Gabriel Bourque knows it won't be easy every game at the world junior hockey championships.
The stocky winger for the Moncton Wildcats tied a team record with seven points - three goals and four assists - as Canada opened the tournament with a 16-0 victory over Latvia on Saturday.
"Yeah, that's the biggest game of my career," the 19-year-old Nashville Predators prospect said after his first hat-trick in junior hockey. "I'm so excited. I can't do better than that."
Bourque, who was traded earlier this week to Moncton from Baie-Comeau, was considered a long shot to make the team, but he caught the coaches' eyes at a summer orientation camp and impressed again at a try-out camp two weeks ago in Regina.
Everything went his way in his first game at the world juniors playing on a line with captain Patrice Cormier of the Rimouski Oceanic, who had two goals and two assists, and Brandon Kozun of the Calgary Hitmen, who scored twice and had three helpers.
"We had a joke after the second period when we asked if his dad was the scorekeeper," said Cormier. "But he's a hard worker and he played well.
"I play against him in Rimouski and he's a guy you want on your team. He works his butt off every shift. He deserves it."
Nazem Kadri of the London Knights, Jordan Eberle of the Regina Pats and Luke Adam of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles each scored two while Travis Hamonic of the Moose Jaw Warriors, Adam Henrique of the Windsor Spitfires and Brandon McMillan of the Kelowna Rockets also scored for Canada, which next faces Switzerland on Monday.
Jake Allen of the Montreal Juniors needed only 10 saves for the shutout while Canada fired 66 shots at two Latvian goalies.
In Regina, Sweden opened the tournament with a 10-1 win over the Czech Republic on a goal and four assists from Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson. Russia later followed with a 6-2 victory over Austria.
There is no mercy at the world juniors, where goal differential in the preliminary round can be a key tie-breaker to reach the single-game elimination stage next week. At last year's tournament in Ottawa, Canada opened with an 8-1 win over the Czechs and then beat Kazakhstan 15-0.
Their 16 goals was the most they scored since an 18-3 win over Poland in 1986, while Bourque equalled the team mark of seven points in a game set in 1983 by Dave Andreychuk and tied in 2001 by Mike Cammalleri.
Coach Willie Desjardins said Bourque played his way onto the team.
"I like the style he plays," said Desjardins. "He wasn't a lock in camp.
"We wondered where he'd fit in.
"I don't expect him to be like that every game, but he's a really good two-way hockey player."
He's pretty sure the games will get tougher from now on as well.
"We have to realize that it was one game and Latvia had a bad game," he said.
The Latvians beat Russia 3-2 in overtime in a pre-tournament game this week in Swift Current, Sask., but they were overwhelmed by Canada's high-paced, physical style.
After Canada scored three times in the opening 6:39, coach Andrejs Maticins opted to spare starter Raimonds Ermics further punishment and went with back-up goalie Janis Kalnins the rest of the way.
"After that, something changed," said Maticins. "We started thinking about the next game.
"That's a big problem. I understand Canada's a good team, but sometimes you think about the next game, or about our game against Switzerland, which is very important to us."
Canada held off wearing its new Saskatchewan green uniforms and was in traditional red and white before a less-than sellout crowd of 12,469 at the 14,000-seat Credit Union Centre that lapped up the one-sided rout by the home team.
Only 36 seconds into the game, a Ryan Ellis point shot was tipped in by Bourque.
Kadri was at the back door to put in a Taylor Hall pass at 4:22 and Bourque was in front to convert a Greg Nemisz feed at 6:39 as Canada scored two quick power-play goals. That chased Ermics after 10 shots.
Adam and Cormier made it 5-0 by the end of the period.
The onslaught continued in the second as Eberle finished a two-on-one with McMillan at 4:49, Hamonic scored from the high slot at 9:28 and Kadri completed a two-on-one with Hall at 10:26.
Kozun and Eberle scored power-play goals late in the period and with less than three seconds left, Henrique went in alone to score.
Comrier got his second of the game on a rush 1:33 into the third, McMillan got a power-play goal at 4:35 and Kozun, who had five points, got his second at 9:19.
Bourque thought he had his hat-trick with three minutes left, but he whiffed on a perfect feed in front by Cormier. However, moments later Bourque's pass went in off a skate. Adam added one with 28 seconds left to play.
"I think Cormier's mad - he gave me a sick pass and I missed it with an open net," said Bourque. "But we won 16-0, so we can't be mad about missing one goal."