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Tuesday, December 29, 2015


HELSINKI - Canada's world junior team has learned a valuable lesson about respecting its opponent.

Matt Barzal scored the shootout winner as Canada edged Switzerland 3-2 at Helsinki Ice Hall on Tuesday to avoid a big preliminary-round upset at the world junior hockey championship.

The Swiss side gave the defending champions all they could handle, jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first period. Dylan Strome scored late in the opening frame for Canada and Joe Hicketts tied the game in the second period.

Brayden Point had the other shootout goal while both Swiss shooters were stopped by goalie Mackenzie Blackwood, who was making his world juniors debut.

Barzal and his teammates plan to use the game as a learning experience.

"I think it could be good for us just knowing that we can't take anyone lightly coming out of the gates,'' Barzal said. "Every game's going to be a hard-fought game and we've got to prepare the same way.''

Many Canadian players gave credit to Hicketts for the turnaround. The defenceman gave a speech in the locker-room during the first intermission.

"It was about getting back to work,'' said Hicketts. "Maybe we underestimated them a little bit, maybe the respect factor wasn't there and maybe it was just a lack of preparation.

"We knew that when we came out for the second period it was going to have to be a 180, to flip the switch, to start playing our brand of hockey.''

Blackwood, who made 23 saves, sat out Canada's first two games as he completed an eight-game suspension from the Ontario Hockey League. Netminder Mason McDonald started the first two games of the tournament with Samuel Montembeault serving as the backup.

Canada has a day off before facing undefeated Sweden (2-0) on Thursday.

(Canadian Press)