PRAGUE (Reuters) - Canada crushed Austria 10-1 at the ice hockey world championship on Tuesday, riding a four-goal opening period to an easy win that left the tournament favorites unbeaten at the end of the group stages.
That win -- combined with a 5-4 overtime victory for the United States over Slovakia -- means the two North American teams claimed the top spots in each of the two groups after the first round.
Even without Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby, who was rested ahead of the quarter-finals on Thursday, the Canadians had no trouble sweeping aside the Austrians in what was effectively a warm-up game for a team well stocked with NHL talent.
Dallas Stars center Jason Spezza, who scored two goals, said it was good to finish unbeaten after the first round but the focus for the players was on winning a medal.
“The next game will be a dangerous game for us and we need to be sure there isn’t a let-down,” said Spezza. “It’s going to come down to execution and having intensity to start the game is going to be big for us.”
Belarus, led by former NHL coach Dave Lewis, will meet Canada in the last eight after defeating Norway 3-2 on Tuesday.
The Canadians spent most of the opening period in Austria’s zone and peppered goalie Bernhard Starkbaum with shots.
They inevitably broke through after six minutes when Colorado Avalanche center Ryan O‘Reilly’s cross-ice pass found his NHL team mate Tyson Barrie in front of the net for an easy tap-in.
Three minutes later the Avalanche’s Matt Duchene made it 2-0 before Edmonton Oilers winger Taylor Hall notched his sixth goal of the tournament and Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad’s wrist shot put Austria four down.
Canada kept their foot on the gas as eight different players ended up beating Starkbaum and late-game replacement Rene Swette who faced a combined 46 shots.
Opposing netminder Mike Smith had a quiet night, facing 15 shots and only being beaten when Dominique Heinrich scored early in the third period.
The United States clinched top spot in Group B after holding off a Slovak team that rallied from an early three-goal deficit to send the game in overtime.
But 18-year-old Jack Eichel, who has just finished his freshman season at Boston University, gave the United States the win when he collected the puck in the corner before spinning around and beating the Slovak goalkeeper with a wrist shot late in the extra period.
In the late game in Group A, the hosts Czech Republic take on Switzerland with both teams already through to the quarter- finals.
Editing by Tony Jimenez and Toby Davis