MANNHEIM, Germany – Jordan Eberle looked right at home in a Canadian hockey sweater.
A star during the past two world junior tournaments, the 19-year-old had a goal and three assists in a 12-1 win over Norway at the IIHF World Hockey Championship on Friday. It was an impressive debut for a guy who came to Europe as an alternate for the team and had to wait before getting added to the roster.
The Edmonton Oilers prospect earned plenty of praise from his teammates.
“(Prior to the game) I said let’s show ’em what you got kid, let’s see what you got—and he showed us,” said captain Ray Whitney. “I think Edmonton is going to be very excited about the player they have coming in. He’s very poised with the puck.”
Eberle helped provide a spark that was missing in Canada’s 4-1 loss to Switzerland on Wednesday. He seemed to fit in nicely with linemates Evander Kane and Rich Peverley, finishing with a plus-3 rating and over 16 minutes of ice time.
His impact was felt right from the first shift, when he put the puck in the net—only to have it called back because he had stepped into the crease. Playing against bigger and stronger men that he faced in junior, Eberle felt surprisingly comfortable.
“It’s funny, when you get to this level the game almost gets a little easier,” he said. “You’re playing with such good players and the (puck’s) always on your tape. You’re able to do things that you’re not able to do in junior.”
Coach Craig MacTavish said Thursday that he expected Eberle to be “real good” but even he was a little surprised at how well the first game went. It comes at an important time for the Canadian team, which is still missing top forward Steven Stamkos with a possible concussion and is moving into the harder stages of the event.
On Friday, Canadian GM Mark Messier filled his final roster spots with goaltender Devan Dubnyk and forward Mason Raymond. Those aren’t the star players some fans were looking for but Messier said his team has been built with the 2014 Olympics in mind.
“We targetted some players that we feel in the next four years are going to make statements of their own,” said Messier. “Having said that, we don’t feel that we’re jeopardizing our chances to win.”
The game against Norway wasn’t in doubt from the second period on.
John Tavares led the way offensively with three goals while Kane scored twice. Peverley, Whitney, Corey Perry, Mark Giordano, Steve Downie and Matt Duchene had the other goals for Canada (3-1).
Jonas Holos replied for Norway (2-2).
Coming off the loss to Switzerland, Canada briefly looked vulnerable again when Holos gave Norway a 1-0 lead by beating Chris Mason from the top of the circle just 1:35 into the game.
However, the Canadians didn’t panic and Kane tied the score 1-1 at 13:09. After putting the hammer down in the final 40 minutes, some were suggesting the team was back on track.
“Sometimes you take a step back to really make a big jump forward,” said Tavares. “Maybe that’s what it was for us. We believe in each other in the room and we still think we’ve got a great shot at this thing.”
The Canadians, wearing sharp-looking third jerseys, put the game away with seven goals in the second period. The last five of those came over a stretch of three minutes six seconds—breaking the country’s previous record of 6:27 set in 1982.
Eberle assisted on the last three of those before scoring his first ever world championship goal at 38 seconds of the third period to make it 9-1. There wasn’t much of a goal celebration.
“He’s got great hockey sense and makes tremendous plays,” said Peverley. “It’s been luck I’ve been able to play with him because he’s going to be a great player in the NHL. You can see his hands and his hockey sense.
“He’s got it all.”
The Norwegians were badly overmatched. Roughly half of plays in the country’s domestic league, where players work other jobs or study at university during the season. They were also without top goalie Pal Grotnes, a carpenter who made 44 saves during a surprising 3-2 win over the Czechs, because he was sitting out a one-game suspension for punching an opponent with his blocker.
Backup Ruben Smith was given the start before getting replaced by No. 3 Andre Lysenstoen after allowing Canada’s first 10 goals.
“We’re happy with the way that we played today,” said MacTavish. “I sense some growing energy within the group. We’ll see how that manifests itself Sunday against Sweden.”