GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Usually going a man down is something most hockey teams avoid at all costs, but for Canada’s National Junior Team killing penalties has been a strong suit.
Canada’s penalty killing unit has looked superb throughout the entire World Juniors. With a strong focus on special teams and defence when approaching games, Canada has been giving up low shot totals in each contest.
“It’s (the penalty kill) been great for us all tournament,” said Colin Fraser.
A quick look at the statistics hints that Canada’s penalty killing unit has not been very strong. Team Canada ranks fourth in the tournament in penalty killing percentage with .875.
The numbers don’t necessarily tell the whole story in this case, however. Canada has dominated teams when killing penalties. In fact, it can be tough to tell whether or not the team is a man down at times.
“Our penalty kill is the same as five on five,” said Fraser, “We’re coming hard and we’re not sitting back at all.”
Another sign of success on the penalty kill is the ability to generate offence while being short a man. Canada has done that by scoring two shorthanded goals in four games, and ranks second in the category.
The Canadian penalty killers definitely did not hold back during Sunday’s semi-final game against the Czech Republic. In a very physical game, Canada took seven penalties. Despite spending plenty of time short a man, however, the Canadians still held the Czechs to a meager 11 shots on goal.
According to Clarke MacArthur, the domination of Canada’s penalty kill most likely comes down to one time honored principle for success. “I think guys are just working hard right now,” he said.
With Canada running on all cylinders, the tenacious penalty killing unit has not shown any signs of letting up.
Such a strength could become the deciding factor in Tuesday’s gold medal game. Canada will square off against either the United States or Russia in the final.
Both teams have been recognized for their ability to generate offence and shoot the puck, especially the first time the Americans and Russians met in this year’s tournament, which finished 7-6.