Team Canada’s decision to include Jeff Carter on the team was one of controversy. Canada has so many star players in the National Hockey League, it is impossible to include all those worthy of making the Canadian national team. Carter’s position on the team was seen as an extra forward, one that could be filled with a dozen other players. On Friday, Carter took a big step in proving his detractors wrong, as his hattrick helped Team Canada defeat Austria, 6-0, in the Sochi Olympic games.
Canada’s first game against Norway on Wednesday was a concern for many Canadian citizens, as disjointed play and a lack of speed and scoring were a stark difference from the games the United States and Russia had played earlier in the morning. Canada won the game, 3-1, but against an inferior opponent, many were concerned it was not a big enough margin of victory. Those concerns did not appear on Friday.
Canada opened the scoring in the first period, getting a pair of goals from two high-scoring defensemen. Jonathan Toews won a faceoff in the Austrian zone, getting the puck back to defenseman Drew Doughty. Doughty released a quick shot and found the back of the net, as the puck maneuvered its way past a maze of Canadian and Austrian players. Shea Weber scored in his second goal in as many games midway through the period, taking a drop pass from forward Corey Perry and blasting a shot past the Austrian goaltender, Bernhard Starkbaum. Weber, whose shot has been clocked at 106 miles per hour, is expected to be relied upon heavily throughout these Sochi games.
The second period was the Jeff Carter show, as the forward scored his first of three just two minutes into the period. Canadian captain, Sidney Crosby, passed the puck to an open Patrick Marleau, who hit the post with the shot. Carter quickly wrangled the puck and put it past the downed Austrian goaltender. Just a minute and a half later, the Austrian goaltender would misplay the puck, allowing Marleau to set up Carter behind the net. A wrap around the net and Carter would have his second of the game. After a penalty by Patrice Bergeron, Carter would complete the hattrick, again picking up the rebound off a Patrick Marleau shot.
By scoring three goals in a row, uninterrupted by a goal scored by someone else, it is considered a natural hattrick. Carter became the first player to score a natural hattrick in the Olympics since 1988 and the first Canadian player to score a natural hattrick in the Olympics since 1956. With the hattrick, Carter silenced a lot of critics about his place in the Sochi Winter Olympic games and helped Team Canada defeat Austria.
Later in the period, Ryan Getzlaf and Carter teamed up to score shorthanded, ending the scoring for the period and the game. Team Austria had their chances throughout the game, but the strong play of Roberto Luongo turned away all 23 shots he faced. The Austrians were able to get the puck past Luongo once in the game, but the goalpost thwarted any chance for a goal.
The performance of Team Canada in Friday’s game should help ease the concerns that arose during their first game against Norway, as all four forward lines had scoring chances throughout the game. And though Carter’s hattrick was the majority of the scoring in the game, with performances like the one in today’s defeat of Austria, it is only a matter of time before the rest of Team Canada’s lines find their place in Sochi. And on the scoresheet as well.
By Jonathan Gardner