DAVOS, Switzerland - Canada received passing marks during its first test at the Spengler Cup. The next one should be even tougher.
After weathering a tough first period on Friday, Canada picked it up on the power play and beat Czech squad Energie Karlovy Vary 3-1 in its tournament opener.
The first game is always the toughest for the Canadian team, which is largely composed of European-based pros that only get two days of practice together before the event. Coach Sean Simpson was pleased with the effort.
"For a team that played its first time together, the third period was clinical the way we defended the lead," he said. "We had a couple of penalty kills to get through and we did that really strongly.
"We sort of grew inside the game."
Darren Machesney picked up the win in goal. The 22-year-old was particularly strong in the first period - stopping all 14 shots he faced - and kept his team in it.
That was an important stretch of the game.
"The guys were all pumped up and ready to go, but in the first period we were nervous," said Simpson. "It's normal - it happens to us every year here.
"Darren played great in goal there."
The game was broken open in the second period when Karlovy was assessed seven straight minor penalties. Brad Isbister, Micki Dupont and Jean-Guy Trudel all scored power-play goals for Canada during that series of calls.
Lukas Pech had the lone marker in reply for Karlovy.
Canada is the defending champion at the prestigious five-team tournament. The top two teams contest the final after a four-game round robin schedule.
The next one for Canada comes with some anticipation - they face host HC Davos on Saturday.
"It's the top game in the tournament aside from the final," said Simpson, a longtime coach in the Swiss League. "There's a lot of bragging rights on the line tomorrow, as I told the team.
"It's always a very special atmosphere."
There should be even more urgency than normal after Davos dropped its opening game 4-1 to Russia's Moscow Dynamo.
The tournament's format basically eliminates any team that loses twice.
"They need to win tomorrow so they'll be pumped up," said Simpson. "We have to get better. And we're pretty positive we can do that."