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Canada Wins Hockey Opener
For one brief, shining moment -- 1 minute and 12 seconds, to be precise -- Team Italy forward Tony Iob allowed himself to dream.
The Italians had come out Wednesday with great energy against defending champion Canada, dishing out hard hits and trading push for push in battling for the puck. Canada had scored first, on a goal by Jarome Iginla at 5:33, but Italy delighted the lively crowd at the Palasport arena by pulling even on a power-play goal by Jason Cirone 43 seconds into the second period.
"We thought we could catch them flat-footed," said Iob, one of nine Canadian-born players who took advantage of their family heritage to play for Italy. "We wanted to get out there and get on them hard.
"For sure, you start to think, 'Hey, we've got a chance here.' And we did, until we started taking too many penalties at the beginning of the second period."
A five-goal barrage by Canada in the middle period brought Team Italy back down to earth and produced a 7-2 victory before a chanting, flag-waving audience of 8,575. Iginla scored twice and Todd Bertuzzi, Vincent Lecavalier and Joe Sakic each had two assists as Canada shook off its jet lag and gradually found its stride on the big international ice.
"There's 12 North Americans that play on our team, and we thought they might be a little bit tired and maybe get frustrated," said Cirone, a Toronto native who plays for the Italian club Asiago.
"But they're professional, and they don't frustrate easily. They're probably still a little tired. I don't think they're the skating team they will be later in the tournament."
The Canadians had traveled to Turin as a team, arriving on Tuesday for a practice late in the day. They were sluggish in the first period and outshot Italy by merely 11-8, giving fans of the host team reason to cheer. "I thought I was at a soccer game," Bertuzzi said, smiling.
Canada woke up in the second period to outshoot Italy, 28-6, and 50-20 overall. "We were conscious of our travel," said Pat Quinn, Canada's coach. "The first period we were just as we expected, a little tentative We knew this would be a gold-medal game for the Italians. We did see them come out with some fire and some pressure."
Although the Italian team couldn't sustain that pressure, players were realistic about the loss. "We just wanted to put up a good fight," Cirone said.
Iob, who plays for a team in Klagenfurt, Austria, had another goal: to get Joe Sakic's autograph for his 7-year-old son. The boy's name is Cam. "Like Cam Neely," Iob said, proving you can take a hockey player out of Canada but you can't take Canada out of the hockey player.
Quinn said Roberto Luongo of the Florida Panthers will start in goal for Canada's next game, Thursday against Germany.
Helene Elliott is a sportswriter for the Los Angeles Times, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.