OTTAWA – Though the final score suggested otherwise, a pesky German team provided the perfect challenge for Canada’s world juniors heading into a pivotal showdown with the U.S.
Zach Boychuk of the Lethbridge Hurricanes scored twice to help Canada shake off Germany in a 5-1 win Monday at the world junior hockey tournament.
The win assures Canada (3-0) at least second place in Pool A. The U.S. (2-0) is expected to beat Kazakhstan (0-2) on Tuesday.
That would set up a marquee matchup Wednesday between Canada and the U.S., with first place in the pool and a bye to the semifinal at stake. The pool runner-up must play a quarter-final against the third-place team from Pool B, so a bye to the semis is a major advantage.
Pat Quinn says he was informed by Hockey Canada after taking over the head coaching job of the junior team that the Americans were putting together a team designed to beat the host Canadians.
“That was a warning for me at that time,” Quinn said. “I think our kids will be ready to play.”
The Germans gave Canada their toughest test of the tournament so far. The defending champs had outscored the opposition 23-1 in their first two games.
John Tavares of the Oshawa Generals had a goal and an assist, while Jamie Benn of the Kelowna Rockets and Evander Kane of the Vancouver Giants also scored for Canada. Windsor Spitfires defenceman Ryan Ellis added a pair of assists in front of 19,325 at Scotiabank Place.
David Wolf replied for the Germans (1-2).
Chet Pickard of the Tri-City Americans earned his second start in as many days and stopped 12 of 13 shots in the victory. The Nashville Predators draft pick has faced just 24 shots in two games.
German goaltender Philipp Grubauer, who plays for the Belleville Bulls, made 44 saves on 49 shots.
Sweden improved to 3-0 in Pool B with a 10-1 thrashing of promoted Latvia on Monday. Russia (2-0) faces Slovakia (1-1) on Tuesday.
Germany earned promotion to this world championship by winning one of two world ‘B’ championships earlier this year. The Canadians led just 2-1 going into the third period despite a 33-9 margin in shots on goal.
“Our goal was to hang around in the game as long as possible and be an uncomfortable opponent for a very, very stacked (and) talented team,” said German assistant coach and former NHL player Uwe Krupp.
“We managed to do that for some parts of the game. In the end Canada scored four or five goals on the power play and that managed to win the game for them.”
While the Germans couldn’t match Canada’s speed or skill, they were prepared to play a chippy game and get in Canada’s face. The Canadians were often guilty of overpassing the puck or hanging onto it too long in the first two periods – a problem they rectified in the third.
“They gave us shots, but we weren’t real dangerous for long periods of time,” Quinn said. “As everyone knows this tournament gets tougher and tougher as you proceed through us and this was a good test for us tonight.”
Belleville defenceman P.K. Subban’s burst of speed off the wing early in the third period was followed up by Kane, who put a rebound past Grubauer to make it 3-1.
“That was huge because it was only 2-1 after the second and it could have been anybody’s game,” Boychuk said. “To see P.K. go out there and do his flashy moves, it’s great to see and I’m not nervous because he works hard to get back and he’s so good defensively.”
Tavares added to the lead with a power-play goal at 11:25 for his tournament-leading fifth.
Less than two minutes later, defenceman Denis Reul cranked Esposito into the end boards. Esposito was slow to get up and Reul was given a boarding major and a game misconduct.
Esposito said after the game he was OK and expected to play Wednesday.
“I just lost my wind,” he said.
Boychuk, a veteran of Canada’s team that won gold in 2008 and a Carolina Hurricanes prospect, scored his second of the game at 15:57 on the ensuing man advantage.
Canada’s power play continues to hum at a success rate of 61 per cent. The host country scored four times on seven man advantages.
Seven Germans play hockey in North America, including six of them in the Canadian Hockey League. Grubauer is a teammate of Subban’s in Belleville. Forward Toni Ritter plays for the Montreal Junior with Esposito.
Despite outshooting the Germans 15-4 in the opening period, Canada put the puck past Grubauer only once. Boychuk darted in from the wing and wired a shot from close range upstairs on Grubauer.
Benn made it 2-0 on a five-on-three at 5:57. The German defence sagged around their net and the Dallas Stars draft pick took advantage of the traffic to beat Grubauer with a wrist shot for his fourth of the tournament.
Wolf halved the deficit for Germany at 8:40 of the second period. He tipped a shot from the blue-line through Pickard’s pads for the first power-play goal allowed by Canada in the tournament.
Canada’s Patrice Cormier drilled defenceman Florian Miller into the boards just over a minute into the game. Miller went immediately to the dressing room with a concussion.
“He seems OK. He knows where he is,” Krupp said.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is scheduled to make an appearance at Canada’s practice Tuesday. Quinn says he’s looking forward to the visit and that his players should be able enjoy it without getting distracted from their preparation.
“I know he loves the game,” Quinn said. “Hopefully this is just another step for these kids, to have to think about what they’re being asked to do, and, the things that get in the way of doing that. Park it and put it where it belongs.
“They’ll all be excited to see Stephen, or Mr. Harper I probably should call him. They’ll be pleased as punch, as I will.”
Notes: Canada is 10-0 all-time versus Germany in the world junior championship and 12-1 against the former West Germany . . . Canada’s jerseys from Monday’s game will be sold on eBay to raise money for the Hockey Canada Foundation, which supports grassroots hockey . . . All proceeds from the sale of game-worn items will go to the Hockey Canada Foundation, to assist in the promotion of the game at the grassroots level . . . Ottawa 67’s coach Brian Kilrea was honoured after the first period. The Ottawa native is in his 31st season behind the 67’s bench, but plans to step aside next year and concentrate on his general manager’s duties.