CANADA STAYS PERFECT WITH BLOWOUT OF SWISS
Things about to get serious at world juniors starting with key contest against Finland
In the last of its appetizers before moving on to the meat and potatoes at the world junior hockey championship, Team Canada chomped down hard on Switzerland on Tuesday.
Like Germany and Slovakia before them, the Swiss didn't have much flavour, but the Canadians stripped them clean to the bone anyway in a ruthless 10-0 victory.
The Canadians outshot the overwhelmed visitors 52-15 and now sit 3-0 in the tournament, but still haven't faced a serious threat in the relatively soft A Pool.
But from here on in it gets serious, with Canada playing Finland on New Year's Eve for first place. The winner gets an easier mark in the quarter-final crossovers against the much tougher B Pool, (likely the Czech Republic, which has already beaten Russia), while the loser appears headed for a showdown with either Sweden, Russia or the United States.
So, in the last of their preliminary tune-ups, the Canadians needed to get their game in order and exert some force, which they did.
After outshooting Switzerland 13-3 in the first period, but only coming out of it with a 1-0 lead on Philip Tomasino's fourth marker of the tournament, Canada got its offence rolling in the second frame. They broke it open with goals from Dylan Cozens, Jakob Pelletier, Ryan Suzuki and Connor Mcmichael to take a 5-0 lead into the second intermission (with the shots at 37-7).
It was over at that point, but they still had to play the third period, which Quinton Byfield used to put his own exclamation point on the night. The second overall draft pick (L.A. Kings) scored back-to-back goals, to go along with three assists in the first 40 minutes, before Cole Perfetti, Kaiden Guhle and Pelletier added to the carnage.
That the Canadians aren't straying from the course when the games are tight early on is a good sign for head coach Andre Tourigny. They didn't try to force it when Switzerland held Canada to a 1-0 advantage in the first period and showed similar poise in beating the trapping Slovaks 3-1.
“I like the fact we went through adversity and had some pressure,” said Tourigny. “We need to trust the process going forward, being urgent on the task and patient with the outcome. So far I like the way it's going.”
SCHNEIDER BACK IN
Defenceman Braden Schneider was back for the Canadians after serving his one-game suspension for a hit to the head in their opening game against the Germans. Schneider missed 42 minutes of the Germany game after being ejected midway through the first period, so it was a long punishment for a play that didn't result in an injury.
“Obviously, I didn't mean to hurt the player,” said Schneider, who was finishing a check on a player five inches shorter than he is. “I was glad to see he was OK. It is what it is. I tried to make a hockey play.”
Referees at the world juniors are instructed to call hitting much tighter than what's permitted in the CHL, so adjusting to the standard is always an important learning curve for incoming players. But Schneider says ignorance wasn't the issue in this instance.
“It's something you have to pay attention to,” said Schneider.
“We go over the rule book every time we come to one of these tournaments. We all know what it is. It's just finding that line of being physical and keeping it inside the rules.”
Defenceman Bowen Byram is turning heads in this tournament, and not just for the offensive flair that made him the fourth overall pick in this year's draft.
“I really like his progression, his defensive play and physical play,” said Tourigny.
“He's a really complete defenceman. Everybody talks about Bo Byram as an offensive defenceman, but he's way more than that.”
TOUGH TO WATCH
So far, Devon Levi isn't showing any holes in his game and could be going wire to wire in the Canadian nets. That leaves a pair of very capable netminders — Taylor Gauthier and Dylan Garand — on the outside looking in.
It's not easy having to watch, but they all knew what the deal was when they signed up.
“It's not something that happens overnight,” said Tourigny. “You have a process. You talk a lot about role acceptance. It's no surprise to them that we're going to have a No. 1 goalie and a No. 2 and No. 3.
“Nobody wants to be the No. 2 or the No. 3. Everybody wants to be the No. 1. But at the same time, it's about accepting it, and so far both of them handled that like pros.”