Canada Gets Wake-Up Call

In the final tune-up for the 2017 World Juniors, Canada’s dominance so far wasn’t tested. In the first two pre-tournament games, Canada beat both Finland and the Czech Republic by a score of 5-0. It looked as though Canada might steamroll through this tournament had they kept playing the way they did.

Then Switzerland came to town, a team that has traditionally caused Canada problems in international tournaments, no matter what the level. They held true to that tradition on Friday.

Here Come the Swiss

Dante Fabbro
Dante Fabbro (Dennis Pajot/Hockey Canada Images)

The game started looking like they would continue to be the same team they were in the first two games. By the 7:00 mark of the first period, it was already 3-0 Canada with goals from Dylan Strome, Dillon Dube and Dante Fabbro. It took over 10 minutes before the Swiss even registered a shot on goal.

The second and third period were a different story. The Swiss, and more specifically Nico Hischier, took over. Hishier is a highly-touted prospect and could go in the top five of the 2017 NHL Draft, and if he continues to perform the way he did on Friday, that will be all but assured. By the time the second period ended, Hischier had two goals. He then assisted on Dominik Diem’s goal 1:20 into the third period.

All in all, Switzerland controlled the play for the majority of the final 40 minutes of regulation. Canada did push the play for the last 10 minutes before eventually winning in overtime off of a goal by Nicolas Roy.

Adversity is Good

Dylan Strome, Arizona Coyotes
(Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports)

So was this a bad game by Team Canada? Yes, but it’s exactly what they needed.

The Canadian’s first game of the tournament is against Russia on Boxing Day. Had they went into that game without facing any adversity, there might have been a few problems. They managed to hold on against Switzerland but there’s no guarantee they would be able to do that with superior teams like Russia or the United States.

Head coach Dominique Ducharme had this to say about the game.

I was hoping for a hard night for our guys. The Swiss played better in the second [period], and we slowed down. We stopped. We stopped skating, and we stopped playing our game. So it was good to face that, and I like the way we reacted after the mid-point of the third period, [and] the way we played for the rest of the game. It’s a free lesson. We’re going to be ready for the 26th.

Strome, the captain of Team Canada, also spoke about the game.

It’s good for us to have a game that was close, and to have to battle. [The Swiss team] took it to us in the second and part of the third, but it was nice for us to have real good pushback in the last 10 minutes of the third. It’s nice to see. Russia’s going to be a tough game, and that’s what we’re building towards.

What Ducharme said hits the nail on the head — it was a free lesson. Even if they had lost, there was nothing to lose. It’s great that they still won since they now know they can hold off that type of attack. Of course, when it’s a team like Russia doing the attacking, it’s going to be harder. At least Canada has gotten the wake-up call it needed in the pre-tournament instead of when the game really mattered.