The first day of the tournament is in the books, with four games being played on opening day. Team Canada easily extinguished Finland with a touchdown 8-1 victory, Sweden nearly hit double digits with a 9-4 win over Latvia, the United States did hit double digits winning 11-3 against Denmark and Russia handled Switzerland 3-0. The atmosphere in Edmonton, where the tournament’s unofficial opening ceremonies were, was electric and the home town fans were clad in red and white to cheer on the hosts. It was a great ceremony featuring kids wearing jerseys of all 10 nations skating on the holy Rexall Place ice. After that though, it was all business for the teams. There is, after all, a tournament to be won. Here are some thoughts on the day’s events:
-In case you haven’t heard, Team Canada forward Devante Smith-Pelly is out 6-8 weeks with a broken foot after blocking a Finnish shot on Monday afternoon. He’s done for the tournament.
-Finnish defenceman Olli Maatta is suffering from concussion-like symptoms and left the game in the first period after getting rocked by Team Canada forward Boone Jenner.
-Classless move by Hockey Canada not to play the Finnish national anthem before their game against Canada.
-There were plenty of spectacular performances on the opening day. Canada’s Jonathan Huberdeau with a 5 point night, Max Friberg of Sweden had 4 goals and Mark Stone of Canada had a hat trick.
-Team Canada Head Coach Don Hay called out forward Brett Connolly again at today’s media scrum. Hay said that Connolly needs to play with more determination.
-The average difference in goals between winners and losers on the opening day of the tournament was 5.75 goals/game. I don’t believe that is a good thing for the growth of the sport if teams are getting blown out this early in the tournament.
-My tournament darkhorse Finland did not come through for me yesterday against Canada. Finland’s team defence overall was terrible. Christopher Gibson was hung out to dry. Their offense did show signs that they could take games over.
-Denmark impressed me with their quick-strike ability in spite of their loss against the United States. I do hope they qualify again next year.
-Scott Wedgewood, Team Canada’s backup goalie, is very comfortable with the media and fun to talk too.
-With the Czech Republic and Denmark remaining before a date with the States on New Years Eve, it’s very conceivable and likely that the game will be for top spot in Group B and a bye into the semi-finals.
-For their own good I think that European teams need to change their philosophies to focus on physical play more than skill. Team Canada ran all over the Finnish players, who rarely finished their checks. I don’t think that in this tournament a team can beat Canada by purely out-skilling them. There needs to be a physical presence.
-Jon Merrill played great for the US. Not having played competitively since last year, he showed few signs of rust. It’s a testament to his commitment to the game in spite of his off-ice issues.
Those are some observations from Day 1. Day 2 features the Czech Republic against Denmark at 6pm in Edmonton and Slovakia against Latvia at 8pm in Calgary.
The 2012 WJHC are coming to THW. Myself and Chris Ralph have been granted full media access for the duration of the tournament, including all round robin and medal games. Together we will bring breaking news, game analysis, player interviews and stories to THW.
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Salim Valji is based in Edmonton AB, writing about all topics hockey for THW. His work has appeared in the Edmonton Journal, Fox Sports and NHL.com. He is credentialled by the WHL and Hockey Canada and attended the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. He will be covering the 2012 IHHF World Junior Hockey Championship for THW.