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Canada cruises to beat host Slovakia 5-1 at Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup

PIESTANY, Slovakia - With first place in Group B of the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup sealed, Canada's under-18 men's hockey team didn't let up in routing host Slovakia 5-1 on Wednesday.

Canada got goals from Ethan Bear, Lawson Crouse, Mitchell Marner, Travis Konecny and Tyler Soy but most importantly stayed healthy going into Friday's semifinal showdown with the United States.

"I thought we did a lot of little things well," coach Jody Hull said. "It's a tough game to play knowing that you've already clinched first place, but I think we accepted the challenge and kept things very simple in our game plan. The biggest was to stay with our team structure and to get through the game without any injuries."

In getting through pool play undefeated, Canada outscored its opponents 15-3. One of the keys to getting through the Slovakia game was scoring early, which Bear did 5:20 in.

That took some of the pressure off in a game that had no tangible meaning.

"It's just a different game," Hull said. "It was three games in three nights for our guys, and they played hard the first couple nights. That's always difficult. I thought that we were able to manage ice time very well and get everyone into the game."

Soy, who scored Canada's fifth goal of the game, said players tried not to think about nothing being on the line.

"As a team we didn't want to take the night off or not go as hard as we can," the Cloverdale, B.C., native said. "We just want to keep building with what we've already started and treat it as if it was just any other game and go hard. We're still building as a team and we're just getting that much better as we go along."

Next up is the U.S., which has won two of its three games so far at the tournament. Hull said his team has a good chemistry going, and Soy hopes that continues to show on the ice in the semifinal round.

"I can't wait," Soy said. "I feel like the U.S. and Canada have made a pretty big rivalry in the past couple years and I'm really excited for us moving forward."

The medal games are set for Saturday. Canada has won this tournament six years in a row, and 18 of the past 23 times since it began in 1991.

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