After an exciting 6-4 win over the United States in the opening game of the 2020 World Junior Tournament, Canada got a piece of humble pie on Saturday as Russia cruised to a 6-0 win over the Canadians, giving every team in the pool a one-win/one-loss record. The six-goal walloping was Canada’s worse goal-differential loss at the World Junior tournament in history. The game also featured an ugly injury to potential 2020 number one draft pick Alex Lafreniere.
Russia scored 1:44 into the contest when Alexander Khovanov scored after securing a turnover at the Canada blueline in what appeared to be an offside play. Khovanov fired a wrist shot on Team Canada starting netminder Nico Daws (Guelph/Ontario Hockey League), who made the initial save before the puck bounced off his blocker and fell behind him, putting Canada down 1-0 for the second game in a row.
The Canadians found themselves down 2-0 at the 10:14 mark, when a puck directed towards the net found itself on the stick of a wide open Pavel Dorofeyev, who put it past a sprawling Daws. Before Canada could regroup, Russia stretched their lead to 3-0 at the 13:43 minute mark when Nikita Rtishev picked up a loose puck and beat Daws, five-hole. Canada found themselves in trouble after a rash of penalties, but was able to come away unscathed after killing off a lengthy two-man advantage for Russia, before they received their first power play opportunity of the game at the end of the period.
Early in the second period, Lafreniere left the game after a scary right leg injury on his first shift of the middle frame. The suspected number one pick in next summer’s NHL Entry Draft drove the net and got his legs caught up with Russia’s goaltender, eventually being helped off the ice. Team Canada Head Coach Dale Hunter pulled Daws when Russia made it 4-0. Joel Hofer (Portland/Western Hockey League) then came in for his first appearance of the tournament for the Canadians.
After some momentary pressure by Canada, the Russians struck again two more times before the end of the period; Yegor Sokolov tipped a point shot past Hofer for a five-goal lead at the 13:09 mark of the period and Grigori Denisenko made it 6-0 by putting another past Hofer. As poor a performance Canada had on the defensive side of the puck, the injury to Lafreniere is significant and will put stress on the Canadian offense moving forward, especially considering the shutout today.
Capitals’ 2019 first-round pick Connor McMichael did not see much ice time in the game and was out for two even-strength goals against. He played only one shift in an ugly first period but saw a small increase of time-on-ice over the remainder of the game, finishing with 16 shifts and 10:53 of ice time for Hunter, also his Head Coach in London. Ice time for Team Canada’s forwards will depend on the severity of the injury to Lafreniere. With one of their top players out, Hunter will have some line juggling to do. And with his squad getting shutout, it may force him to utilize more of his roster going forward.
Martin Hugo Has and the Czech Republic suffered their first loss in the tournament, losing 4-3 to Germany this morning. Has scored a goal and recorded three points, playing on the top defensive-pairing with Petr Cajka.
McMichael and Has will face each other on Tuesday at 1:00 PM EST in each of the teams’ next preliminary round game.