Everything that Canadian hockey fans expected to happen today in the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship opening game for both Canada and the Czech Republic happened.
Canada took about 10 minutes in the first period to get their feet under them due to the nervous energy they displayed, which is to be expected when you have 20 of the 22 players on the roster playing in their first WJHC. Canada did a good job to weather the storm from the Czech’s and their whistle-happy fans in the first period, as Craig Hartsburg’s crew played a superb defensive style of hockey in the first period. Led by captain Karl Alzner and Drew Doughty on defence and Jonathan Bernier between the pipes, Team Canada kept most of the 13 Czech shots in the first period to the outside, while rebounds and quality scoring chances from in close were kept to a minimum thanks to Bernier’s rebound control.
As to be expected, Canada took a number of penalties in the opening frame and gave the Czech’s a short two-man advantage in the first five minutes of the game.
In the second period, Oshawa Generals sensation John Tavares deflected a beautiful cross-ice pass from Logan Pyett on the power-play to give Canada a 1-0 lead. They wouldn’t look back as Tavares added another one late on a third period power play to give Team Canada a 3-0 lead, while Matt Halischuk netted the second Canadian goal earlier in the final frame.
As you can imagine, with their legs under them in the second period, Canada took the play over. Led by Kelowna Rockets defenseman Luke Schenn and former North Delta Flyers (PIJHL) giant Colton Gillies, Team Canada administered its trademark physical punishment on the spirited Czech team and was able to dictate the pace of the game along the wall.
As to be expected, and was witnessed in the opening stanza, Bernier was as solid as a rock in net for Team Canada. The Los Angeles Kings prospect faced 44 shots and turned away all of them for the shutout and his rebound control and composure between the pipes was exactly what Canada needed to get through a challenging first twenty minutes of hockey.
All of that was what Canadian hockey fans, and other fans from around the world, expected in Canada’s tournament opener.
Canada was quick, used their skill and physical presence in a positive manner and was the better team, although give the Czech’s credit for standing their own ground and giving Canada a solid test.
So what can we expect in game two against Slovakia tomorrow morning? There may be two changes to come for tomorrow. Steve Mason of the OHL’s London Knights is likely to be the starter tomorrow against the 0-1-0 Slovaks, although don’t bet your mortgage on that decision just yet. Another thing that Canada will want to change tomorrow, and as the tournament goes forward, is their discipline.
Say what you will about the European officiating, you have to abide by the rules and adapt to the style of hockey that the refs call overseas. Look for Hartsburg to remind his team to back off with the use of the stick and stay out of the penalty box as best as they can.
Other than those two things, look for Canada to continue to dominate physically, a high pressure defence, a quick-strike offence and a creative power-play.
Filed under: Cam T, NHL Tagged: | Colton Gillies, Craig Hartsburg, Czech Republic, Drew Doughty, Hockey Canada, IIHF, John Tavares, Jonathan Bernier, Karl Alzner, London Knight, Luke Schenn, Matt Halischuk, OHL, Steve Mason, Team Canada, World Junior Hockey Championship