GAME NOTES: Canada vs. Latvia (May 21)
TV: TSN | TSN Direct
Ready to roll in Riga,
Canada’s National Men’s Team drops the puck Friday at the 2021 IIHF World Championship, facing off
against the host Latvians.
It marks the first international game for a Canadian team on European ice
gold medal game at the IIHF World Junior Championship on Jan. 5, 2020, two months before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of the hockey world.
This is the tournament opener for both teams, and neither played a
Canada’s last game at the worlds came in the
gold medal game at the 2019 tournament in Bratislava, Slovakia. Shea Theodore opened the scoring midway through the first period and
Canada doubled up Finland on the shot clock, 44-22, but the Finns rode the
stand-out goaltending of Kevin Lankinen and a pair of third-period goals to
a 3-1 win and a world title.
Latvia failed to make it out of the preliminary round in Slovakia,
The Canadians have dominated the Latvians through the years (as you’ll read
below), but the 2018 preliminary-round game went against that trend.
Canada got the scoring started early, with Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Mathew
Barzal setting up Anthony Beauvillier less than three minutes in. But
Kristers Gudlevskis took over from there with 31 saves, Kristians Rubins
tied it 1:50 into the third period and Latvia surprisingly pushed the game
It only took 46 seconds of the extra period for
Connor McDavid to end it; the Canadian captain batted his own rebound past a sprawling Gudlevskis
to give Canada a 2-1 win and help ensure it finished ahead of the Latvians in Group B.
WHAT TO WATCH
While the Canadian roster typically includes a few recognizable names (the
2019 roster included Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone and Ottawa
Senators blueliner Thomas Chabot, among others), the 2021 edition of Team
Canada is filled with new faces.
Of the 25 players on the roster, only three – Adam Henrique, Darcy Kuemper
and Troy Stecher – have previously played at the worlds. (A fourth, Michael
DiPietro, was part of the 2018 team but never dressed for a game.) Nine –
Beaudin, Brown, Bunting, Ferraro, Hagel, Mangiapane, Miller and Walker –
have never worn the Maple Leaf at any level, and two more – Danforth and
Pirri – got their lone international experience with Canada East at the
World Junior A Challenge.
What does this all mean? Absolutely nothing. All 16 countries have been
affected by the global pandemic and the late start to the NHL playoffs, and
all 25 Canadians have earned their way to Riga with solid performances with
their club teams this season. This should be a young, hungry group that
will be fun to watch.
A LOOK BACK
The Canadians have dominated the head-to-head history, winning 11 of 12
meetings (with one tie) and outscoring Latvia by a lopsided 71-14 margin.
That includes the only prior meeting in Riga – Canada got goals from 10
different players and a tournament-record nine (!!) power-play goals in an
11-0 qualifying-round win in 2006. Kyle Calder scored a pair of goals and Justin Williams chipped in with a
goal and three helpers.
All-time record: Canada leads 11-0-1 (1-0 in OT)
Canada goals: 71
Latvia goals: 14