LEKSAND, Sweden -- Talk about a perfect start.
For the fifth year in row, Canada emerged from the round-robin at the world junior championship without a blemish on its record, beating Slovakia 3-0 to go 4-0.
What's encouraging for coach Craig Hartsburg is though his players had first place in Group A and a bye to a semifinal Wednesday locked up, they played like there was something on the line.
"We could have just come in here and said 'Let's get through this,' and we didn't," Hartsburg said. "We could have taken this day off.
"I think it shows there is a lot of pride in being a team."
Canada -- which has won its past 16 games at the world juniors and is two victories away from equalling its record of 18 wins in a row (set from 1994-97) -- will play the winner of the quarter-final tomorrow between Finland and the U.S.
Kris Russell of Caroline, Alta., had two goals and became the first Canadian defenceman to score four times in one tournament.
Another veteran from last winter, Steve Downie of Queensville, Ont., scored his third of the tournament.
Carey Price of Anahim Lake, B.C., stopped 32 shots, with no save bigger than the one he made on Julius Sinkovic in the third period, when he moved across the crease and stoned the Slovak forward with his left pad.
Though Russia finished 4-0 to take Group B, Canada remains the favourite to win the gold medal for the third year in a row.
Canada, which has not lost in the round-robin since falling to Finland in the 2002 championship, did not face much adversity in its first four games.
It has not trailed at any point in the tournament and there has never been a time -- even when the Americans made a small comeback in the second game or Germany briefly tied the score in the third game -- Canada was in peril.
But some of the players, most notably captain Kris Letang, have not been impressed with themselves.
They're getting the idea things are coming together, though.
Price has been stellar, the defence corps has played as advertised and Canada has killed 28 of 29 short-handed situations.
The biggest problem for Canada so far is their lack of scoring.
"I think we can generate more," Calgarian Daniel Bertram said.
"But we are finding ways to win and that's what we came over here to do.
"They might not be the prettiest wins but it is working."