Bernier backstops Canada to opening-round victory


HALMSTAD, Sweden – Canada opened the 2006 IIHF World Under-18 Championship on Wedensday with a 3-1 victory over Slovakia.

Canada was led offensively by forward Justin Azevedo, who had a goal and an assist and was named Canada’s player of the game.

After a scoreless first period, Azevedo opened the scoring 1:23 into the second period. to give Canada a 1-0 lead. Slovakia’s Rastislav Konecny tied it 1-1 at 6:53 while Canada had two players serving penalties. Canada’s Francois Bouchard then scored on a 5-on-3 power play midway through the second period when he one-timed a shot from the side of the net on a pass from Azevedo, putting Canada ahead 2-1.

Brandon Sutter scored into an empty-net goal with 32 seconds left to clinch the victory.

Lewiston Maineiacs goalie Jonathan Bernier played in goal for Canada, making 34 saves. Canada was outshot 35-30 in the game.

Canada’s next game is today, when it takes on Norway. Canada will have a practice Friday, before playing Sweden on Saturday and Finland on Monday to wrap up preliminary play in Group B.