GAME NOTES: CANADA VS. SLOVAKIA (JAN. 2)
Happy New Year! After defeating Sweden in the final preliminary game to
solidify its hold on second place in Group A,
Canada’s National Junior Team will face Slovakia in the quarterfinals to begin win-or-go-home hockey.
In a New Year’s Eve showdown Canada closed the prelims with a
5-1 win over Sweden on Saturday. Joshua Roy scored only 57 seconds into the game, with Brennan Othmann and
Tyson Hinds scoring goals of their own to give Canada a 3-1 lead after 20
minutes. Othmann added a second goal in the third period and Kevin
Korchinski rounded out the scoring in Canada’s third win in a row. Thomas
Milic made 22 saves, while Canada battered Carl Lindbom with 44 shots at
the other end.
In its final preliminary-round game,
Slovakia dropped a 4-3 shootout decision to Switzerland. Adam Sykora opened scoring in the first period and Servac Petrovsky
scored twice in the second to give Slovakia a 3-1 lead heading into the
final frame. But Switzerland tied it up in the last 20 minutes to send the
game to extra time. It was a battle of the goaltenders with Kevin Pasche
and Adam Gajan pushing the shootout to a 20th skater before Rodwin Dionicio
scored to drop the Slovaks to third in Group B.
Canada and Slovakia last met in Moncton two weeks ago in pre-tournament
action, with the
Canadians earning a 6-1 win. Colton Dach opened the scoring in the first period. Brandt Clarke and
Zach Dean scored 21 seconds apart in the middle frame to increase the lead.
Less than a minute into the third, Brennan Othmann and Joshua Roy scored
six seconds apart, with Dylan Guenther scoring later in the period to round
out the scoring. Benjamin Gaudreau made 16 saves, with Canada firing 48
shots on Patrik Andrisik.
WHAT TO WATCH
Stop us if you’ve heard this before, but … Connor Bedard. After Saturday’s
four-point performance against Sweden, the 17-year-old is on the brink of
passing Eric Lindros’ all-time Canadian scoring record (he’s tied at 31
points) and the single-tournament mark (he’s even with Dale McCourt and
Brayden Schenn at 18). The next goal Bedard scores will also surpass Jordan
Eberle’s all-time Canadian record for goals at the World Juniors. With
Colton Dach’s tournament-ending injury, Owen Beck will make his Team Canada
debut against Slovakia. The Mississauga Steelheads captain has 17 goals and
40 points in 30 games this season.
Gajan has been very good in the Slovak net; his 1.95 goals-against average
and .939 save percentage ranked among the tournament leaders in the
prelims, and he allowed just three goals at five-on-five in his three
appearances. He was terrific against the Swiss, making 32 saves through
overtime and turning aside seven of 10 in the shootout, and he’ll need to
be good again if the Europeans hope to spring the upset.
A LOOK BACK
Canada has dominated the head-to-head history, winning 15 of 16 meetings
(with the other ending in a tie in 1999 – the only 0-0 draw in Canadian
World Juniors history).
Mason McTavish’s six-point performance (four goals, two assists) in an 11-1 win last summer was the second ever – the Great One himself,
Wayne Gretzky, had a hat trick and three assists against Czechoslovakia on
Christmas Day 1977 in Montreal. Two other players have hat tricks against
Slovakia since the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in the early 1990s –
Taylor Hall at the 2010 World Juniors, and
Nic Petan in the 2015 semifinals.
All-time record: Canada leads 15-0-1
Canada goals: 86
Slovakia goals: 17