The 2019 World Junior Championship game on Tuesday between host country Czech Republic and Team Canada was a game of Special Teams, as Canada tied a team-tournament record by scoring five power-play goals en route to a 7-2 win over the Czech Republic, buoyed by the strength of a three-point performance by captain Barrett Hayton and a goal from Capitals 2019 first-round pick Connor McMichael.
The Czech Republic was playing without star forward Jan Jenik (Hamilton/Ontario Hockey League) after he suffered a knee injury in the team’s last game. Team Canada used its dangerous power play to take a commanding lead through the first period scoring four times with the man-advantage, tying a tournament record. After killing an early penalty of their own on Nolan Foote (Kelowna WHL/Tampa Bay NHL), Canada opened the scoring at 4:42 to take the 1-0 lead for the second game in a row. Joe Veleno scored his first of the tournament assisted by Hayton (Arizona/NHL) and Calen Addison (Lethbridge – WHL/Pittsburgh – NHL).
Starting goalie Joel Hofer (Portland WHL) made a key save for Canada at the 7:30 mark and the play belonged to Canada for the remainder of the frame. The Czechs found themselves down a man yet again at the 7:59 mark, opening the door for the Canadian power play to build on their one-goal lead, with Foote scoring his third of the tournament just before the penalty ended at 9:58. After an exchange at the blueline, Bowen Byram dropped a pass to Foote off the circle, who wired a one-timer past Lucas Parik. Just over three minutes later, the Czechs took another penalty on a bad play by Otakar Sik, who speared Byram and was handed a five-minute major and game misconduct at the 13:09 mark. A minute and a half into the power play, Canada took a commanding four-goal lead on a goal by Hayton at 13:29. After a lengthy review, it was confirmed that the puck had crossed the line.
A minute later with 4:41 left on the man-advantage, McMichael scored his second of the tournament to make it 4-0 at the 14:30 mark, a goal that tied a tournament record for power-play goals in a period (USA) and set a new Canadian record. McMichael was assisted by Dylan Cozens and Hayton, who picked up his third point of the contest. The goal chased Parik, who was injured on the play, from the Czech goal, as Nick Malik came in relief.
Make that four first period power play goals for Canada!!! Connor McMichael buries the rebound for his second of the game. pic.twitter.com/kaJ6ZIA49x
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) December 31, 2019
The second was yet another four-goal period after a fairly uneventful opening half to the middle frame. With the Czechs gaining some momentum, Veleno was hit with an infraction, leading to a goal by Vojteck Strondala at the 11:01 mark, making it a 4-1 game in what marked the first goal of a flurry over 1:20 of play. Czech Repulic captain Libor Zabransky then made it 4-2 just fourteen seconds later after taking a pass in the slot and cruising in before writing a shot past Hofer, his fourth goal in three games for the host team. 10 seconds later, Canada struck on a goal by Liam Foudy (London – OHL/Columbus – NHL), after an unfortunate bounce. Cozens( finished off the scoring in the second period at the 12:30 mark, tipping a shot from the point to give Canada another four-goal lead, at 6-2. The Czech Republic took two penalties at the end of the period to give Canada a two-man advantage heading to intermission.
Despite a two-man advantage, the Czechs held the potent Canada power play (nine PPGs in the tournament) from scoring their sixth goal of the game with the man-advantage. Jared McIsaac beat Malik with a wrist shot off the blocker side at the 10:01 mark to finish the scoring and adding to the Canadians’ 7-2 victory. Hayton scored a goal and recorded three points, while Foote also had a multi-point game with a goal and assist. The teams now go to a single-elimination quarter-final round beginning January 2, 2020. Canada will play Slovakia at 9:00 AM EST.
Connor McMichael had a strong game, seeing just under 20 minutes of ice time and 23 shifts including time on both Special Teams units and won a big draw in Canada’s zone to help kill off a penalty in the second. He was on the ice for the second goal by the Czech Republic, finishing a minus-1, with his goal coming on the power play with and four shots on goal. Martin Hugo Has played on the top defensive-pairing and saw shifts against his fellow Capitals prosect, McMichael. Has played a heavy game and finished minus-1 and was out for a power-play goal against in just over 18 minutes of ice time on 25 shifts. Has and the injury-riddled Czech squad (who will be without Sik after the spearing penalty) will faceoff against a good Sweden team at 2:00 PM EST.
By Marcus Boutillier