EDMONTON — Teams always say the same thing: In a short tournament, you’re just trying to get better with each game. Well, not only did Canada improve in their third contest of the 2022 World Junior Hockey Championships, they turned out to be downright spectacular.
Kent Johnson authored the event’s iconic moment, Mason McTavish is officially under record watch and Jack Thompson quietly collected three assists as Canada overcame its first deficit among the world’s juniors to defeat the Czechia 5-1 on Saturday night at Rogers. Place.
Johnson, the lanky Columbus Blue Jackets prospect and former Michigan Wolverine, accomplished a lot with his lacrosse-style goal that has become ingrained in hockey vernacular as ‘The Michigan.’ With a quick hit of the puck under the bar, Johnson paid homage to his old college, injected real life into a WJC tournament, can use all the juice he can get, and may as well have put a buck or two in his coach’s pocket. in chief
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“I won the coaches’ poll on who was going to be the first player to do it between him and [McTavish]”, said the head of Canadian banking, Dave Cameron.
Of course, all of those things are secondary to the fact that, with exactly 60 seconds left in the opening frame, Johnson’s outrageous count gave Canada a 2-1 lead after they had fallen behind 1-0 at allowing a short score for Martin Rysavy just 46 seconds into a five-minute power play. The squad looked unsettled after the shorty, unable to muster much with the man advantage after Jaroslav Chmelar was kicked for his side hit on New York Rangers prospect Brennan Othmann.
And although Canada equalized when McTavish scored the first of his two goals, Czech goalkeeper Tomas Suchanek was standing on his head and it was beginning to look like this might be one of those nights for a Canadian team that got mugged. a handful of five star possibilities.
“Unbelievable,” Othmann said of Suchanek’s play early on. “I looked towards [McTavish] and I was like, ‘Okay, we have a game.’
In fact, moments before Johnson’s goal, Suchanek denied it in one count with a positively silly glove save. However, after the ensuing toe-to-toe, the puck found its way behind the net, where Johnson swooped down, scooped it up and threw it into the net, causing what was visibly the tournament’s largest crowd to go into a frenzy.
“It happened pretty quickly,” Johnson said. “I think I had a loose puck behind the net and there was no D-man in the right post, so I did it.”
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The striker’s reaction was as spirited as that of his teammates and the fans, not only because he had scored the kind of goal he told Othmann on the training ground that he wanted to try if the opportunity ever presented itself, but because he finally scored it happened after being denied by Suchanek and going scoreless in Canada’s first two games.
“I would have been pretty excited for a goal off my skate, too,” joked Johnson.
The night really marked a break for Johnson’s entire line, which features him on the left flank, Tyson Foerster in the middle and Logan Stankoven on the right flank. The only goal by either of those boys previously came from Stankoven in the form of a power play marker in Thursday’s 11-1 win over Slovakia. While Canada had more than enough offense to get ahead, there was no question that this second unit had to find another gear and that’s what it did: Johnson set up Foerster for a beautiful one-shot to close out the scoring, against the better Canada team. he has seen so far.
“That was a very good step for us,” Johnson said. “We were on the puck tonight.”
If the positive second-row results were a welcome change, it was the same for McTavish in the top row with Othmann and Connor Bedard. While nothing could top Johnson’s stunning goal, McTavish made it 4-1 midway through the game when he took a pass that Bedard deftly feathered and single-handedly made his way past Suchanek.
The Canadian captain opened the goalie’s wickets and slid the puck into the back of the net for his sixth count in three contests. McTavish may very well still have four games left in Edmonton, which means the all-time Canadian record of 10 goals (both John Anderson and Dale McCourt had that many in the 1977 event) is within easy reach. .
As nice as McTavish’s second goal was, the first was a greasy redirection on a Thompson-created point shot. The defenseman, who is among nine new faces on this team who were not part of the original Christmas team, did a great job of walking the blue line and carrying the puck through a maze of bodies into the net, where McTavish could divert it home. for the kind of count he often needs to make things work against a hot bid. That play combined with his a couple of his assistants and some key shot blocks underscored why Cameron has been so impressed with Thompson thus far.
“He’s a stable guy,” the coach said. “He made a great play in the [first] objective of taking the puck to the net”.
Maybe Canada was always going to find a way to win this contest. After all, the club finished with 57 shots on goal. Still, even going through that little bit of adversity (falling behind early, having to work really hard to beat a goalkeeper) can help a team grow and progress toward that oft-cited goal of growing an inch every day.
“Obviously when you have a five-minute power play and you go down 1-0 and you don’t end up scoring, it can take your life,” Bedard said. “But I thought we responded very well and it was great to see how we bounced back.”
The Canadians were also clearly happy to see the impact their play had on a crowd that was far more spirited than anything they had experienced at this somewhat subdued summer event thus far. The third period even brought a few tries on the wave, a sure sign that the excitement is building a bit, as Canada will play their final preliminary round match against Finland on Monday, with top spot in the group almost certainly on the line. .
“That’s very good,” Cameron said of the support. “It’s a big commitment for these guys to come in the summer, it’s great hockey, it’s the best of the best, a lot of guys from all the teams are going to play in the National Hockey League, so it’s an easy decision to come here. to games in my opinion.”
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