Team Canada and the United States faced-off on Thursday afternoon in the opening games for each team at the 2020 World Junior Tournament in the Czech Republic. Washington Capitals prospect Connor McMichael (London Knights/OHL) spearheaded a Canadian comeback, scoring Team Canada’s first goal in the second period, en route to a 6-4 win in his World Junior debut.
The US came out strong and controlled most of the opening period, taking advantage of two Canada penalties, gaining a two-goal lead at the first intermission. Shane Pinto tipped a point shot by Zach Jones past Canada starter Nico Daws (Guelph Storm/OHL) at 3:11 to open the scoring.
After a failed Canadian powerplay, the US took a 2-0 lead with just over a minute left in the frame, again on the man-advantage. After a won face-off in the Canadian zone, Zegras made a nice pass to Arthur Kaliyev (Hamilton Bulldogs/OHL) who wired a wicked one-timer past Daws’ shoulder from the faceoff dot at 18:32. The US outshot the Canadians 10-8 in the period.
With Canada needing a boost in the second, it was the Capitals prospect getting Canada on the board just 3:31 in. At the tail end of some great passing, Connor McMichael scored his first of the tournament, and first for the team after he redirected a pass from Akil Thomas(Niagara IceDogs/OHL).
The ever-exuberant forward showed his excitement with an Ovechkin-like board jump and the comeback was on at 2-1. This is what his line was being counted on for. An even-strength goal while providing support.
Canada scored two powerplay goals within seven minutes of each other during the middle portion of the period. NHL loan Barret Hayton (Arizona Coyotes) and Nolan Foote put Canada up 3-2 on a pair of powerplay goals as Canada reversed the first period and took advantage of US penalties to take the lead into the second intermission.
The teams played without a whistle for almost eight minutes to open the third period with both goalies making key saves. Canada took a two-goal lead at 10:47 when Hayton scored his second of the game off a nice pass by Alex Lafreniere. It was Canada’s third powerplay goal of the game, an improvement for a team that only scored three goals in nineteen chances last year.
The US continued to pressure Canada and Nick Robertson (Peterborough Petes/OHL) got the US back to within a goal at 12:45 after a nice toe-drag shot that was whistled by the barley moving goalkeeper.
After Canada killed a penalty they went back down a man when Ty Dellandrea was called for cross-checking with about five minutes to go. It didn’t take long as Canada couldn’t keep the formidable American powerplay off the board again and it was a tie game at 16:42. Pinto got his second powerplay goal of the game after he tapped home a nice pass across the crease by Robertson for a 4-4 score.
#TeamUSA ties it with goal from Shane Pinto, his second PPG of the game. #TeamCanada has truck back 7 seconds later. Canada leads 5-4 late. These games rarely disappoint. #WorldJuniors2020 pic.twitter.com/gTjR3ulLpa
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) December 26, 2019
In what will be another memorable moment, at 16:49 for the Canada and US series, the potential NHL number one pick in the next summer’s draft made his name known across the hockey world with a goal seven seconds after the Pinto marker.
After a won draw by the US, Alex Lafreniere was able to bat down a mid-air pass by the US defender and went in alone on Knight and made a quick deke around the goalie to give Canada the lead again at 5-4.
Ty Dellandrea would pot an empty-net goal to seal the game 6-4 and give Canada two points in the division.
McMichael finished with a goal and was plus-one while seeing limited time. He was not out for any of the penalty-killing shifts that were scored against Canada. He saw 8:43 of ice-time with 9 shifts and had three shots on goal including a nice wraparound attempt. He had a couple scoring chances and as fans in London know he only needs one shot to turn a game around and his goal today was the fire to lead Canada back. Also set-up Thomas and Lavoie on great scoring chances.
Speaking with TSN McMichael said;” I was just hollering at Akil to get it through and he made a great play and I was lucky to get it in.”
Canada plays next on Saturday the 28th vs Russia at 1 PM and the US is in action again tomorrow at 1 PM EST vs Germany.
Capitals prospect Martin Hugo Has also had a successful day as his home-town Czech Republic squad beat Russia 4-3 in a bit of an upset. Hugo Has took a penalty in the third but played a fairly strong game. The Czech Republic plays again vs Germany on the 28th at 9 AM EST.
By Marcus Boutillier