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Slovakia the next test on the road to world junior gold

Canada's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jonathan Huberdeau stand behind head coach Steve Spott during team practice


A spirited practice Thursday in preparation for Friday's second match of the tournament, against spunky Slovakia.

The Slovaks surprised and impressed late Wednesday as they forced pre-tournament favourite Russia to overtime on a late goal, only to lose 3-2 in the extra period.

The Slovaks were decidedly different from the Germans, a weak team trounced 9-3 by Canada earlier Wednesday at Ufa Arena. Slovakia is far quicker, far more adept at cycling the puck in the corners and more determined in front of their own net where they essentially set up a naval blockade to prevent any Russian torpedoes from getting through.

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As to their own attack, it has everything to do with patience in the neutral zone and quick turnovers, the Slovak coaching staff using a 1-4 format to trap endlessly in the hopes of a quick transition that could allow them the advantage.

To counter all this, Canadian head coach Steve Spott had his teams working on speed, the practice more concentrating on getting back than getting down the ice. He had them blocking shots to take away the point strategy of the Slovaks and spent a great deal of time working with the Canadian defence as Canadian forwards like captain Ryan Nugent-Hopkins cycled pucks in the corners.

Spott also specified that he was looking to big defenders Dougie Hamilton and Scott Harrington to be Canada's "shutdown unit" when it comes to containing the swift, pesky Slovaks.

"We need to have more bite in the defensive zone," Spott said at the end of practice.

Having seen how the cocky Russians almost got bitten by the surprising Slovaks, Spott is determined if there is any biting to be done Friday, it will be by the Canadians.

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About the Author

Roy MacGregor was born in the small village of Whitney, Ont., in 1948. Before joining The Globe and Mail in 2002, he worked for the National Post, the Ottawa Citizen, Maclean's magazine (three separate times), the Toronto Star and The Canadian Magazine. More


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