2023 WJC 3 Up, 3 Down: Canada vs Austria

David versus Goliath. Canada versus Austria. Canada entered this game on a high, finishing off Germany by an 11-2 score the night before. For Austria, it was their third game of the tournament. Going into this one, they were 0-2 and had been outscored 20-0. The expectation wasn’t for a miracle that sees David slay Goliath. In this 3 Up, 3 Down column, we look at some of the highs and lows of this game.

Up No. 1: Canada’s Power Play 

For the third game in a row, Canada scored first, and all three of those opening goals were on the power play (PP).  

“We have some pretty skilled players. I’m just hanging out in the bumper spot letting those guys go to work and cleaning up some garbage in front. It’s a lot of fun right now playing on PP and we’re clicking really well and we want to keep that going the rest of the tournament”

– Shane Wright 

The PP, led by team captain Shane Wright, will be a force multiplier for Canada going forward. Having such a potent PP becomes a deterrent, especially in the knock-out stages. When players take that extra second to decide what to do on the ice, they give the advantage to their opponent. So, if Canada’s opponent is worried a play can lead to a penalty, they’ll avoid it. That advantage helps the skilled Canadian skaters, giving them more time and space at even strength.  

Down No. 1: More Testing Required 

The downside to Canada taking over a game like they did in this one, is the lack of shots. With this game, Benjamin Gaudreau got his first start since he was pulled in the one against Czechia. While it’s nice that he can improve his stats, the lack of challenging shots for him to deal with means he has less opportunity to build confidence for later in the tournament. A game like this simply isn’t able to provide much in the way of technical aspects to break down in a video session for the player and coaching staff. 

Up No. 2: Canada’s Stars Shine 

Everyone had a role, and they played it perfectly. Wright controlled the play, Connor Bedard was a threat to score every time he was on the ice, and Dylan Guenther scored PP goals like they were going out of style. The rest of the lineup systemically rolled out and completed each shift with purpose, especially since the line changes after the game versus Czechia. Most of all, the second line of Logan Stankoven centering Bedard and Joshua Roy.

“A lot of chemistry, a lot of talking with them on the bench. They have a lot of creativity, they have a little bit of everything, I think they have some grit amongst themselves there. Whether that’s Stankoven or Roy going to the net. They may be smaller in stature but they play a lot bigger than what they are.”  

-Dennis Williams

The chemistry being built among the lines will play a role in how well Canada can do offensively at five on five. Having the right mix of skill sets to support the top offensive players along with a consistent work ethic will be needed, especially once the elimination games begin.

Down No. 2: No Michigan 

No, this isn’t about a lack of goals scored with the lacrosse move made famous at the University of Michigan. Instead, it’s about one of their current players, center Adam Fantilli. This 6-foot-2, 187-pound 18-year-old is one of the top prospects heading into the 2023 NHL Draft.

Related: 2023 Guide to the World Junior Championship

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The issue is his production, as in, more was expected than the one goal and one assist after three games. His usage on a third line does limit his impact and opportunity to pad his stats. Despite this downside, it’s easily overlooked as he has shown why he will be a top pick this summer. When given an opportunity, he will produce. His shot through traffic on the PP was his first goal, and the look on his face afterward showed he was glad to be rid of the frustration of not scoring. 

Adam Fantilli Michigan Wolverines
Adam Fantilli, Michigan Wolverines (Michigan Photography)

Fantilli is adept at using his size to his advantage along the boards. His hockey IQ is high as he consistently remains above the puck on every play and rarely if ever gives it away. His vision is excellent as he completes passes through traffic in any direction as he scans the ice constantly. There is more hockey to be played at this tournament and more opportunity for him to earn a larger role.

Up No. 3: Moral Victories 

The longer the game goes on and remains close, the better for Team Austria and its hockey program. This is a nation that has qualified to join the top tier of IIHF junior hockey. For a country that has only a few thousand players in its hockey system, playing well at this level helps to build the sport. Keeping Canada scoreless for 14 minutes may seem minor, but it wasn’t. Especially as they kept Canada to 10 shots on goal, and three goals, two of which were on the PP.

“They’re a hard-working team, they’re a disciplined team, they stay inside the dots.”  

-Dennis Williams

Best of all, there was no quit in Austria’s game, even against overwhelming odds. They were even able to run two effective power plays that generated a few plays with traffic at the net. That’s how a program builds itself up over time. 

Down No. 3: The Price of Gas 

Why is gas so expensive? Seriously though, there were no more downs in this game. Even the officiating was excellent. Instead, here is a video of a Bedard goal. 

He almost makes the magical seem routine…almost. 

As expected, Goliath crushed David. Even though the final score was 11-0, Austria never quit, they played with pride. Canada added three points to the standings and used this game to tune up for the showdown on New Year’s Eve against Team Sweden. 

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