Less than a year ago, at the same arena, Team Canada watched as Team USA celebrated a gold medal win at the World Junior Hockey Championship. It was clear from the drop of the puck in an exhibition game against Team Russia that the 2021 silver medalists are on a mission to avenge that loss. Team Canada owned the Russians in every aspect of the game for the first period, powering ahead to a 4-0 lead. However, Canada took four penalties in the second to give Russia some life, but Canada held on for a 6-4 victory.
While there were a lot of positives in Team Canada’s only tune-up game before the tournament, there is still a lot to work on. Head coach Dave Cameron responded to more than a few questions by saying, “it’s a work in progress.”
Canada’s Number One Goalie
Dylan Garand and Sebastian Cossa split time in the crease against Russia. Garand allowed one goal on 15 shots, while Cossa faced a number of powerplay opportunities and surrendered the other three goals.
Cameron said he hasn’t seen enough yet to determine who his number one goalie is and doesn’t have a plan for game one. “I don’t really have a plan yet, it is a work in progress. We will sit down and we will review this game. We have another practice and we will make our decision based on that.”
Cossa, the first-round pick, 15th overall by the Detroit Red Wings is an Alberta boy (Fort McMurray) and plays for the hometown Edmonton Oil Kings. Dylan Garand of the Kamloops Blazers just signed a three-year entry-level contract with the New York Rangers. The Rangers drafted the Victoria, B.C. native 103rd overall in the 2020 Draft.
Bedard is As Advertised
16-year-old Connor Bedard was the 13th forward for Team Canada against Russia. Despite the lack of ice time, he managed a nice goal in the third period. “I liked his game, he came as advertised,” said Cameron. “He did a real good job on the forecheck. Perf (Cole Perfetti) found him all alone, he is dangerous when he is in that spot, he showed why tonight.”
Cameron said it’s a work in progress to determine if the youngster did enough to earn more ice time. “The part of Connor’s game that has to mature is the play away from the puck. When that matures to the point it will probably earn more trust from the coach and we will go from there.”
Cole Perfetti, the Winnipeg Jets prospect and 10th overall pick in the 2020 draft, set up Bedard’s goal, “good for him, that’s a good first performance to get his toes wet,” said Perfetti. “He is going to be able to build off of that and get more ice and get more comfortable at this speed and this skill, I think that is a good first performance for him.”
McTavish is on Another Level
Mason McTavish had two goals and an assist, but that only tells part of the story. The third overall pick in the 2022 Draft was all over the ice, producing several chances. The Anaheim Ducks prospect is on a line with Kent Johnson, the fifth overall pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets. The duo showed why they were taken so high in the draft, but to have this much chemistry is an early Christmas gift for Cameron.
“I thought they moved the puck really well. Chemistry is a tough thing to define, so seeing it develop that quick was kind of exciting,” said Cameron. “They are all not only skilled players, they are smart players when you have that combination and they are able to read of one another chemistry develops a little faster. As much as they generated, they didn’t give a lot up.”
Cameron said his team will be focused on cleaning up the penalties, perhaps the only downfall of what would have been a stellar performance. Canada opens the tournament against Team Czechia on Boxing Day.
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Kevin Armstrong is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of experience. He’s been rink side for World Juniors, Memorial Cups, Calder Cups and Stanley Cups. Like many Canadian kids, his earliest memories include hockey. Kevin has spent countless hours in arenas throughout the country watching all levels of the game.