Canada continues to show growth after overcoming adversity against Czechia

EDMONTON — Teams always say the same thing: In a short tournament, you’re just trying to get better with every game. Well, Canada didn’t just improve in their third game of the 2022 World Junior Hockey Championship, they looked downright spectacular.

Kent Johnson is the author of the highlight moment of the event, Mason McTavish is officially under scrutiny and Jack Thompson quietly had three assists as Canada overcame their first World Juniors deficit to defeat Czechia 5-1 on Saturday night in Rogers Place.

Johnson, the lanky Columbus Blue Jackets prospect and former Michigan Wolverine, accomplished a lot with his lacrosse-style goal that has become entrenched in hockey vernacular as “Michigan.” With a quick swipe of the puck under the bar, Johnson paid tribute to his former college, injected real life into a WJC tournament can use every bit of juice he can get and may also have put in a buck or two in his head coach’s pocket.

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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 Canadian bench boss Dave Cameron.

Of course, all of those things are secondary to the fact that with exactly 60 seconds left in the first quarter, Johnson’s outrageous tally gave Canada a 2-1 lead after falling 1-0 behind giving up a marker. shorthanded to Martin Rysavy just 46 seconds into a five-minute power play. The team looked shaken after the shorty, failing to muster much with the man advantage after Jaroslav Chmelar received the boot for his blindside hit on fellow New York Rangers prospect Brennan Othmann.

And while Canada managed to put themselves on an even footing when McTavish scored his first of two goals, Czech keeper Tomas Suchanek was standing on his head and starting to look like it could be one of those nights for a Canadian team that was robbed. a handful of five-star chances.

“Incredible,” Othmann said as Suchanek started playing. “I looked over [McTavish] and I was like, ‘Okay, we have a game.’

In fact, moments before Johnson’s goal, Suchanek disallowed it on a point shot with a truly silly glove save. After the ensuing face-off, however, the puck found its way behind the net, where Johnson raced, picked it up and threw it into the net, sending what was visibly the biggest crowd of the tournament. in a frenzy.

“It happened pretty quickly,” Johnson said. “I think I had a loose puck behind the net and there was no D-man on the right post, so I just went for it.”

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The striker’s reaction was as heated as that of his teammates and fans, not only because he scored the type of goal he told Othmann in training camp he wanted to try if given the chance. showed up, but because he finally struck after being denied by Suchanek and scoreless in Canada’s first two games.

“I also would have been pretty motivated for a goal on my skate,” Johnson joked.

The night really marked a leap for Johnson’s entire line, which includes him on the left side, Tyson Foerster in the middle and Logan Stankoven on the right flank. The only goal for either of these guys had previously come from Stankoven in the form of a power play in Thursday’s 11-1 win over Slovakia. With Canada having more than enough offense to get by, there was no doubt that this second unit needed to find another gear and they did just that – Johnson set up Foerster for a magnificent one-timer to close the scoring – against the best team Canada has seen so far.

“It was a really good step for us,” Johnson said. “We were all over the puck tonight.”

If the positive second line results were a welcome change, so was McTavish on the first line with Othmann and Connor Bedard. Although nothing could top Johnson’s stunning goal, McTavish made it 4-1 halfway through the game when he took a pass that was deftly feathered by Bedard and burst in alone on Suchanek .

The Canadian captain opened the wickets for the goalie and slipped the puck into the back of the net for his sixth goal in three games. It’s very possible that McTavish has four more games to play in Edmonton, which means the all-time Canadian record of 10 goals – John Anderson and Dale McCourt scored as many in the 1977 event – ​​is within reach. tomorrow.

As pretty as McTavish’s second goal was, his first was a fat redirect on a shot from the point created by Thompson. The defenseman, who is one of nine new faces on this team who weren’t on the original Christmas squad, did a great job running down the blue line and flicking the puck through a maze of bodies down the net, where McTavish could deflect her home. for the type of count you often need to get things done against a hot bid. That play combined with his other pair of assists and some key shooting blocks underscored why Cameron has been so impressed with Thompson thus far.

“He’s just a stable guy,” the coach said. “He made a big play on the [first] goal of getting the puck to the net.

Maybe Canada would always find a way to win this contest. After all, the club ended up with 57 shots on goal. Yet even getting through that little bit of adversity — falling behind early, really having to work to beat a goalie — can help a team grow and move toward that oft-cited goal of growing an inch every day.

“Obviously when you have a five-minute power play and you’re down 1-0 and you don’t score, it can cost you your life,” Bedard said. “But I think we reacted very well and it was cool to see our rebound.”

The Canadians were also clearly happy to see the impact of their play on a much livelier crowd than anything they had experienced so far at this somewhat subdued summer event. The third period even saw a few wave attempts, a sure sign that the excitement is building a bit as Canada play their final round-robin game against Finland on Monday with first place in the group almost certainly on the line. .

“It’s really good,” Cameron said of the support. “It’s quite a commitment for these guys to come this summer, it’s really good hockey, it’s the best against the best, a lot of guys from all teams are going to play in the National Hockey League, so it’s It’s an easy decision to come to the games in my opinion.

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