Host Korea played with heart, but just couldn’t find the range against Canada in a 4-0 loss on Sunday. Canada moves on to the quarter-finals.
Canada, which finished second in Group A and fourth overall in the preliminary round, rebounded in solid style from its 3-2 shootout loss to the Czechs.
It was a fine Olympic debut for Poulin, although he was far less busy than his Korean counterpart Matt Dalton. Shots on goal favored Canada 49-19.
Four Canadians scored their first Olympic goals: Christian Thomas, Eric O’Dell, Maxim Lapierre and Gilbert Brule. Team points leader Derek Roy added two assists, bringing his total to five. Korea, ranked 21st in the IIHF World Ranking, has lost three straight games and been outscored 14-1.
"We knew it was going to be a tight game against them," said Lapierre. "They're a good team, they work hard in front of their fans, they got speed. So we were patient tonight and we scored when it was time to score."
So far, Canada is producing enough offense to get by, with 10 goals in three games. Canada hopes to three-peat after winning gold in 2010 and 2014, but the extremely different rosters in Korea have made this tournament unpredictable. Canada’s 17 goals en route to gold in 2014 were the fewest in Olympic history. The Olympic Athletes from Russia lead the field so far with 14 goals in three games.
With Korea featuring no fewer than six Canadian imports – Dalton, defencemen Eric Regan and Alex Plante, and forwards Brock Radunske, Michael Swift, and Bryan Young – this was one of the most north-south, physical affairs we’ve seen at these Games. There was no shortage of motivation and excitement for head coach Jim Paek’s crew.
"Before the game, after last night losing [8-0 to Switzerland], getting run out of the barn, we were a little bit worried about what we were up against tonight," admitted Radunske. "But our coach got refocused and made us believe that we deserved to be on the ice with these guys."
When Gilbert Brule raced down with Rene Bourque on an early 2-on-1, Dalton came out challenging aggressively and vacuumed the puck up in his midsection. He foiled Linden Vey from the slot. The Anyang Halla netminder looked every inch a scrappy, diminutive battler in the tradition of Chris Osgood or Manny Legace.
Screams of excitement rose from the flag-waving crowd each time Dalton made a save, and there were plenty of them as Canada outshot Korea 18-5 in the first period alone.
"You tip your hat to them," said Canada's Mason Raymond. "I think they played well and their goaltender also made some really big saves."
Dalton couldn’t stop Canada's 14th shot as coach Willie Desjardins' players charged forward like Mounties on a mission. The fleet-footed Thomas rushed into the high slot and zinged a wrister past the goalie’s glove at 7:36. The Koreans were industrious but struggled to get pucks on net, unlike their red-and-white rivals.
The most dangerous moment during Korea’s first power play, with Chad Genoway off for holding the stick, came when a puck tipped into the bench, forcing assistant coach Dave King to duck. Poulin also made a nice glove save through traffic on Regan’s centre point shot.
Wojtek Wolski nearly gave Canada a two-goal lead on a shorthanded breakaway with under two minutes to play in the first, but the former 451-game NHLer, who recovered from a broken neck to play in these Games, deked to the backhand and put it off the side of the net.
The Koreans got a huge opportunity when Raymond was sent off with a double-minor for high-sticking at 1:12 of the second period. Radunske centred it from behind the net to Sangwook Kim, who forced Poulin to be sharp. Jin Hui Ahn bombed a one-timer off the goalie’s pads.
"You can't take those guys lightly," Raymond said. "They're here for a reason and they work hard."
The entertainment was nonstop and the fans were hopping. Sangwook Kim took a tumble over defenceman Mat Robinson inside the Canadian blue line. A wacky bounce off the end boards gave the Koreans a wide-open net for a heart-stopping instant. The longer the score stayed close, the more hope the hosts gained. But the Canadian pressure was unremitting.
At 14:22, it was 2-0 off a faceoff win in the Korean zone. Marc-Andre Gragnani bounced a long shot off the boards and Dalton was caught sliding the wrong way as O’Dell banged it in the open side.
"I think we played with them at certain points of the game, but you know their skill took over and that was the difference," said Radunske.
Canada put the game out of reach at 3:43 of the third period on Lapierre's first of the tournament. It was a goal Dalton would like to have back. Taking a pass from Derek Roy, Lapierre curled in off right wing and slid the puck five-hole from a bad angle.
The Korean starter robbed a pinching Chris Lee a few minutes later, but no dramatic home-team comeback was in store. Late in the game, Sangwook Kim was caught holding the stick, and that enabled Brule to round out the scoring on the power play at 18:02. Still, the Koreans stayed on the ice afterwards to bow to their fans, and the Canadians also circled the ice to salute their supporters. Both teams exchanged friendly words as they skated off.
Like the snippets of Rush's "Tom Sawyer" and Corey Hart's "Sunglasses at Night" that played at the Gangneung Hockey Centre, there was little tonight that wasn't satisfying for Canadians. But now the real challenges begin.