Team Canada finished its preliminary round schedule with a 5-1 victory over Sweden. The Canadians dominated the game from start to finish, outshooting the Swedes 44-23. With the win, Canada finishes second in Group A with nine points and a goal differential of +21. Here are five takeaways from the game.
Connor Bedard’s Record-Setting Performance
At this point, we are running out of ways to describe Connor Bedard’s magical run at this year’s tournament. After recording four assists, he now has 18 points through his first four games of the tournament and 31 over his 13-game career at the World Juniors. Here is a list of some of the Canadian and tournament records he broke or tied during the game:
- Most Points By a Canadian, One Tournament- Tied (18)
- Most Points By a Canadian, Career-Tied (31)
- Most Assists By a Canadian, One Tournament- Tied (12)
- Most Points By a U18 Player, One Tournament- Record (18)
It is safe to say that Bedard is the best player in Canadian history at the World Juniors. Racking up points against Austria and Germany is one thing, but his four assists against Sweden, who have been one of the best defensive teams in the tournament, shows just how dominant he has been. Most thought Peter Forsberg’s career record of 42 points during a World Juniors career was untouchable, but based on his first four games, do not bet against the projected first-overall pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft to come close if not pass it.
Fireworks Start Early on New Year’s Eve
A big part of Canada’s success was its fast start. They scored twice in the first 2:08 of the game and three times on their first nine shots. Despite scoring 11 against Germany and Austria, this was the first time Canada had scored before the five-minute mark but was also the third game in a row they recorded three goals in the first period.
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Taking the two-goal lead early also seems to have stunned Sweden to the point where they never fully recovered. Whether it was the goals, the crowd, or the pressure, the Swedes could not generate anything no matter how hard they tried. They finished with only five shots in the first, which was aided by a five-minute power play, and only had one period with over 10 shots. If Sweden hopes to beat Finland in the quarterfinals, they need to find a way to generate some offence and not shut down as they did against Canada.
Thomas Milic Secures the Starter’s Net
Thomas Milic was spectacular in the net and has solidified himself as Canada’s starter the rest of the way. He made 22 saves on 23 shots, including stopping Jonathan Lekkerimäki with a diving toe save on a three-on-one chance. The Seattle Thunderbird goaltender has been strong all tournament and is building an impressive resume ahead of the 2023 NHL Draft.
This is not the first time Milic has starred for Canada, as in two games at the 2021 U18s, he stopped 39 of the 40 shots he faced. Just like at this year’s tournament, he shared the net with Benjamin Gaudreau, with the big difference being that the San Jose Sharks prospect is the backup this time around. Now, it is his turn to lead Canada to Gold and will need to turn in more performances like the one against Sweden for the Canadians to have success.
Colton Dach Injury Concern
Early in the third period, Colton Dach threw a hit along the boards and instantly fell to the ice, holding his right shoulder. He was in immense pain, and his screams could be heard throughout the arena and on the broadcast. The Chicago Blackhawks prospect was playing well for Canada on their fourth line and penalty kill and will be missed if he is out for the tournament.
Related: 2023 World Juniors Roster by NHL Team
The 2022-23 season has been tough for Dach, as he suffered a concussion in mid-October. This kept him out of the Kelowna Rockets lineup for three weeks and has limited him to just 14 Western Hockey League Games. His older brother, Kirby, also suffered a major injury at the 2021 World Juniors, breaking his wrist, which caused him to miss the majority of the season. At this point, the hope is that Colton can return, as he has played an important role for Canada at this year’s tournament.
Dylan Guenther a Force to Recon With
Despite not scoring, Dylan Guenther was a force all game for Canada. He led all players with seven shots and set up Brennan Othmann’s second goal of the night. The Arizona Coyotes’ prospect now has six points and sits fifth in the tournament with 21 shots on goal.
Guenther is part of Team Canada’s leadership group and has been one of their most consistent players so far. He has recorded a point in each game and has at least four shots on goal in every contest. A key part of the Canadian’s power play, he will be leaned on heavily, especially as the competition of the tournament gets tougher and the opposition focuses on doing everything they can to shut down Bedard.
Canada Set for Quarterfinals Battle Against Slovakia
The Canadians will face Slovakia in the quarterfinals on Jan. 2, 2023. This has been an up-and-down tournament for Slovakia, including a win against the United States and a shootout loss to the Swiss. Canada will be the favourite going into the game but must stay sharp to avoid an early exit from the 2023 World Juniors.