give Canada a 3-0 lead prior to McDavid's highlight-reel goal.

"That was pretty special," Reinhart said of the McDavid goal. "The speed he had on that goal was pretty impressive."

Lazar then took a stretch pass from Joe Hicketts (Detroit Red Wings) before scoring his team-leading fifth of the tournament at 13:21 for a 5-0 lead.

Canada did receive some bad news early in the first period when forward Robby Fabbri (St. Louis Blues) was forced to leave the game after sustaining a high-ankle sprain 3:10 into the first that will sideline him the remainder of the tournament, according to coach Benoit Groulx. Fabbri attempted to bump Denmark’s Anders Krogsgaard off the puck in the left-wing corner but fell to the ice after getting tangled with the defenseman.

Groulx had 12 forwards and seven defenders the remainder of the game, but it made no difference as Canada, the highest-scoring team at the 2015 WJC, continued its offensive assault. Groulx even moved McDavid with Point and Lazar after Fabbri’s injury to form a pretty productive trio.

"Connor needs that a little bit, a guy who can make plays with the puck," Groulx said. "We want to balance our lines with speed and skills. It's a disappointment for [Fabbri], but [Brayden Point] has been good since camp opened. I don't know the plan yet for Sunday, but Connor with Curtis and Brayden was solid."

The Danes were holding their own in the early stages of the game and were actually outshooting the host country 4-0, but fell behind when Lazar took a picturesque feed from McDavid and scored his fourth goal at 10:37. McDavid skated down the left wing, circled the Denmark net and, while falling to the ice, delivered a pass to Lazar in the right circle.

"I kind of just threw it out there," McDavid said. "I didn't know Curt was there, but it's good that he was."

Reinhart, who had another solid effort in the faceoff circle, made it 2-0 when he took a pass from Anthony Duclair (New York Rangers) in the slot and whipped a shot into the right corner at 15:17.

Paul, Point and Ritchie closed out the scoring with goals in the third period for Canada.

"Their speed was too much for us," Denmark coach Olaf Eller said. "Maybe we had to use our maximum effort to reach the quarters. We faced an amazing team and their speed and quick transition game killed us."

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