As a Canadian, knowing that your national hockey team has a quarter final game against a lowly team that has hot goaltending and a few offensive game breakers feels like an all too familiar story – the kind that can break your heart in a one-off elimination game. It doesn’t matter how talented your team is.
And that was the vibe heading into tonight’s World Junior quarterfinal game. Sure, Denmark had only ever won one World Junior game – their previous one against Switzerland – but with George Sorensen in net, and two of the best offensive players in the tournament up front (Nikolaj Ehlers and Oliver Bjorkstrand), there was a sense of uneasiness.
Canada came out fast early, as you can see in my eloquent tweet below:
Wow. What a take.
But seriously, what makes that tweet special, is that it was relevant all night long. Canada came out buzzing, and that uneasiness I talked about earlier started to fade. It wasn’t until the ten-minute mark when it really began to vanish, as Curtis Lazar put home a great pass from Connor McDavid, who took off down the left wing, drove around the net, and put it out front. Really important thing about Connor McDavid – he’s really just starting to get his legs back. And that’s good for Canada, and bad for everyone else.
Five minutes later, Sam Reinhart put Canada up 2-0. That lead was carried into the second until Lawson Crouse would score eight-minutes in. McDavid would add another shortly after to give Canada a comfortable 4-0 lead, which wasn’t enough for Curtis Lazar, as he would get his second of the night before the period was up.
It was at this point that I felt like Canada had the game in the bag. But still, you never know.
By the time five minutes had gone in the third, Canada had added two more goals – a beautiful backhand by Ottawa prospect Nick Paul, and another by Brayden Point at the end of a gorgeous passing play instigated by McDavid. So it’s 7-0 with 15 minutes left in the third, but I still wasn’t sold.
Look, you don’t want to jinx it. Gotta play it cool.
Nothing of major significance happened for the rest of the period, other than Nick Ritchie finally getting his first point of the tournament with a goal to put Canada up 8-0.
And that’s how it would end. All my nervousness was for naught.
McDavid was named Canada’s player of the game, and for good reason. He created something every shift, put up three points, and looked to be over his injury. The vision and skating he showed off tonight demonstrated why he is a special special player.
With the win, Canada will meet Slovakia in the semi-finals on Sunday – the same Slovakia team that they beat 8-0 in their first game in the tournament. It’s on at 8PM EST. It’ll be aired on TSN.
Around the Tournament
The day started with Russia upsetting a very strong American squad with a 3-2 victory. The biggest issue for the USA was not being able to stay out of the penalty box. They had 8 penalties, which is especially notable because prior to the game, they were the least penalized team in the tournament.
Following that up was a Sweden-Finland matchup that was a lot closer than the final score suggests. Finland, who had scored four goals total prior to this one, put up three in a really busy second period which made the game look like it could be anybody’s. But ultimately, Sweden’s firepower, lead by William Nylander and Gustav Forsling, was too much for Finland to handle.
Rounding out the day was Slovakia beating the Czech Republic 3-0 in another tight contest, in which Slovakia’s Denis Godla made 34 saves in his shutout.
Sunday will see Russia and Sweden face off at 4 PM EST in the other semi-final. Should be an exciting last two days of this tournament.