New Year's Eve always presents us with an exciting rivalry game at the World Junior Championships. This year, we were given Canada vs Russia, with 1st place in Pool A on the line.
Canada has scored first in every game thus far, and they have all came early in the game. Last night was no different, as under 3 minutes in Cody Glass found the back of the net, on a quick shot off somewhat of a drop pass from Owen Tippett. 1-0 Canada.
The lead was short lived however, as with Morgan Frost in the box serving a 2 minute and 10 minute penalty for boarding, Russia got the equalizer. Artyom Galimov got a weak one-timer past Mikey DiPietro on the powerplay, with Vitali Kravtsov and Dmitri Samorukov getting the assists.
A few minutes later captain Maxime Comtois was back at it with the embellishment, and got called for unsportsmanlike conduct on a play that would've seen Canada heading to the powerplay on the initial cross-check. Comtois is a great player, and his physical play sets a strong example for hiis teammates, but this was the 3rd call he has embellished this tournament, and frankly it's a bad look.
Despite getting outplayed in the 1st, Canada was buzzing in the 2nd, and eventually out-shot the Russians 11-4 in the frame.
There were no goals to show for their efforts however, as Comtois and Leason were both robbed by the Russian net-minder.
Just over halfway through the 3rd, Pavel Shen beat both Comtois and Markus Phillips wide, before stepping inside between Noah Dobson and Cody Glass to score the go ahead goal. Habs prospect Alexander Romanov, who had a strong game, picked up the only assist as Russia took the lead 2-1.
Canada tried to pour it on late in the game but just couldn't formulate the high grade scoring chances they needed. With 5.8 seconds to go Shen got a delay of game penalty, sending Canada to the powerplay.
With the net empty, Canada lined up for a 6-on-4. Glass won the draw and the puck squirted to Nick Suzuki on the wall, who slid it back to Evan Bouchard at the point. With 2 men driving the net, Bouchard tried to get a wrist shot through, but it hit a Russian shin pad and bounced to the line. By the time Morgan Frost got to the puck and turned to fire a slapshot, the buzzer sounded and Canada had fallen 2-1.
Overall, not a great game for Canada. Lot's of positive shifts, but there were just too many "nothing shifts" where they would get a zone entry but then lose the puck, or they would fire a pass through too many sticks, or would dump it in with numbers but somehow not come up with the puck.
DiPietro had a solid game, and in all likelihood will go again on Wednesday.
Discipline was an issue again, but it was not too bad. 5 penalties is too many too take, especially against a strong offensive team like Russia. However, the Frost boarding major in the 1st, likely was the correct call, however the referee 2 feet away did not call a penalty on it, and I can understand what Frost was trying to do, with a hard hit early on to fire up the team. Both of Comtois' penalties in the 1st were unnecessary, but I'm sure the coaching staff addressed it at intermission. Suzuki's high stick was just an unfortunate play, where he was way behind the play and got his stick up too high.
Wednesday at 6pm is when Canada will face Finland, looking to avenge their loss from the pre-tournament, and keep their 2019 medal hopes alive!